What your reps are up to...

NSU reps volunteer to speak up for Northumbria students, giving their time to improve the student experience. This blog is their place to share views and updates, and we hope it gives an interesting insight into some of the work going on to speak up for students at Northumbria. 

Mon 23 Jul 2018

Welcoming our new leadership team!

The 2018-19 NSU Education leadership team


Every July we say thank you and goodbye to our outgoing leadership reps and welcome a new volunteer team. It’s never easy to say goodbye to students who’ve put so much into their volunteering, but it’s always exciting to see new ideas and enthusiasm.


This past year has been fantastic. Our reps have given more time and energy than any leadership rep team before. Giving hundreds of hours to speak up for students, they’ve made a real difference through their volunteering.



We celebrated them at our Education Awards in May and we were delighted to see the fantastic volunteers recognised for their outstanding contributions, both those who won awards and those nominated. From Camden Wilkinson working with University staff to get the best from the new building for computing students, to Nessa Wood pushing and petitioning so she could secure better assessment scheduling in business, to David Spoors fighting for fair pay for research students who teach, they’ve really done us proud. All of the winners and nominees impressed us – so well done!


Our new team have just started in their roles. From their applications and interviews, we think they’re going to be our best team yet! We’ve added a Lead Rep and Taught Postgraduate Rep for each faculty, as well as a Degree Apprenticeship Rep, an International Students’ Rep for Business and Law and a Women Students’ Rep for Engineering and Environment. Our new reps are raring to go, and they’ll be speaking up for you when they arrive back on campus in September.



It's important for you to know who your reps are, in case you ever need to contact them. Find our leadership reps are at https://www.mynsu.co.uk/speakup/reps/ and find your Programme Rep through the MyReps section of the Student Portal.


Even better, take the step to become a rep and make a difference for Northumbria students! Speak to your Programme Leader about becoming a Programme Rep or email su.reps@northumbria.ac.uk for more information.


Happy holidays!

The NSU Representation and Democracy team

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Mon 18 Jun 2018

Thank You and Goodbye

So this is going to be my final blog as your Department Representative for Social Work, Education and Community Wellbeing (SWECW) and I apologise as it’s going to be quite lengthy. It has been an amazing 3 years with a lot of ups and downs, but it is time to pass the role onto someone new. My successor is Chloe Robson and I know she will do a phenomenal job taking over this role and continue to listen to your voices and stand up for your rights. Chloe’s email address is chloe4.robson@northumbria.sc.uk . If you have anything you need your Department Representative for in the SWECW department after 2nd July (my retirement date), please contact Chloe.

At the beginning of this academic year I set myself some goals to achieve throughout the year. In regards to these, I feel like I have achieved three out of the four goals. I have ensured students feedback has been taken forward and action is taken. I have engaged with the Programme Reps who have worked extremely hard this year for everyone. I have met with members of staff to help develop the professional relationship between staff and students. Unfortunately, trying to get Coach Lane Campus to feel included with City Campus is going to take a lot longer than anticipated.

There have been a lot of successes this year and I am not going to take all the credit for them because if it wasn’t for you, the students, informing your Programme Reps and all the Department Reps, change would not be thought about let alone happen. I would like to thank every single one of you for your continuous engagement, support and communication with myself and the other Department Reps which allow us to take action on a much larger scale. If I could name every single one of you and thank you individually then I would.

There have been regular meetings such as the Department Rep Lunches and the Faculty Education Committee (FEC) meetings which I have attended when possible. They have been interesting but also intriguing and I have got to thank all the members of staff who attended these meetings and made not only myself but my fellow Department and Equality Reps feel welcome and comfortable to speak openly about any concerns or issues that are occurring across the University.

Promoting and encouraging students to become representatives has been wonderful. Helping us understand what is important to you is vital and therefore advocating on your behalf has been amazing. This was emphasised at the Programme Rep Training sessions (the 17 sessions I was involved with), where we heard what is happening within each department and how we can work together to make a difference. It was also fantastic to see so many come to the training sessions and want to work with us and make change happen across all three campuses and nationwide.

Towards the end of December was the Academic Congregation Dinner. This, like I have said in my ‘Notorious November and Delightful December’ blog, was a very humbling experience. Reflecting back, it goes to show how much the staff appreciate the students and the representatives. All our hard work allowed us to be invited and I do have to thank Deputy Vice Chancellor, Peter Francis again for this invitation to such a splendid evening. I also have to thank Professor Dianne Ford (Pro Vice-Chancellor for Health and Life Sciences) for another invite to the Academic Congregation Dinner in July. I am very humbled to know that all the hard work we do allows us to be recognised in such a magnificent way.

In the new year as many of you know, I had tonsillitis, so I was out of action for quite a while however, as soon as I felt fine again, I was back in action- can’t keep me away for long when it comes to academic matters. One of the first things both myself and Jemma (fellow Department Rep for Nursing, Midwifery and Health) did was speak with Chartwells about the food at Coach Lane Campus in both Foragers and Communitea. We have already noticed a lot of improvements from this meeting such as clear signage for the meal deals, more variety of drinks and snacks provided, a menu being uploaded onto the Coach Lane Campus Facebook Page each week, and many more. We do acknowledge this is something which does need to be monitored closely as time goes on to ensure it keeps up to this standard. We also found out that parking permits are now available for staff and students of the university. This is to make sure no members of the public use our car parks and that there are plenty of car parking spaces available for staff and students throughout the year. This will also be a continuing matter that will be monitored closely.

The awards season came upon us starting with the Education Awards, Activities Awards and the Annual Awards. Congratulations to everyone who was nominated. Also, congratulations to the Coach Lane Reps at the Annuals (which I later found out, this included me) for the hard work trying to keep Coach Lane Campus Café and Shop open through starting a petition and gaining over 200 signatures. Also, thank you to the person who nominated me for Lifetime Achievement award- even just to be nominated is a success in itself. The Student Led Teaching Awards (SLTAs) was a phenomenal success for members of staff. The Health and Life Sciences (HLS) Faculty was absolutely outstanding by the sheer quality and quantity of nominations received and number of wins they got. Also, well done to my fellow representatives who presented these awards. It was my third year (and probably final year) doing the SLTAs so even though I was petrified to do two speeches, I got through it and it was a ‘fabulous’ evening. To add to this, Professor Dianne Ford had the following to say in regards to the success of the HLS Faculty at the SLTAs:

“I was delighted by and proud of the very many successes for our faculty.  Winning 8 of the 13 awards provides real evidence of the what I already know is a superb team of people in the faculty who are completely committed to providing students with the very best experience. I have congratulated and thanked all colleagues who won or were nominated, and also thanked everyone whose contributions give students the excellent overall experience that motivates them to nominate colleagues. Big thanks to you, our students, for taking the time to nominate.  Thanks also to Grace, Jemma James, Kayleigh McElderry- Wilkinson, and Jack Beckett for representing our faculty on the committee.  Making final decisions was an enormous task.”

I only have a few more people to thank because without them and their support, I would not be the person I am today- cheesy I know. So here we go! A massive thank you to my fellow Department Reps for just being amazing and making me feel like a part of the team across the three years. The ‘fabulous’ Karl Robson for being an amazing Vice President of Education (have fun next year). The rest of the Sabb team, Ryan and Simon I hope you have a great time next year too. Kristy and Tally, it will be sad to see you leave but you have both been amazing these past years!  Everyone in The Base who deserve so much credit for the hard work they put in behind the scenes. Whenever I say hello or have a question you are all so welcoming and friendly and those qualities in staff at Northumbria Uni are important qualities to have. And for the two best mentors I have ever had who have known me since day one and know me as being extremely modest but have seen me come on leaps and bounds, the irreplaceable and legendary Dan and Jorga. You are amazing and thank you for helping me develop not only academically but also personally- no clue what I would have done without either of you.   

