Happy September everyone! New Academic year, New Sabb Team, New challenges, same ginger gal in the Activities role, YeeHaw.
Here are some of the things I have been getting up to in the first month with the new Sabb team! Planning our year, tackling some of my manifesto points and getting geared up for the most exciting part of the academic year... FRESHERSSS!
Here is what i've been up to in my first month (and a bit) as your VP Activities, second time running!
- Lead and Change – All the Sabbs went down to Bath SU for 3 days of workshops and talks with NUS Officers and staff. We networked with officers from around the country on different campaigns, policies and challenges! I was in the second-year officer group which was focussed on the development of our skills we have gained in year 1, challenges within the sector and how to make your voice heard in senior university meetings. I had a great workshop with Sport and Activity officers where we discussed the “Skills Gap crisis”, Employability, the community (or lack of) between sports clubs and societies and the importance of extra-curricular activity on graduate outcomes and student wellbeing.
- WONKhe meet up – Myself, Matt and Manny travelled to Manchester for a WONKhe conference. What’s a wonk you ask? “Wonkhe is the home of higher education policy, bringing the sector together through expert analysis. A community of diverse voices, we provide platforms to drive the policy conversation forward and bring about real change”. We were faced with the main challenges in the HE sectors, got involved with workshops with expert discussions around issues such as Initiations, Widening Participation, TEF (teaching excellence framework) and the NSS impact, to name a few. We collaborated with other Sabbs in a “policy simulation” where we faced some intense headlines ad real-su issues which challenged our thinking process on how we would deal with those situations if they arose at our institution.
- North East Meet Up – All the Sabbs went to Leeds SU to meet up with other officers from the North to discuss regional issues i.e. Brexit, Social Mobility, the NUS, Climate Change and the Black Attainment Gap. From these discussions we made some excellent links and from this came the…
- Climate Change Emergency Meeting - 9 Students’ Unions in one room talking about ideas and campaigns! As a region we are determined to make an impact on this! Northumbria is the 4th institution in the People and Planet League but there is much more we could be doing as a student body in lobbying our councils, University Exec and Student union exec to tackle the Climate Emergency more.
- Sabb Planning day - your elected officers in a room all day planning their team priorities for the year and what issues needed tackled! Here is a brief summary of the plans for each point: Mental health and wellbeing
Here is the Sabb Teams top 3 priorities for the year and what we mean by them...
Much of the work of widening participation is built into the Union core goals and activity particularly Student Activities and Representation. Officers play a key role in leading on that work and different ideas were covered. Ultimately however it was felt this was tightly bound into the work of staff and student volunteers and that the participation areas in which the officers as a group could make a difference were the following objectives
- Restart varsity in some form with Newcastle
- Work with sport to
- Promote the concept of getting involved for example This Girl Can, improving accessibility to sport
- Drive up participation and the SU as a voice for sport to ensure student-voice is more democratic and sport becomes more student-led
- Champion needs of students at Coach, London and Amsterdam for sport provision
Outcome: Varsity and more collaboration with sport
B) Value for money
Issue: Students have low awareness of their rights as students
- Provide more information in relation to points like consumer rights, their rights under regs and Augur in student friendly way
- Continue work on promoting rights as tenants
- Keep the related campaigns going with strong Officer input and leadership – food bank, period poverty, Access to learning fund
- Campaign for greater visibility of fees utilisation
- Better publication of additional costs and ensuring students know where to look.
- Recognise best practice in courses and promote their work
- Clear statement of costs for placements
- Specific communication channels to international students and other groups
- Work with Library to encourage more use of online reading lists where need to buy physical books is reduced
- Develop a clearer statement of what students consider value for money in terms of their fees which the University can use in planning and promoting services.
- Challenge current graduation tickets policy [good example of perceived fairness around value for money].
- For example U18s and information about access to reserve lists
- Establish NSU policy on pricing for accommodation and lobby for University commitment to ensure a range of options are always available.
