One of the most pressing issues I’ve seen on campus is car parking. Ask any student, or staff member, who commutes in and they’ll tell you that finding a space in the morning is getting more and more difficult. A lot of people questioned why I focused on Car Parking in the election and why I chose it as one of my priorities going into this year – after all it doesn’t affect learning or teaching so why would I be concerned with it? Truth is, it does. Every minute a student spends circling Cottrell is a minute they’re not in class or doing something meaningful with their time.
Now don’t get me wrong Car Parking has been a hard case to crack and the recent increases to permit prices didn’t do anything to help the situation. But we’re playing a long game. The challenge is finding a positive, sustainable solution that will tackle the lack of capacity we have and improve the experience students have in getting to the University campus.
Over the summer we worked with Estates and Campus Services to try and lessen the impact of the revised permit prices for students. We’ve managed to do this by introducing a pro-rata rebate – which allows you to apply for a rebate to cover the months you’re not actually at University. This should especially help out those students who only attend for part of the year or will leave early on in Spring Semester. Information on how you can apply for a rebate will shortly be announced so keep an eye for it.
That said, the work on Car Parking continues and my New Year’s Resolution is to keep students more in the loop about how these discussions progress and what our next steps are. The one thing I can promise is that fixing all the issues with Car Parking won’t be achievable in a year – but I’m hopeful that we can lay the way for some significant progress that will see everyone benefit.
In a similar vein, I’ve also been undertaking some work around learning spaces. Whilst maybe not as controversial as Car Parking, there’s a need for the University to significantly invest in its facilities for learning, creating more study and social spaces – whilst also improving seminar rooms. Over the summer the University underwent a restructure which created five academic faculties, with booth Education and Applied Social Sciences merging as well as Health Sciences and Sport. This caused a bit of a reshuffle and saw Education move from Pathfoot into the Colin Bell Building whilst Sport and Health Sciences relocated to Pathfoot. With this comes the opportunity to invest in creating better facilities for learning within Pathfoot, the University is at the early stage of considering this and students have had a voice in these discussions from an early stage.
That said, more needs to be done to tackle the severe shortage of study space across the University. It was all too clear in the run up to the Autumn exams that the University is nearing capacity when it comes to study space. We’re therefore going to be doing some work to highlight this problem and look for creative solutions to tackling the problem. There’s a lot of work on this coming in the next few weeks so keep a look out. If you’ve got any comments or ideas on how we could tackle these problems, please get in touch.
Your Future (Professional Programmes) 24/01/2017
Students studying on the professional programmes (Nursing, Teaching and Social Work) often get a bit of a raw deal and don’t always enjoy the same student experience as other students. They also cope with some unique challenges such as balancing their academic work with undertaking placements.
So with this in mind, we felt it was about time we started thinking about how we could improve this experience for all students. Having been a trainee teacher I knew some of the difficulties Education Students faced, but was less aware of the issues within Nursing and Social Work. One of our first focuses was to ensure we were able to recruit a Faculty Officer from both of these subject areas who could act as key contacts. In Autumn, we appointed Jane Henley-King for Nursing and Natalie Bradley for Social Work – they’re your representatives and if you’ve got any feedback for them on your experience of studying on a professional programme you’ll find their contact details here. Getting both Jane and Natalie in post was a huge achievement as we’d traditionally had low engagement with Nursing and almost no engagement with social work. I’m really hopeful that over the next few months we can reverse this trend and really learn a lot from the students studying in these areas.
My next big aim for this priority is to get a Professional Programmes Panel set up. I think it’s crucial that any work we undertake on the professional programmes is led by students currently studying on them. Therefore, this panel will bring together the voices of students from all three areas to influence the work the Union does on this and work with key staff in the University to ensure change. Any student studying on one of the professional programmes can be a part of this panel, a call will be going out in the next few weeks for volunteers to join the panel – but if you’re interested please drop me an email to let me know (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The thing about this priority is the work we’re doing is focused on the long-term, rather than seeking to make tokenistic improvements to the student experience that wouldn’t benefit students. Instead I want to build a platform for professional programme students, that goes beyond our existing structures, to tackle some of the specific issues they face at University. I’m hoping to do a tour of these subjects over the next few months to hear from you directly about what could be better, but you can contact by email at any point.
From Freshers Week to Fresh Ideas 26/09/2016
So two weeks ago we kicked off #StirFreshers16 where we welcomed over 1300 new students to the University they’ll call home for the next few years of their life. It was a week filled with activity and gave us the opportunity to showcase who we are and what we do as a Union.
Following on from Fresher’s, I kicked off my academic year by attending numerous University committees to showcase I – and the other officers – vision for the upcoming year. On Friday, Stef (Our Policy & Research Coordinator) and I ran our annual training course for our new team of Faculty Officers. This year we’ve managed to get 19 officers into post and are currently recruiting for officers from Nursing (Highland & Western Isles) and Social Work. We’ve also recruited our Research Graduate School Officers and will be delivering training for them this week.
So it’s all go in the Union, as the University year begins so too does our mission to deliver on our campaign promises and to ensure a good student experience for all.
Looking forward to Freshers 29/08/16
I’ve been really busy these past few weeks working with a group of academic staff and student representatives to discuss potential changes to our Course Rep and Faculty Officer networks. We’ve got some exciting changes planned that will totally transform the way these systems work to represent you. Keep an eye out for updates on these as we move into the start of semester.
I’m also really excited to be involved within the University’s upcoming Impact for Access Conference. I’ve worked with a number of students to pull together a range of student-led presentations on how we support widening access and participation, not just here at Stirling but across Scotland. After this event, I’ll be launching my #YourOpportunity campaign, which gives students interested in taking the lead on a widening access or participation campaign, the support needed to take this forward. In the last few months, I’ve been working alongside Shumela Ahmed and Maxine Clark to develop a plan for supporting both student carers and care leavers as they begin University. If there’s a widening access cause you’re passionate about, then get in touch!
Whilst it’s been a busy summer, with The NUS Gathering being a highlight, I’m looking forward to Freshers’ and seeing some more buzz and activity around the campus.
Where Did June Go? 05/07/16
Well it’s been a super quick month. Since taking post we’ve been involved in undergoing loads of training: from communications to time management, Scottish Mental Health First Aid to Leadership Development. We’ve also been doing a tonne of work behind the scenes, not least identifying and setting our own top 5 priorities and top 3 shared aims for the next year – more on them to follow soon, so watch this space! At the end of this week, the Union will be closing down for its annual summer shutdown, so you may find it harder to get in touch with someone – but don’t worry we’ll be back on Monday 25 July!
By that point we’ll soon be approaching Freshers Week, which is the other big thing we’ve been working on in the past few weeks. Freshers is a huge event for the Students’ Union and we’re in the process of putting the final plans together for this year’s events. There’s going to be something for everyone, so make sure you come along in September.
Till then, enjoy your summer. -M