So this blog has now come to an end, and all I can say is, as Frank Sinatra would say because I am an old soul apparently born in the wrong era, “And now, the end is near and so I face the final curtain”. Thank You and Goodbye. :) 

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Sun 29 Apr 2018

A well overdue blog

Well, what can I say except uploading a monthly blog didn’t really go to plan. Part of me has been extremely busy whilst the other half has been extremely ill which has limited my representation role so apologies in advance.

Firstly, I want to say congratulations to those who have been elected and/ or re-elected in the NSU elections on 9/02/2018. It was a fantastic evening. Also, for all those who ran in the elections, you did a fab job and should be extremely proud of yourselves for putting yourselves forward.

Secondly, the news about Coach Lane Campus Café and Shop has not only saddened me but I know has saddened a lot of you. To make up for this, there is going to be stalls at Coach Lane on Tuesday 8th May asking you to write on blown up blueprints of the café and shop so we can see what you want to be brought into the University where the shop and café used to be. This is an amazing opportunity for you to be involved and have your voices heard so if you have even just one minute to spare to write something on, please do as every voice counts and really does matter!

Myself and one of your Nursing, Midwifery and Health Department Representatives, Jemma, had a meeting with Chartwell’s about food prices, options, and customer service in regards to Foragers and Communitea. Jemma had collated a lot of feedback from you and every single piece was discussed. This was extremely positive and although I want to inform you about all the ins and outs, this is ongoing but hopefully you will notice some small changes which will make a big difference soon.

I know it is an extremely busy time for everyone with assignments and exams and I wish each and every one of you the best of luck! I, like you, am currently revising for an exam so my next blog will more than likely be in either June or July with some exciting news!

As always, I am available via my email: grace.lawson@northumbria.ac.uk

“Do what you can do. No one is perfect and no one is meant to be. You are you and no one else. Embrace it and work to the best of your ability. Only then will you realise your full potential”. - Grace Lawson

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Wed 25 Apr 2018

April Achievements (NMH)

An update on the work of the Nursing, Midwifery and Health Department at Coach Lane Campus

  • A lot of you from February onwards will have been working hard out in clinical practice and I hope you all found these allocations to be enriching learning opportunities. In that time, you will have noticed that a decision was made to close the CLC West Café and Shop due to it no longer being financially viable. Let us make this an opportunity to enhance the services already at Coach Lane, starting with you attendance at the Chartwell’s food focus group tomorrow (26th April) at 3:00pm in the collaborative working space at CLC, your feedback is more influential than you think with regards to making positive change in the university.
    Very shortly we will also be thinking about alternatives for the empty space at CLC and will be acquiring your feedback on the ground at CLC and also online in order to decide on the best possible way to optimise the space for the students!


  • Myself and Kristy, your VP Activities and Coach Lane lead have taken the results of the placement survey which we launched in January (thank you to everyone who contributed, your feedback has been invaluable) and shared these with our Faculty Executive Pro-Vice Chancellor for Learning and Teaching.
    The main issues in the survey were: -
    - Clear communication of when placements will be announced
    - Criteria for travel as we had a lot of mentions of swaps going on
    - The issue of making complaints about placement and it being identifiable who made the complaint by the placement provider

    Going forward we will be meeting with the Director of Placements and team in order to set out clear policies and guidelines to improve communication amongst the placement team, programme leaders, GT reps and yourselves.

  • I received feedback regarding lack of computer spaces especially for collaborative study. There are pop-up IT labs in CLC West which I felt went unnoticed due to poor advertising. I’m pleased to say that as of Easter we have secured more posters to direct students to these spaces with computers and work stations as well as a new digital slide promoting the lab to be added to the Coach Lane digital signage screens!

  • This month we celebrated the achievements of the academic representation team and awarded a very well deserving Gemma Bradshaw, GT Rep for Operating Department Practice as Guidance Tutor rep of the year – we had so many excellent candidates at the Education and Activity Awards respectively. Congratulations too to the other winners who took one for the Coachies, including treasurer of the year and a highly commended Physiotherapy Society of the Year!

  • We have recruited a new academic representation team for the next academic year and I am looking forward to coming back next year in a new role of Lead Faculty Representative for Health and Life Sciences, overseeing all of Coach Lane and some of City Campus – if you want to get involved with representation next year, send me an email! k.mcelderry-wilkinson@northumbria.ac.uk


Best of luck during assessment period!

Kayleigh (Department Representative for Nursing, Midwifery and Health)

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Tue 17 Apr 2018

Mental Health within BAME individuals

Mental Health in South Asian Communities Mental health problems are very common and affect people from all different walks of life and all communities across England including the South Asian community. Some ethnic minority groups including Black and South Asian communities consider mental illness taboo. Something to be ashamed of and hidden from friends, family and communities. Within these communities, adherence to social norms - norms such as doing well academically, being married, having children - is key to achieving and maintaining respect. Mental illness tends to fall outside of these norms. So why is it that these individuals have difficulty in reaching out or even admitting they have these health issues?

‘Keep your family issues within the home’ I’m sure a lot of you have heard this phrase before, right? It’s a common phrase within the community, to maintain the ‘respect’ aspect of their lives. To an extent its true, I mean you wouldn’t really want everyone to know about our private matters however if you’re going to be talking to the right people i.e. individuals who will give you the help you need; then why not? Why is it so wrong to be talking to a councillor or a lifestyle coach? Truth is, none of these things are wrong however from generation to generation, a lot of South Asian families have been passing the knowledge down that mental health issues don’t exist. Well, they do.

Take depression for example. It can vary from extreme to a minor health issue. However, a lot of south Asian individuals don’t even realise they suffer from this. A lot of their issues will come from home, for example, married couple issues or parent child issues. They exist. But if you’re not allowed to talk about them then how will you ever get them off your chest or even get help and guidance from another individual.

The prime example would be a South Asian female who has been raised with all the traditional South Asian values, the most important being ‘Be patient with your husband’. This female will most likely take these values and inherit them into her culture. This will mean putting up with her husband’s demands, his and her own family demands, and maybe even domestic violence; without questioning anything. This would end up being a normal routine for her and because of this the individual could end up become extremely upset and even depressed. They may not even realise they are depressed. This is a recurring pattern and can affect them for their entire lives, it can affect every relationship, friendship and even their children. It has to stop somewhere.

Men also suffer from mental illnesses. Kale Dhindsa, whose father and uncle both killed themselves, wrote a book about the tragedy; My Father & The Lost Legend of Pear Tree. "In our culture, men are seen as the breadwinner, men of the house, top of their game," he said. "So sufferers try to remain strong and we don't talk about it. "Women also find it hard to talk because they fear they'll be labelled as 'possessed’. “Which I will be discussing. "My dad didn't share what was on his mind - and he took his life," he said. "In retrospect the signs were there. We, as a community, need to talk more about these 'difficult' things. Talking is the cure to this illness."

England cricketer Monty Panesar fought a public battle with mental health issues. He believes a culture of shame and labelling among the South Asian community is a barrier to others like him to get help. Panesar, who has suffered from paranoia and anxiety, is one of the few British Asian celebrities to speak openly about mental health problems. He was released by Essex County Cricket Club in 2015 and soon after admitted he was struggling to cope.

He said, "The cricketing world was very supportive and understanding, but in our Asian community there was no understanding of what mental health is. A lot of young Asians came forward [after I went public] and said, 'we're glad you opened up because it's a huge taboo in our community'."