- Tied into this is the cost of commuting to University for those students not in halls and lobbying for Nexus and Arriva to make more student friendly fares
- Better understanding of what students see as Value for Money
- Clear information on our website on student rights [ideally empowered students]
- Very active projects that achieve goals
- Clear, easily accessible and visible information to students on
- fees utilisation
- Additional costs
- Placement costs
- International student costs
- An NSU policy commitment on fair pricing in accommodation in relation to student income
- An NSU policy and lobby for student travel
- Family friendly allocation of graduation tickets
- Run a series of SU led events in careers week to debunk student myths about careers
- Work with Gender & Diversity E&E rep to produce a Women, Know Your Place’ (tie in with Careers Employability week or International Women’s Day)
- Improve international student engagement with part time jobs fair and offer
- Make it easier for international students to understand who offers Tier 2 Visas and how to apply
- Promote importance of volunteering for employability
- Gather student feedback on careers’ service as part of a research project
- Easier for international students to find information about work while at and after University
- High take up of our volunteering recognition scheme
- Enhanced Careers Service offer
- VARSITY DISCUSSION - Myself and Manny met with Joe Gubbins (Newcastle Sport Officer) to discuss the idea of a NUSU vs. NSU Varsity. Here is how the conversations went down…
Email 1: NSU to NUSU
“We would really love to discuss the idea of a Varsity for this Academic year with yourselves. In the past Varsity was staff led on our side of the road, with no involvement from the SU, however this year we want to give students a chance to participate from all angles (Sport, Societies, Spectators), with the SU at the forefront leading to make sure it is a student-led event with staff support, and not the other way around. Below are our Initial thoughts we would love to discuss and expand with you:
- Host the Varsity the first or second week of March.* NSU willing to be more flexible on that side.
- Having more involvement from societies I.E. Dance, Surf, E-sport etc. In the past they have wanted to be more than spectators. So, whether they put on give it a go session for “non-involved students” and have friendly fixtures between themselves is more ideal?
- Have an equal play on both campuses with a final match on a neutral pitch/court. Of course, this would depend on facilities being flexible too.
- Have an equal input on the marketing so it has a community feel to the branding. Have both sides join up for a working group. A joint Microsite for points, game times and give-it-a-go times. Find a potential sponsorship to fund the likes t-shirts or pitches etc.
- More importantly making sure that our SUs are at the forefront and seen supporting each other, as well as our students and teams. Having FT staff involved is important, but the officers must sign off on the main decisions that will affect the interest of the students involved.
- Have a whole new branding to what varsity is between the two campuses and make this something students want to be part of. Move away from “Stan Calvert”. This can be something new, fresh and what we make of it! Less focused on the points and “how to win” more about the actual games and the community feel.
Email 2: NUSU to NSU
“Sorry it’s taken so long to reply, I wanted to make sure I’d spoken to the right people on our end before committing to anything. We’re happy to meet up to discuss the plans but there are quite a few issues from our end, the main one being that our BUCS programme is so big this year that there isn’t really any time in the calendar to fit something in, especially not in March as this is when playoffs and finals are.
The societies you’ve mentioned getting involved (barring e-sports) are actually sports clubs for us, so we can’t quite see how societies would fit into this, but we’ll happily discuss it.”
Main Q’ from the face-to-face meeting:
. What are the immediate hesitations and concerns? For Newcastle, it’s that their BUCS entries are so big so the March timetable would be limited non/existent. Discussed a Potential earlier or later varsity over a weekend just before the final games or just after. For both it would be facilities availability so planning would have to be set in motion by the end of October, at the latest.
. What are the main benefits we could get out from having a Varsity? Get non-BUCS sports involved, societies and social sports could get involved with friendly matches or hosting “give-it-a-go” tasters over the varsity.
. When would be the best time or would it be something that ran over a month with something big at the end? The atmosphere of Varsity would be more impactful over a few days than spread across a fortnight, If facilities allowed. I.e. the weekend before the Easter Break. (Newcastle Easter date: 27th March – 27th April. Northumbria Easter Date: 30th of March – 17th April)
. What teams could realistically get involved. Given it will be the “first one” we want to do it right and not overload it? Based off this question it would be best for the institutions to share research on what students. JG mentioned Performance Sport staff (Frazer) conducted research last academic year. Currently Northumbria only have verbal feedback from students. JG agreed to share the research Frazer conducted so that we may produce our own quantitative analysis of what students want to that both institutions have a like for like comparison to move-forward with.
ACTIONS from the face-to-face:
NUSU: Share research conducted in 2018/19 around stan. AU officer to discuss with Activities officer the meetings outcomes and shared concerns and highlights. Discuss potential to roll out a new survey to gather a student voice on what they want from a Varsity, if the appetite is there. Keep the channel of communication over this open with NSU.
NSU: To conduct a survey based off questions NUSU asked in 2018/2019. To open discussions with facility staff about availability of weekend dates around the Easter breaks. Finish research into what other Unions do in their Varsities to include more non-BUCS students. Keep the channel of communication open over this with NUSU.
