vice president education

 

 

Matt Adie

education.union@stir.ac.uk

 @Stir_Education

Matt is 21 and originally from Edinburgh. He is a 3rd year Business Studies and Computing Science with Professional Education (Secondary) student, currently taking a year out to be your VP Education.

I love Stirling because...because it’s a friendly and welcoming place, that’s not a scared to be different.

Favourite student moment....My favourite student moment has to be getting elected as VP Education 2016-17!

 

My Top 5 Priorities for the Year 

  • #YourOpportunity Widening Partcipation. University is your opportunity to flourish, both personally and professionally. With this in mind, it’s important we do everything possible to ensure the opportunity of coming to University is available to as many as possible.
     
  • #YourVoice Student Representation & Engaging Everyone. As students, your voice can shape and develop your education and the experiences you have at University. Therefore, it’s important that we provide a platform that showcases the student voice, helping us drive forward improvement across the University.
     
  • #YourFuture Placements & Student Support. A University degree can be the key to unlocking the door of many professions. I want to make sure that all students, and especially those on professional programmes, receive adequate support throughout their time at University.
     
  • #YourUniversity Car Parking & Learning Spaces. Having been around for 50 years, Stirling’s seen a lot of students pass through it’s doors. It’s important that our campus, and it’s facilities, remain at the cutting edge and have capacity for the students who use them.
     
  • #YourCourse Course Changes, Joint Honours & Scheduling. Change can be a good thing, but we need to make sure that when change is afoot – we all know about it. Therefore, I’m keen to make sure that when changes to courses are planned, students are well informed and are active participants in shaping it.
     

blog

Your Course (Organisation and Management)                       27/01/2017

Uni life has its moments. In many ways it’s the best of times but we’ve all been in those situations where we’ve got 101 deadlines within the next few weeks. Coming into this role I was keen that a big focus should be tackling the way in which our courses are organised, aiming to make them as smooth as possible for students. One of the biggest challenges to this is the diverse nature of Stirling with multiple modules and programmes all operating in slightly different ways to one another. That said, we have made some progress.

One of the improvements I’m most proud about is the work around rolling out ListenAgain to the whole University. ListenAgain was an issue when I started in 2013 and honestly I would’ve thought we’d still be talking about it in 2033. However, this year the University has really taken the frustrations of students seriously and is currently looking at rolling out ListenAgain coverage to all students, on all programmes. This is a huge development and will mean students will have access to lecture recordings as and when the need them, supporting continuous revision and helping improve the student experience for so many.

Another major irritation for many students is feedback. When you’ve put a lot of effort into a piece of work it can be seriously demotivating when all you receive back is a percentage grade and a couple of scribbles on the page. Last year the Union worked with the University to launch the new feedback and feedforward policy, which laid out a number of commitments from the University to ensure that students received high quality feedback in a timely manner (within three weeks from submitting), which not only identify positive aspects of the work but also discuss where and how improvements could be made. This year we’ve been focusing on making students aware of these commitments and also exploring what you value in feedback. Over 300 students responded to our #FeedbackFriday event in November and this gave us a good idea of what you’re looking for. We use the information from this to guide and drive further improvements to feedback.

While we’ve made some great progress on developing learning and teaching, we’ve had to play the long game – with a lot of decisions needing to progress through the University committee cycle and so taking longer than we would like. That said, this semester we’ve still got a good bit of work to do and I’ll be focusing on:

  • Developing a Change Communications Plan that will set out how changes to your course should be communicated to you – and how far in advance.
  • Looking at the current scheduling of Resits
  • Running our first ever Learning and Teaching day, designed for you to feed into what good learning and teaching should look like at Stirling.
  • Closing off our RATE Awards in March and running another #FeedbackFriday event.

If you want to get involved in any of the above activities then, as ever, please get in touch.

-M

Your Opportunity (Widening Access and Participation)                       26/01/2017

The Your Opportunity campaign focused on carrying out a number of Widening Access and Participation projects which sought to help make coming to University an easier and more accessible process. In September we identified three key priorities for this campaign, focusing on:

  • Improving the support offered to care leaver students
  • Demonstrating our commitment to engaging student carers
  • Tackling the gender imbalance within subjects

This all kicked off in September when Stirling played host to the Scottish Impact for Access Conference and we presented on the above projects. Throughout the Autumn semester we’ve been steadily progressing on each of these.

Shumela Ahmed was elected in the October By-Elections as Non-Traditional Students’ Officer and has been taking the lead on getting the Care Leavers Support Package off the ground. Working with the University’s Corporate Parenting Steering Group we’ve been looking to bring in a whole new package of support designed to tackle some of the barriers students coming to University from a care background encounter. Whilst we’re still finalising the details of this, we’re hoping to include:

  • A one to one mentor for all CE students
  • A possible annual bursary for Care Leavers
  • Support towards the cost of graduation
  • Revised training for personal tutors on the barriers care experienced students face

We’ve yet to begin our work on Student Carers, but this will be kicking off within the next few weeks and we’ll be looking for students to get involved in shaping this work.

Our work on tackling the gendered subjects has been influenced by a wider movement across Scotland to begin looking at these imbalances. Unfortunately, the work on challenging gendered perceptions starts way before University and as such we’re currently pulling together a conference that brings together students from Forth Valley College and the University of Stirling to share their experiences of study with current secondary school students. Our hope is that this will show secondary students the full range of opportunities available at College or University.

We’ve done a lot of work on the #YourOpportunity campaign and this will continue throughout the next few months. If you want to get involved in our work on this then just drop me and email – it’s never too late to help out.

-M

Your University (Car Parking and Learning Spaces)                       25/01/2017

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.

-M

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 (education.union@stir.ac.uk).

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.

-M

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.

-M

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.

-M

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

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