Prof Dinesh Bhugra, an expert in mental health at King's College London, says the South Asian population has "a bigger notion of shame" than others in the UK. Many also fear admitting mental illness will prevent them from getting married - a major concern among a society in which arranged marriages play an important role. He says he has found many in the community do not consider it a medical issue, but instead put mental illness down to other factors "such as a superstitious belief that there is something they did in their previous life and they're being punished". Part of the problem, he believes, is language. "There is no word for depression in South Asian languages," he says. "The identified causes are usually [put down to] 'life's ups and downs'. "So, people say 'what has it got to do with a doctor?'"

Black magic, the will of God or bad parenting were believed to be causes of mental illness. It was also wrongly thought to be passed on through the genes to future generations. There is often a misunderstanding in Black and South Asian communities regarding the cause of mental illnesses with assumptions that illnesses are the 'will of god,' karmic retribution, evil eye or even genetic. ‘This person has a ginn (demon) inside them’ is also a commonly used statement. In reality, they’re probably suffering from a mental illness which needs to be treated, they need to talk to someone.

Research has demonstrated that although some South Asians understand what depression is, they also see it as a result of life's ups and downs. They would rather go to the temple, Gurdwara or Mosque than the doctor for treatment or advice because these are less stigmatising places.

Those in leadership positions in religious establishments and community groups are well respected - seen as figures of help, support and advice. Taking this into account, services must be flexible to educate community leaders. Community and spiritual leaders should engage with service providers to discuss service planning and delivery, they should have the knowledge of mental health problems and tell them where to go if they need the help. Communities can set up helplines, hold forums where issues related to mental health are explored and also perhaps nominate mental health champions. It is small steps such as these, which bring mental health issues into open, reduce stigma and ultimately increase diagnosis and treatment within minority groups.

Research carried out by ‘Rethink Mental Illness into attitudes towards mental illness in the South Asian community’ explores some attitudes specific to the South Asian community. These key issues are:

•Shame, or sharam, fear and secrecy surround mental illness

•The causes of mental health problems are often misunderstood

•The family can be both caring and isolating

•Social pressure to conform

•People with mental health problems are not valued

•Marriage prospects can be damaged

It is great to hear of such research taking place. This shows signs of improvements however the issue still remains. As a university we should try to encourage people of all backgrounds to talk to someone and get the help they need!

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Mon 12 Mar 2018

My Coming Out Story - How to cope with a 'bad' one.

Without sounding too morbid or pessimistic, I always knew that my coming out wouldn’t go well. I remember binging coming out stories on YouTube at 14 and thinking “It’s never going to be like that for me.” I just knew it wouldn’t. I’m happy for all my LGBT+ friends and all the people on the internet who had such a positive coming out experience, but they’re not all like that. Not everyone comes out to their parents and receives “Oh sweetheart we’ve known for years, you don’t we don’t care” In response. I don’t mean to sound bitter about it, I’d love for everyone’s experience to be like that but it’s not, and people need to know that even if it all goes to hell and coming out is a horrible experience, that it won’t always be like that, that things will get better.

To give you some context, I’m an only child and my mam and dad are a bit older than the average parents (I’m 21 and my dad is 66, so). They’ve always pushed me and expected the best from me, nothing less than A’s and A*’s, good extracurricular activities, nice friends, and of course going to Uni to do a ‘good degree’ (my mam has some very controversial opinions when it comes to what constitutes a ‘good’ degree.) I understand that it’s just because they want me to have the best opportunities in life, but I’ve always been afraid of disappointing them, and I knew that that’s what me coming out would do.

My ‘coming out story’, as is often the case, is a long and complicated one. It’s probably taken me about 7 years to finally come out all in all, and that’s fine. There’s no time limit on coming out, it can be as sudden or as slow as you need it to be.

 I realised that I was something other than ‘heterosexual’ when I was 14, a few weeks before I started year 10. By this point, I had already had people make a few jokes about me being a ‘lesbian’ and at the time I didn’t understand why. I was pretty quiet and shy, and it’s not that I didn’t talk about boys very much, I just didn’t talk about liking anyone very much in general. Either way somehow people had clocked on that I wasn’t ‘straight’, whether they had guessed or they were just making assumptions I don’t know, but they decided to make their opinions about it quite known.

I won’t go into too many details, but I was bullied for a couple of years by different groups of people, shoved into a few walls, shouted at in the hallway, nasty comments on Facebook. I took me to the day before I started year 11 to tell my best friend, It was 1am and we were messaging on Skype and I just decided to throw caution to the wind and tell her that, whilst I didn’t have a label figured out yet, I was interested in girls. Not to be dramatic but waiting for her reply nearly killed me. She was quite religious and Russian Orthodox has some quite strict views against homosexuality, I wasn’t ready to lose my best friend over something I couldn’t change. Eventually she messaged me back “Jess, I love you so much I don’t even care”, but I was still so nervous that I made her tell our other best friend as I didn’t think I could do it again.  I woke up to a text that morning that said “Do we have any lessons today or is it just Personal tutor time? P.S Steph that you’re gay. That’s cool”. For the first time I actually felt like I could have a life being “out”, sure I was only out to two people but It meant I had two people who I could actually relax around, I no longer felt like I was living in this bubble by myself. It probably didn’t seem like a big deal to them at the time, but I don’t think they’ll ever understand how grateful I am to them for reacting how they did. It sounds dramatic and a bit cheesy but without them I don’t think I’d be who I am today, they made me feel like it was okay to be something that everyone else was telling me wasn’t.

I ended up telling another friend too, feeling that I was on a bit of a roll, and whilst I was there I dropped the name of the girl I liked who I happened to be friends with. Massive mistake. She told everyone and started making fun of me on a weekly basis, following me out of school to call me a “dyke”, laughing at me in the middle of class, I even got a few Facebook essays telling me to “get hit by a truck” or “kill myself”. Of course all of it was hurtful, and humiliating, and often at times quite degrading, but I knew it wouldn’t last forever and so that’s what I tried to focus on.  

It didn’t last forever. Sixth form came and by this time everyone was much more mature, the girl who was bullying me left and I felt more confident in myself, despite the fact I hadn’t really come out to anyone else since. Eventually I met someone and we started a relationship, something I decided I needed to be truthful to the rest of my friends about. I was bricking it. One of my friends could tell something was up for weeks, one night having had enough she dragged me to the bathroom at a party to ask me what was the matter. The conversation went something like “I’m seeing someone”, “…and?” … “well it’s a girl”, “…and?” and that was it. I eventually told more of my friends and let’s just say they were less than surprised, I guess there’s only so many times you can say you’re ‘just going out with a friend’ before people catch on.

It was all going quite well but I still had that nagging feeling of dread in the back of my head about telling my parents. Deciding I wasn’t brave enough to tell them to their face, my master plan was to wait until I moved away for Uni and send them an email. Sorted. Que my 18th birthday, which I spent with my girlfriend, and a series of unfortunate events that ultimately lead to my mam finding out. (Unfortunately the circumstances of which are catalogued away as an embarrassing experience that is never to be revisited).

So I told her, crying, Standing the hallway of my house, that my ‘friend’ wasn’t just a friend. I can still remember the look of disappointment on her face and she didn’t really say anything. At this point I was crying my eyes out and I asked her “is dad going to hate me?”, all she could say in response was “we just won’t tell him for a while, okay?”. It all went pretty downhill after this. The very same night I had to go out for a birthday meal with my family and I don’t think my mam even looked at me once. My unaware uncle started up a conversation about how it was fashionable to be gay nowadays and my mam looked like she was about ready to stop the world and get off, she had had enough. We argued for months and barely spoke. I remember a series of arguments we had in which she said things along the lines of; “I’m so disappointed in you. I am. It’s not what I wanted for you.” “Promise me you won’t tell anyone? The family is going to hate you.” “I feel sick all the time at work. I hear how they talk about gay people and I’m ashamed to say I might have a gay daughter. I can’t help it.” “I just don’t understand what’s wrong with you. Can’t you just be normal? Can you not just try marry a man?”  Of course we both cried through all of these arguments, I told her that she was hurting me by saying these things, and she told me that I was lying, that I was intentionally trying to make her feel bad. I could probably write a book on how awful these months were, so bad in fact I had planned to move out and move in with my grandma because I couldn’t stand to be around her anymore.