Email 3 from NSU:
I was just wondering if you could forward the research you discussed at our meeting so we can plan a head for whether we require a new piece of research”
Email 4 from NUSU:
Fraser’s research isn’t written down anywhere it’s just from his conversations with students I’m afraid”
Email 5 from NSU:
Would you be able to get Frazer to send a summary over with his key findings?
Happy to go forward and produce a survey/research piece to find out the wider student voice on this?”
Email 6 from NUSU:
I’m afraid with the run up to Freshers both myself and the team don’t have the time at the moment to put anything together. The Performance Sport Director conducted the research last year so a repeat of this process seems unnecessary.
I’ll ask Fraser if he has time to type up a summary but our clubs are back for preseason this week so I know he’s especially busy”
Email 7 from NSU:
That’s fine, I get the Freshers prep is priority, as we are in the midst of it ourselves, we were not looking to have a piece conducted by Freshers, more for the October.
Frasers detail does not have to be long, just a short summary will do to understand what he asked, what teams he asked and the responses.”
- CARD READER - A student leader for BioMed Society asked whether we could have a card reader for societies to use at their events, we asked our finance team, and this was approved! So at your events you will be able to have a card reader which you can manage independently and all the funds will go to your society accounts. Keep your eyes peeled society leaders on how you can book this out!
- TRANSPARENT ROOM BOOKINGS - will be coming to societies this Academic year. We need to finalise the details, but it will mean you can view when rooms are not being used and therefore book rooms last minute more informed!
- FRESHERS - We have 18 Freshers Team leaders who are excited to work with the 190 volunteer sign ups to move Freshers In, work on the evening and daytime freshers’ activities. The Freshers volunteers receive a Free wristband, breakfast and Lunch and not to mention and tonne of volunteering hours and a log of skills! Sign up to get involved at www.mynsu.co.uk or drop me a message at Keldyne.email@example.com.
- SPORTS AND SPONSORSHIPS - Through the mirroring of the way societies seek out sponsorships, sports clubs can now be more independent in how they seek out extra funding via sponsorships. Sports clubs can now also set their own joining fee, this change came about from the collaborative research we did last academic year and the outcome was to make sport more student led. I’m excited to see how the club committees take on this challenge and make this their own this year! If any students involved in the changes want to have a chat about the research or how societies go about things drop me an email or come and see me!
- PERIOD POVERTY - You may be aware that I ran a Period Poverty campaign last year, I emailed the Vice Chancellor (Andrew Wathey) twice to meet up and discuss this, I also brought it up in the Sabbs end of year catch up meeting with the VC and handed him the paper I wrote,(contact me if you’re interested in the info in that) and announced it in the Board of Governors meeting… however I am yet to have a meeting with the Vice Chancellor. So, I’m going to go the long way around and push the paper to a variety of different committees I.e. Athena Swan, Education Committee, Student Life and Wellbeing catch Ups, Sustainability committee. I will keep pushing to get this paper seen and the campaign heard so we can tackle period poverty at Northumbria!
- SPORT AND SU RELATIONSHIP - I have been meeting regularly with the Sport President and Sport staff to discuss the change for clubs and sport committees this year, joint campaigns and creating a better working relationship between the two bodies. I will be working towards, alongside the sport president, the new sport council elections this October. The sport council will be a body of elected students who will raise issues and discuss challenges in a forum style, they will be the elected student voice in sport to make sure sport students had their voices heard!
Here are some other things I got up to in my first month (and a bit) but I’ve reached my word count...
- Met with Nick Brown (MP) to discuss Brexit, the region and the benefits of a degree in today’s climate
- Welcomed the summer school students (international tea party)
- Interviewed new Student Activities Coordinator
- Worked on the review of the Fitness to Practice policy
- Worked on the World Transplant Games and supported a Donor sign up day
- Met with ILoveTour reps to understand the H&S updates, wellbeing angle and the no-initiation policy for this Tour year.
- Planned the Grants for semester 1
- Met with the National Officer for Welfare (Eva Crossan Jory)
- I was retrained as an Initial Assessor
- I reviewed the recognition scheme for societies and included a new GREEN SCHEME which focuses on societies efforts to be more environmentally active and aware.
- Created a “What to bring to Uni” video with the accommodation team to answer questions for students moving to Newcastle for what to bring, what to expect and what to do in the city.
- Raised student issues regarding enrolment and resits with the University registry team so that student expectations can be met In regard to keeping informed.
- Got a new space for media society members to Edit (Reds Box Office) therefore the Media room behind reds can be used for more filming.
I can't wait to welcome the new students at the end of this month, support the Freshers Team during an intense week of volunteering and to see what the societies get up to for their taster sessions!