It took about 6 months for these arguments to stop. She wasn’t okay with it by any means, but I could see she was trying. That was 3 years ago now and finally I can honestly say in the last 4 months or so I’ve seen such a change in her, and we’re much closer again now like we used to be. I never came out to my dad, whether my mam told him or he guessed it doesn’t matter, he’s never once mentioned it or acknowledged it, once, ever. I’m strangely okay with that, he’s not a very talkative person and whilst I know he’s still anti-LGBT*, I know that he loves me and that’s enough for me. I know my parents won’t ever be going to pride or waving a rainbow flag around, but I know deep down they love me and they want me to be happy, and sometimes that’s all you can ask for.

I never came out to my grandma either, she’s one of my favourite people in the world and I couldn’t stand the thought that it might disappoint her like it disappointed my parents. I just wasn’t ready to have to go through all the arguments again, but she was diagnosed with dementia in October and I decided I wanted to tell her before it got too bad. I never did. We went out for dinner last week and discussed a flat viewing I had been to earlier in the week. She’s mid eating her chicken burger when she casually says, “oh so you, Katie and Amy living together? Amy as in your partner Amy I take it? Good las, that’ll be lovely I’m happy for you.” Turns out she’s known for years and never said anything because she couldn’t give a damn. Grandmas.

Most of my family found out a while ago and, whilst I was briefly shunned by them for a year, I think they’re finally starting to come to terms with it and they seem happy for me. My girlfriend even came for Christmas at my house this year, and it was the best Christmas I’ve ever had.

I know my coming out experience isn’t the worst, but it wasn’t exactly a positive one either. I’ve been through a lot since that realisation at 14; shoved into walls, sent horrible messages, uninvited from family events, but 7 years after it all started I can finally say that I’m at a place in my life I never thought I’d reach.

My advice? It does get better. I never really fully believed that when I was growing up, the future seems a long time away when you’re stuck going through a horrible coming out experience. But it really doesn’t last forever. That’s what I would reiterate to my teenage self. You won’t be in that school forever. You won’t know those people forever. You won’t live in that house or that city forever. Eventually life moves on and things will improve. Things change. You won’t be curled up watching gay fan videos on YouTube in your room forever. (Okay, so maybe some things don’t change.)

The point is, focus on the few people in your life you can rely on.  Hold onto those people because for a while they may be all you have, but they won’t always be all you have. At 14 It felt like the end of the world, but now at 21 I write this as president of the universities LGBT* society, I’m out, I’m surrounded by LGBT* friends, and I’m proud of who I am.

Need a cheesy quote to finish it off? “Everything will be alright in the end, and if it’s not alright then its not the end.”

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Wed 28 Feb 2018

"Free Your Mind": Marcus Garvey and the Fight for Black Liberation

Emancipate yourself from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds!

 Although those words might be famously associated with Bob Marley, they originally sprang from the mind of one Marcus Garvey.

 Mental slavery – as I understand it – refers to a state of mind characterised by the inability to engage in autonomous thinking and conscious upgrading, which leads to a dependence on learned behaviours (tradition, religion, media messages, etc).

 In his calls for mental emancipation, Garvey strove to remind Black people not just of their noble heritage, but also the great power and influence they had once wielded.

 To this end, in 1914, he founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association, which at its peak strength in the 1920s, boasted 20 million members around the globe – making it the largest Black mass movement in history.

 Garvey’s central goal was to re-establish the connection between Black people – both in Africa and the diaspora – and the modern world, which had been interrupted by both slavery and colonialism.

 He held that Black people historically were once masters of the universe; slavery was “a mere interruption”; and it was time for Blacks to not only put up a united front, but also build a strong power base.

 With this in mind, it comes as no surprise that Garvey's tireless efforts to emancipate Black people from the proverbial wilderness of despair and self-loathing they had been forced into by slavery, earned him the nickname of "The Negro Moses".

 His emotionally charged rallying cry of, “Up, up, ye mighty race! You can accomplish what you will!”, was not an invocation of Black supremacist sentiments to rival the likes of the BNP or KKK.

 Rather, it was simply a reminder to oppressed Black people that Africa was both the birthplace and source energy of all mankind – that “being Black” was something to be proud of.

 Garvey envisioned a race of successful Black people who would one day regain their rightful seat at the table by establishing tangible achievements.

 The way he saw it, Blacks would never realise true freedom and empowerment until they were able to collectively exhibit their competence and power in the world – hence, instilling racial pride in his followers and the global Black community at large was a key objective of his movement.

 But, perhaps, the most enduring aspect of Garvey’s legacy was his fervent belief that Black people should be at the forefront everything – particularly technology. 

 The seeds of inspiration sown by this innovative vision would eventually blossom into rich, ripe fruit like Tony Sewell’s Generating Genius initiative, which helps gifted Black youngsters from disadvantaged backgrounds – both in the UK and Jamaica – realise their full potential in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) fields.

 In its laudable bid to level the playing field for academically talented but economically disadvantaged Black kids looking to attend selective colleges and universities, this innovative scheme has partnered with – among others – the likes of Brunel and Oxford.

 Marcus Garvey was the first to construct an ideal for Blacks in the post-slavery Western world to aspire to – one free from self-hatred, anti-intellectualism and victim mentality.

 It’s no wonder then why Bob Marley, who himself eloquently championed Black political and cultural empowerment, kept Garvey’s legacy alive by co-opting his powerful words.

 For these many reasons, I wholeheartedly believe that Garvey’s story and principles should be a compulsory element of all school curriculums across the globe, as learning about this great visionary would benefit not just Black children, but those of all races.

Mon 15 Jan 2018

Notorious November and Delightful December

Well happy new year everyone and hope you all had a wonderful Christmas.

Two months have gone by and November is notorious for being busy, and December has been delightful and flown by- two very contrasting months!

In November, the last of the programme representative training sessions ended and what a phenomenal time to meet so many engaged and committed students who want to represent the students voices within their courses. These sessions have taken up most of the month for me as I attended 13 of them this month.

I also attended the first of the Learning and Teaching Meetings and addressed both positives and negatives within the Social Work, Education and Community Wellbeing (SWECW) Department. I met with Directors of Learning and Teaching within the Health and Life Sciences Faculty (HLS) so we can build upon the professional relationships to ensure the students get the best out of their course experience as possible. These meetings are once a month just like the FEC (Faculty Education Committee) meetings and the Department Representative lunches. In regards to the Department Representative lunches, I brought up the issue surrounding the cash machine at Coach Lane Campus and how we only have one for the whole campus and it’s not very reliable. From what I have heard on the grapevine, something is going ahead with this, but I don’t know the full details about this so in my next updates, I might be able to tell you more!

December brought delightful opportunities for all of the Department Representatives. We were invited to the Academic Congregation Dinner. This is a dinner that celebrates the success and contribution of the members of the University Community. It is the first time we have been invited to anything like this so we were very honoured. As for myself, it was a humbling experience to be invited and we thank Professor Peter Francis for this invite.

We also had our very first Programme Representative Social. A massive thank you to all who attended- it was great to see new faces! This was a great opportunity to meet, bond, and have the continuing relationship to make change happen and let the students voice be heard!

I have also been in a meeting with the students’ union, a fellow Department Rep and an Open Place Councillor. This was to discuss about a placements survey. This has now been rolled out and is only applicable to first year students at the moment, but we are hoping it will be accessible for second and third year students soon. If you are a first-year student and want to participate, follow this link:  https://www.mynsu.co.uk/surveys/placements/

Upcoming news: Student Led Teaching Awards are up and running and we have had some nominations so far but would love loads more. This is a fantastic opportunity to celebrate staff at the university and how they have made your experience at Northumbria even better! To nominate a member of staff, follow this link: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/SLTA2018

There is also a de-stress day at Coach Lane Campus on the 25th January where their will be dog petting between 1-3. However, so there is no overcrowding, it’s best to book a slot. To do this, follow this link: https://doodle.com/poll/uz6igtgr7eya6xn5

As always, I am available by email: grace.lawson@northumbria.ac.uk

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Fri 12 Jan 2018

Why should BAME's run for SABB roles?

As I have explained in my previous blog, I am the new BAME rep for the student’s union. In my previous blog I wrote about how I was one of the only minorities on our first meetings. There needs to be a lot more integration and less segregation within the Student Union in our university. 

I found, when encouraging BAME students to vote for me, they didn’t know what the elections were or what the purpose of them was. The lack of knowledge on this was astounding.  They didn’t really know about the ‘backstage’ work that goes on within the university. I felt totally welcomed by all the SABB team and the reps however I couldn’t help thinking there should have been more representation of minorities in that room which is why this manifesto point is most important to me. There needs to be more BAME students aware of this and we need these students to be as involved as we can in creating decisions within university. These decisions and policies are vital and rest assured everyone’s opinion is taken into consideration no matter how minor it is. Every opinion is important.

Throughout the years the SABB team has been primarily white with the exception of one year. But why is this? Maybe because one BAME individual doesn’t want to be a part of the team so the rest may follow. This shouldn’t affect your decision. If you want changes to occur within the university then you need to get involved, whether you run for a sabbs officer or an equality rep, they’re all important roles which allow you to get your views across. Even within the SABB team there are a number of roles you could run for, they include:

  • President Role Description
  • Trustee Declaration Form
  • VP Activities role description
  • VP Education role description
  • VP Postgraduate role description
  • VP Welfare role description

Each role has a detailed description on the SU website so it definitely is worth a look.

The majority of BAME individuals I have spoken to within the university feel underrepresented and feel as though they won’t fit into the SU team. However from my view point neither of these will be issues if there were more BAME students running for the roles. They will be a lot more represented and no matter what ethnicity you are the sabbs team will always be welcoming.

Your CV will look amazing and will definitely stand out from the other CV’s when applying for job roles. I have found a lot of BAME students don’t sign up to important roles within their time at university so they don’t get experience of vital skills they may need. So in a way these individuals are already at a disadvantage, not because of their ethnicity, but because of the experience they lack. Whereas if a ‘white’ member of the SAAB team was to apply for the same job role they’re probably more likely to get the job because of their experience. These kinds of roles don’t just benefit you within university life, there sure to benefit you even after university. You’ll definitely have something to talk about with your work colleagues.

There are so many amazing opportunities within this role, you get to listen and talk to a wide range of students and staff and attend conferences and meet even more people. So if you love anything like that you’ll love the role. Even if you don’t, there will definitely be something for you. Don’t follow the crowd.

I am a first year BAME student and I wasn’t too sure about the process itself however in due course I read up a lot more and the SU team was more than willing to give me guidance and answer any questions I had. I ran and of course won which is an amazing self-fulfilment. Being a first year student I am still relatively new to the university and then getting elected for this great role was awesome! There are a number of socials and meetings (formal and informal) where you can get to know the team and like I have mentioned before, we will answer any questions you have.

If you would like to run for the upcoming elections or want any more information on roles or deadlines just drop an email to me, salma2.asghar@northumbria.ac.uk or su.democracy@northumbria.ac.uk or any of the SU team. All emails are on the SU website! 

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Nursing, Midwifery and Health Department Update

Because I'm so poor at being consistent with blogs, this is the first time I've found the opportunity to write so I'm going to treat it as a review of the past few weeks and the plans for the new term.

  • In semester one I asked you all how you would feel about a survey where you could give honest, candid feedback regarding your placements and a lot of you were very keen to have this in place, we've given you one and this will be made available to you very shortly, the questions will be adapted to eventually receive feedback from students across all cohorts. With this information we will be liaising with the placements team to develop an action plan and the results of the survey will be made available to you - keep an eye on the NSU Coach Lane Facebook page!
  • This term I will be helping to review results of the most recent NSS survey and taking your comments regarding assessments on board, this will allow us to formulate an action plan of how we can live up to your expectations of assessment feedback, guidance, tutorials, etc.,
  • We will be doing our best to give you all clear information regarding the university's and more sepcifically, your programmes expectations of you whilst you are on placement, in terms of travelling, finance, placement feedback and raising concerns. Policies will be made more accessible to you and you will be confident in knowing who to contact when issues and concerns arise whilst on placement.
  • I am currently liaising with teaching staff and those who are responsible for the contents of the PAD and PPDF documents to give you more opportunities to improve your practice, acquire evidence to be signed off on your competencies and appreciate the work and research of staff in the department. 

If there's something you'd like to see happen in semester 2, as always, please feel free to contact me with your BIG ideas - as well as making use of the Speak Up tool on MyNSU!


Some important things to also keep in mind:
1. The Student Led Teaching Awards - If you feel like a lecturer or member of staff has gone above and beyond to support you, motivate you and deliver excellent teaching, and you would like to give them some recognition for their efforts, please do make use of this and nominate them for an SLTA award. Make sure you find us on Tuesday 16th on Coach Lane Campus.
2. Last term the number of responses for module feedback in the department was poor - your feedback is essential to developing better module content, better teaching, if you don't respond, you won't be heard. Let's aim for 100% at the end of this term!
3. LIKE the Advice and Representation Facebook page - https://www.facebook.com/NSUEducation/
4. Take the opportunity to get involved with societies, volunteering and your SU this term - follow the NSU Coach Lane page to keep up to date with what's going on!

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Thu 11 Jan 2018

Introducing your BAME Rep!

This is my first blog post, so hopefully it should be interesting. My name is Salma Asghar (Please don’t forget it) and I am a first year MLaw student as well as being the BAME rep at the Students’ Union

So, I first found out about the elections on the SU website itself, I was intrigued by all the different roles and ended up wanted to apply to 3 of them. Obviously, I couldn’t do this so I had to make the tough decision of ruling 2 of these positions out. In the end, what drew me to the BAME role was that I’ve always felt underrepresented in all of my other education institutions. Every school councillor was always white. I just didn’t think any one of them took into consideration of the things BAME students specifically wanted. So as a lot of my decisions are, I made this last-minute decision of wanting to run for BAME rep. I really wanted and still want to make a change within our university. I want to integrate BAME students towards the rest of the university students. I found the election process was easy enough- it was just a matter of checking boxes and defining yourself. It was advertised on the web page well and information was clear. I didn’t really advertise on social media, I didn’t really have any posters either as a first year student I wasn’t really sure how to go about this, so my only chance was word of mouth.

However, I shockingly found, when encouraging BAME students to vote for me, they didn’t know what the elections were or what they were for. The lack of knowledge on this was astounding.  They didn’t really know about the ‘backstage’ work that goes on within the university. On my first meeting with all the reps, I found I was the only minority (apart from Ikenna) in the room. I felt totally welcomed by all the Sabb team and the reps however I couldn’t help thinking there should have been more representation of minorities in that room which is why this manifesto point is most important to me. There needs to be more BAME students aware of this and we need these students to be as involved as we can in creating decisions within university. These decisions and policies are vital and rest assured everyone’s opinion is taken into consideration no matter how minor it is. Every opinion is important.

I will summarise a few of my manifesto points; things I wish to achieve this year. I would like to tackle issue of BAME students who don’t get involved with activities in university. This includes non-cultural or religious societies, voting in elections or even standing in elections. I want BAME students to be integrated with non-minority students rather than segregated. I will be speaking to a number of BAME individuals within university and different societies to find out what they would like to do to be involved with these extra activities. There’s no point in BAME students just saying they want to make a difference- you have to be the change you want. I would also like to tackle the issue of Mental Health within BAME students. Mental health issues are on the rise within students and are especially less likely to be spoken about within BAME students. I would like to give these students a chance to get help and support with anything they need. I would like the Nightline/student welfare in place in university to appeal more to BAME students.

Ikenna who was the previous BAME rep, met me a few days after I was elected as I had asked him for tips on the role. He gave me some amazing advice and we discussed what he had started last year which was the attainment gap. This attainment gap is largely affected between BAME students and non-minority students. I would like to decrease this gap in university. There will be various meetings to discuss this and I am collating data on this for the moment.

I will continue to update students on this blog of all the (exciting) things I have been getting up to as well as progress being made on each point I have mentioned. This goes without saying but if there is any student who would like to speak about any of these points please do let me know- I’m friendly!


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Mon 27 Nov 2017

"All Power to the People!"

 Greetings and salutations, good people! It's Ikenna, your Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) Rep. I’ve just returned from London, where I had the pleasure of attending my first-ever NUS Black Students’ Campaign Conference – and, let me tell you, it was LIT.

 As is often the case with most first-time experiences, I genuinely had no idea what to expect, and initially found myself feeling a tad nervous because I was rolling solo. However, after meeting (and chatting to) so many beautiful, intelligent and downright amazing brothers, sisters and non-binary siblings from all across the UK, my nerves evaporated faster than dew on a hot morning.

 Besides the networking opportunities, there were also a plethora of thought-provoking plenary and workshop sessions – all led by intensely passionate student activists, organisers and educators – that focused on the myriad issues that disproportionately affect Black students at local, national and international levels.

 Some of my personal highlights from day one included a spirited workshop session on how to draft effective motions aimed at tackling still-prevalent institutionalised racist practices (such as the attainment gap), as well as an eye-opening plenary on the shocking trial-by-media tactics deployed against courageous Black student activists like Lola Olufemi (the Womens' Officer at Cambridge) and Zamzam Ibrahim (President of the University of Salford Students' Union) .

 But it wasn’t all work and no play! The aforementioned activities were followed by a fundraiser dinner for UFFC (United Friends and Family Campaign) – a coalition of individuals affected by deaths in police, prison and psychiatric custody. Though for a serious (and very worthy) cause, the event’s vibe was light and cheerful – there were poetry recitals, karaoke performances and even an impromptu stand-up set.

 On day two, in addition to strategic plenaries focused on translating local movements into national and global campaigns, there were also thought-provoking workshop sessions on QTIPOC (Queer, Trans and Intersex People of Colour) inclusion, toxic masculinity and disability inclusion strategies – lots of food for thought!

 In his closing remarks, Ilyas Nagdee (the current NUS Black Students’ Officer) listed the campaign’s recent accomplishments – especially highlighting the many successful celebrations of Black History Month by several member SUs – and pledged the BSC’s continued and unwavering support to all who take up arms in the fight for liberation, equality and diversity.

 If I had to distil the essence of the weekend into one word, it would be “hope”. For students of colour, the march to full equality is still a long way from over, and the road fraught with strife. But, like Mandela once said, our struggle is at a decisive moment - and I, for one, take great comfort in the knowledge that I am not travelling alone.

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November Executive Update

Hey Guys!

Another month another council, and we’ve got some great progress to feedback for you all. With such a jam-packed agenda, the majority of the first hour was taken up by updates on new and exciting union policy. I will be quickly summarising some of the progress made in this post, remember that full minutes of the meeting are available online for more details.

Firstly, your councillor David Spoors has made great progress with room availability for societies, unfortunately, David was unable to feedback his progress in person.

It is also worth noting that student’s at Trinity Square can now pick up free condoms, it is our understanding that more Sodexo ran accommodation will be getting similar services soon. As for access to contraceptive products at the student’s union, the amazing Katie Adam’s is pushing the union to provide free and inclusive products to student’s, including female condoms and dental dams that are not normally provided by free schemes. If you have any more ideas about what contraception should be available on campus please contact either Katie or me.

For student’s wanting more £5 notes dispensked on campus, the Santander branch within the student’s union will be allowing withdrawals of £5 from January. This is just the tip of the iceberg on policy updates, I encourage you to have a read through the minutes for more details.

As well as old policy, we also managed to pass some exciting new policy too! Firstly, we have started the process of centralising your union’s advice and support services making it even easier to get help on a wide range of issues. We have also pledged to investigate the state of university Wi-Fi in the hopes of improving speeds.

Starting this month council meetings will have a dedicated section for sabbatical accountability, so if you have any questions for your Sabb team please don’t hesitate to email su.democracy@northumbira.ac.uk

Also, a quick reminder that this week we have elections going on! Make sure to take part and elect your equality reps, NUS delegates and remaining council positions.

Look out for a council Vlog coming in the next few weeks too!

- Jim

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Mon 20 Nov 2017

Women In Engineering: Don't think there's a problem?

“I always knew you were going to be an engineer, ever since you were little.” My mam tells me at every single opportunity. “I could just tell. You were always more interested in how your toys worked than actually playing with them. I told everyone you were going to be an engineer.” Personally, I think it sounds like a little bit of a lie but I let her have it.

For those of you that don’t know or haven’t already guessed, I am an engineering student. I am studying my undergraduate in Mechanical Engineering with the hopes of mastering in either Renewable Energy, Sustainable Chemical Engineering, or Bio-Engineering. The main question I always get asked when people find out what I do at university is “is that like….cars n that?” Short answer: No. Long answer: I am not a Mechanic. Don’t ask me what’s wrong with your car. Without going too in to detail so I don’t bore people into stopping reading; It’s engineering physics, material science, and energy systems; thermodynamics, fluid dynamics, dynamics, etc. Basically it’s a lot of maths that involves letters.

I love my degree. I know that might be hard to believe because I just said it was a lot of maths, but I actually also love maths (please don’t stop reading.) But if you came to one of my lectures one main question would come to mind, ‘where are all the women?’. Short answer: there isn’t many. Long answer: the systematic manipulation and discouragement of young girls mean they grow up believing that their worth is in their looks, and that things like engineering are ‘men’s’ degrees.



It gets worse from there. At 9%, the UK has the lowest percentage of female engineers of anywhere in Europe. Only 20% of A-level physics students are girls, and this statistic hasn’t changed in 25 years. 25 years. We’re in exact same situation we were in 1992. The statistics go on: In 2013/14, women accounted for only 3.8% of Engineering apprenticeship starts. Women Fellows of the Royal Academy of Engineering: 6% in 2017. As of 2015 the annual shortfall of engineering graduates is 55,000, and the UK needs to at least double the number of engineering undergraduates. So if we’re so pushed engineers; why aren’t we encouraging more young girls?

Why? Because we’re too busy discouraging them. Studies show the number of girls interest in a career in science or engineering decreases as they get older. Girls are taught that their appearance is the centre of their worth, that finding a husband is more important than getting a good career. We judge women who put their careers first, that they need to settle down and find a husband, that their biological clocks are ticking, that men don’t like assertive women because its intimidating. Whilst at the same time praising men who work hard. From a young age girls are taught to be pretty not smart. A wife not a professional. To be quiet not be heard. Girls get toy babies whilst boys get toy spaceships.




Women make up 15.8% of engineering undergraduates, but only 9% of engineers. So what’s happened to the other 6.8%? Last year MIT published a study called “Why do women leave engineering?”. “the study finds, women often feel marginalized, especially during internships, other summer work opportunities, or team-based educational activities. In those situations, gender dynamics seem to generate more opportunities for men to work on the most challenging problems, while women tend to be assigned routine tasks or simple managerial duties.” But graduating with a degree is only half the battle. In employment women are faces with sexist remarks, that they are just a ‘diversity hire’. Women are overlooked for promotions in favour of men, contributing to the even lower statistic of just 6% female chartered engineering status.

Before I finish this blog, I’ll leave you with this letter from an engineering student:

Girls: Be an engineer. Be pretty and smart. Play with toy spaceships. Speak up for what you believe in. Be loud. Be bossy. Get a first class “mens” degree. Don’t let anyone stop you from what you want to do with your life.

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Thu 16 Nov 2017

Optimistic October: Obtaining Oozing Opportunities

Hey, it’s Grace and I am back after an exciting and overwhelming month.

So it’s time for my second blog of this academic year and it is continuing to be a very busy semester!

At every corner there are lots of opportunities just oozing to be obtained by students. These can be anything from being further involved with societies, representation, volunteering, and many, many more.

Following on from my Super Sensational September blog (https://www.mynsu.co.uk/blogs/blog/repblog/2017/10/25/Super-Sensational-September-Busy-Busy-Busy/), I wanted to update you with what has been going on this October.


  1. I attended the first Faculty Education Committee (FEC) meeting along with fellow department representative Jack Beckett (Applied Sciences). FECs are sub-committees which Department Representatives are involved with. These are primarily to ensure that students learning and experiences at Northumbria are the best they can be. This means making sure everything is running smoothly, solving any issues that arise, and ensuring the quality of what is provided for students is of high quality. This was very interesting to attend, and we addressed some of the issues that needed further clarification and improvements. One example is the completion of Student Central and how there are around 400 new spaces for students to work individually and in groups.


  2. I also attended the second Department Representative Lunch of the academic year. This was very informative, and I can’t really say much more apart from a lot of work is being done. One thing I can mention as I know a few students brought this up, is Coach Lane Campus is not moving to City Campus any time soon. However, it has been in discussion.

    Further to this I have been in communication with Professor Dianne Ford (Pro Vice Chancellor for Health and Life Sciences) and she has stated the following in regards to facilities and updates in and around Coach Lane Campus:

    “The University continuously reviews the use of our space both at Coach Lane and City Campus to make sure we make the very best use of it to provide students with an excellent learning experience, best meet the needs of our academic and professional support staff and provide high quality facilities for use by our many professional partners and clients.

    Those of you here last year will have seen how, over the end of 2016 and during the summer of 2017, we made many improvements at Coach Lane.  These include major work on our Clinical Skills Facility to provide a state-of-the art resource both for our students and other clients, including the superb virtual reality room and also the standalone training room where installation of swipe access and security cameras now allows access 7.30 am – 9 .00 pm Monday-Friday and 9.00 am-5.00 pm at weekends so that students can practice their clinical skills independently at times most convenient for them. We created a superb student learning zone through large-scale refurbishment of the space on the ground floor of C block, adjacent to the café.  Our Learning Technologies team moved to a purpose-designed Learning Technologies Hub on the first floor of E block, adjoining other newly-refurbished space that includes a new teaching / meeting room with double projection, new flexible furniture and 4 magnetic whiteboards to allow breakout/ group work.  The space on the ground floor occupied previously by the Learning Technologies team was incorporated into the adjoining Postgraduate Hub, to provide our research students with even better facilities.

    We remain committed to providing excellent facilities right across the two campuses, and will continue to refurbish and refresh buildings at both sites.”


  3. Programme Representative training has begun- very exciting! This has already been amazing so far and thank you so much to all who have attended (and got their zip up hoodies). If you are not a programme representative, get to know them as they are the bridge between students and staff and can make a massive impact with change. To find your programme representative, along with all the other representatives, you can find us all on your ‘mynorthumbria portal’


  4. The Social Work Bursaries have all been received now. This was not a university issue, as we found out further that there was a problem on the Social Work Bursaries Team side. Thank you to all those who cooperated and understood the complications with this. This is a success.


  5. I am continuously engaging with members of staff and love to hear how they are listening to students and taking action to make improvements.

As always if you have any questions or comments, do not hesitate to get in touch with me via email or on Facebook ??


“No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world” – Robin Williams.  

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Thu 09 Nov 2017

Advice service update - October 2017

In October we supported 106 education advice cases from students. Of the new cases, 42% were from Business and Law and 26% from Engineering and Environment. The most common types of cases we supported were academic appeals (39%) and potential complaints (35%). We also supported a number of students facing disciplinary processes and signposted many students seeking information on University processes, finance queries and housing.


This month we have been contacted by several London Campus students experiencing issues with their tuition fees. Following some concerns with the process that was followed in these cases, we are working with the University’s Students Appeals and Complaints Team and others to ensure that London students are subject to the same processes, and have the same rights, as other Northumbria students in these circumstances.


We are concerned by the continued number of students approaching us for housing advice, which we are not qualified to provide, and we will be monitoring this trend and exploring options for how we can ensure students have access to such advice if they need it. Sabbatical officers are working with the Student Law Office to explore the possibility of collaboration.


So far this academic year, we have supported 144 education advice cases; this calendar year we have supported 472.

Mon 06 Nov 2017

Gaps to be Filled

Situation: You drive, walk, get the bus or train to a 9am lecture. Coffee is your only energy source and you still have sleep in your eyes from the night before. 9:50am comes in a flash and your first lecture of the day is complete yet you open your timetable to find you have a practical class some 6 hours later at 4pm…now what? You can’t go home. Home is at least an hour way and costs way too much for what a student budget allows. We all go through this, a state somewhat overwhelmed by boredom, confusion and what seems like an eternity of waiting ahead. Here are my five top tips of survival for those all-too-common timetable gaps.

Do your work

Staying at university to do work seems almost too obvious, but chances are it isn’t the first idea that springs to mind. Aside from university being full time i.e. the nationally recognised 9 till 5 hours, you are also paying a lot of money to be here. In that case, why waste your time doing something totally unrelated in the hours you are actually meant to be there? If you’re answer may be that you have no work to do, then find some work to do. Check your reading lists, your upcoming assignments, go over feedback from a previous assignment or read around your subject. I like to think of my day in a balance of 8’s. 8 hours I spend sleeping, 8 hours doing work and the other 8 having fun, looking after myself and relaxing. It’s a nice way to structure your day but also get the most out of it.

Get involved

University is a time to try things, experiment with who you are and live in the moment. There is a reason people claim it to be the best 3 years of your life; at university, you are free to be who you want to be, free to become who you want to be, and practice who you dream of becoming. Northumbria offers you SO many opportunities. Whether this is getting involved in societies such as Yoga, Harry Potter or surfing; starting or continuing in a sport such as Jiu Jitsu, Netball or water polo; or volunteering in community projects, campaigns or representation. There is so much out there and so many time-fillers not to be ignored.


Learn something new

Sometimes at university, we seem like we do far too much learning already without something new. But have you ever thought about being creative with your free time and learning something you have always wanted to? This may be an instrument, a language, even sign language, all of which there are courses either at Northumbria or in town for. Letting your brain focus on a new skill for a while may help you be more creative in your own subject, learn the value of knowledge and or take your mind off your studies and on to something else productive for a little while.


Explore and value your home

I have lived in Newcastle all of my life and still, to this day, I am discovering new places in the city. Whether it be lovely coffee shops or markets, or simply hidden gems in secret places, the beautiful architecture or nice places to exercise. I love spending some of my free hours walking around the city and getting to know it better each day. We are SO LUCKY to be in a city that has amazing links and proximities to the river, the sea, the countryside and old-villages. You may not have a car (or much money) but the metro and/or bus is always an option.



University can be stressful but also wild. A lot of us neglect our bodies whether it be through too much drinking, too much greasy food or even just too much working. We are lucky to be on a campus with incredible fitness facilities here at Northumbria; gyms, a swimming pool, a climbing wall, beautiful walks, and so much more. Spend your hours at a class, at the gym, walking and exploring. Get your heart pumping and feel your best. Exercise is also an amazing tool to destress and chill from the hard days working for your degree.

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Sat 28 Oct 2017

My journey

I still remember the day I became a Programme Rep for my course, Applied Sport and Exercise Science, in my first year of Northumbria. I consider myself a bit of a goody-two-shoes type and, if I'm honest, I thought becoming rep would help me stand out from the 100 plus students on my course. I didnt think of any of the other benefits I would gain, in fact I didnt quite know what they even were. At the end of a skills lecture, the professor told anyone interested to write their name down on a shoddy slip of paper. 'What's the worst that could happen?' I thought, and I was first in the queue to do sign up.

Upon starting my course, I was very behind my cohort in knowledge. My decision to study sports science was extemely last minute and, in all honesty, I hadn't properly thought it through upon enrollment. I felt I was starting my course as the turtle in a running race, little to no science knowledge other than GCSE, I didn't compete in any competitive sport per sé and I was slightly older than my fellow freshers. I thus saw signing up as rep to be something that would help my cause and enable my name to be recognised in a good way rather than a 'she who is falling behind' way, for I had never been 'that person'.

By the end of the year, I had excelled in my studies, studying in the library day-in day-out and reading above and beyond expected. I achieved a first by the end of the year, not by intelligence or 'swottiness' instead by hard-work, pure grit and determination. I regularly attended my programme meetings, gathering feedback from my peers and compiling tables of negatives, positives, suggested improvements and how to achieve them. I had earned a small reputation of being the hard-worker and loved that, that is who I am and who I continue to be. So much so, I decided to apply to be Department Representative of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation in my second year. Admittedly, I once again had no idea what it truly entailed; my thoughts were 'it's basically just the same as programme rep but for more people'. In the best way possibly I was naive to EVER think that, for being department rep is SO much more. Alongside the meetings, lunches with senior managers, programme rep engagement, reliance from your department and so much more, you gain more than just 'standing out'. In my year as Department Rep I had gained confidence, trust, determination, passion and care for absolutely everyone I volunteered for. I truly became part of the Student's Union family, making friends for life not just for university. But most of all, I developed absolute adoration for my department and it's future. This alone made me apply to represent my department for yet another year.

I am now (technically) in my third year representing my department and don't regret a single moment. I have gained more from being a representative than I could ever write in words. The opportunities are endless, the support knows no bounds and the work is more than rewarding, it is inspiring. This year, I plan on making strong connections with my programme reps to make their year (or years) as good as mine have been. I also plan on improving identity in my department, helping dyslexic students with the support they recieve and ensuring opportunities, such as involvement in research and the PICNIC programme are rife and open to all.

Remember, slow and steady wins the race, turtles don't always stay behind!

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Wed 25 Oct 2017

Super Sensational September! Busy Busy Busy


I’m Grace Lawson and I’m one of your Department Representatives for Social Work, Education and Community Wellbeing (or SWECW as I like to call it).

I am extremely excited to have this role and even more excited to represent you- the students! You have the voices to make such a positive impact and to bring improvements and changes not only to the programme you are on but to the university as a whole! I will be writing blogs each month as updates about what I have been doing as a way to keep you in the loop about what we do as Department Reps.

Some goals I am hoping to achieve this academic year are:

1-    Ensure students feedback is taken forward and make sure action is taken from this.

2-    Engage and work with Programme Representatives so we can make that positive change!

3-    Meet with Senior Management, Heads of Departments, Programme Leaders and Faculty Staff so there is a positive professional relationship between staff and students.

4-    Make Coach Lane Campus feel included with City Campus events and activities. Just because we have two campuses (in the North East- we also have a campus in London) it does not mean we can’t mingle and feel isolated from each other- Northumbria University is a friendly place where everyone is included in every given opportunity.

It’s only been a month and I have been extremely busy ensuring the student voice is heard- hence Super Sensational September! I have already achieved the following:

1-    Met with Heads of Departments and Programme Leaders. This has been very positive and staff are keen and eager to listen to students feedback.

2-    I have been to induction talks, helped on Fresher’s team, and been involved on the Education stall. I have already met a lot of new students and returning students which has been amazing! I can’t wait to continue these positive connections with you all.

3-    I have attended my first Department Representative Lunch. This is where Representatives meet with senior management at an informal lunch and discuss issues that students have brought forward to us. From this discussion, there will be a further meeting to discuss issues relating only to Coach Lane Campus. The senior management were extremely cooperative and have are looking into a lot of issues already.

4-    4- Social Work Bursaries (SWB)- I have been in constant contact with the Social Work Programme Leader, the Faculty Staff, and the SWB team to find out why students have not been getting their bursaries on time. There has been lost communication between the University and the SWB team and this is now being amended and sorted. Senior management is also aware of this and is looking into this further. Massive thank you to you, the students, for raising this issue. Without you, no one would have been aware of this and no action would have been taken.

My plans for next month are:

1-    Attend the Coach Lane Campus meeting- this is to focus on all the Coach Lane Campus issues.

2-    Attend the Faculty Education Committee Meeting.

3-    Attend the second Department Representative Lunch.

4-    Get involved with training Programme Representatives…super excited!!!

5-    Get an update about the SWB and see what is happening and where the miscommunication was.

6-    Continue to engage with members of staff and keep that positive professional relationship between staff and students.

So as you can guess, I am going to be extremely busy making sure you are at the core of the university and any feedback you have is listened to!

If you do have any feedback about the course you are studying or any aspect of the university, do not hesitate to contact me through my email address:


Looking forward to hearing from you!

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Mon 23 Oct 2017

It's Programme Rep Awareness Week!

Hello and welcome to our first rep blog! I'm Dan, from the staff team that supports our reps.


This week is Programme Rep Awareness Week and we're aiming to make sure students know who their reps are and what they can do. Did you know that every year of every Programme has a rep who speaks up for students? These reps have now been recruited right across the University. They’re being trained and soon they’ll be speaking to programme staff to help make Northumbria the best it can be for students in your cohort.


Your Programme Rep speaks up for you! They present the views of students on your course, meet with members of University staff and volunteer with the Students’ Union to speak up on the things that affect students right across the University.


Your rep can make a huge difference, but they need your input in order to do this. When something is working well, tell them. When something needs to change, tell them too. If you have an idea for improving the programme, make sure they’re aware of it. Reps can take things up with your programme team and beyond, but only if they hear from you.


This week we'll be encouraging students to find their reps (through the Student Portal), get to know their reps (so they can make a difference) and recognise the brilliant work that reps have done, unpaid, to make a difference to our University. To do this we'll be sharing stories of some of our most successful reps, through our Facebook page. Follow us to find out about the work of our team and your reps, the services we offer, and how we can work together to make a difference at Northumbria!