What would you do to improve Education at the University?
As a postgraduate officer, I would focus on improving the academic regulations for masters and PhD students, so they are fully supported in their degrees. At the moment, as a master’s student, I have noticed many gaps which are affecting us. I would make sure that just like undergraduates we would have a border zone for Masters student degrees to enable easier uplift of marks. I would also make sure the no detriment policy which supported many masters students stays in place to benefit all in the years to come so I would keep focusing on this like the VP Education did last year and see how we can build on it.
Postgrad students also experience heavy workloads and little space between assignments so I would readjust the academic calendar to give them more space between assessments, as well as greater academic support.
I would work with the education officer to help all students understand their consumer rights which many have struggled with this year, so we empower everyone and ensure action is taken when they do not receive an experience they signed up for. This is why I would focus on the quality for masters students and set minimum standards that must be met across courses in the University because at the moment I have found from feedback that it is inconsistent.
There is so much that needs to be done to support doctoral researchers as they progress in their degrees. They have been let down as I have seen from many that I know – I would lobby for sufficient funded extensions for all PhD students who need them, as well as improving policies that govern the relationships between doctoral researchers and supervisors. I would make sure they have access to labs and proper workspaces across campuses, as well as addressing digital poverty for all who are affected by this. The current funding needs to go further in supporting students.
I would recommend the university to increase the practical education since life after graduating is highly dependent on practical activities. Thus, students should be prepared mentally and physically for their future jobs. I would advise lecturers to be more flexible with students, to foster a more inclusive learning environment since every student comes from a different environment and culture. Through my past years at the university, I faced obstacles with teachers/doctors who did not offer the assistance needed. I will advise the university to sponsor as many companies as they can so that their students can see that the university is offering support regarding future jobs.
What would you do to improve the Employability of students?
As a postgraduate officer I would make this one of my top priorities so students receive more opportunities within the curriculum and once they complete their degrees. Employability needs to be embedded in the curriculum and I will work with Deans to do this. We need to tailor careers support to better meet the needs of PhD students and I will ensure they are properly supported in this, so they are able to explore different career options, not just within academia.
I will implement ongoing careers support workshops for postgraduate students focused on employability as well as dissertation writing so they are supported with developing academic skills and getting help with their final project which can be a very stressful experience.
I would lobby for international placement opportunities and internships for international students and clarity on visa issues, so I would continue the VP Education’s work on this because having experienced it myself, it has made an incredible difference and we need more opportunities for international students to undertake work experience.
Doctoral researchers deserve far more teaching opportunities, which I know from my friends this has been an ongoing challenge and I will work so each PhD student who would like to teach is able to do and that they are properly compensated for this.
As I mentioned before the university should advise numerous companies to pay a visit. Not just occasionally, but more often, so students gain industry experience. There should be classes in the university that prepare the students mentally and physically for future jobs such as Interviews training, CV making, and creativity practice. I will ensure investment is made in making trips for its students whether to a car factory, airplane factory, or medical labs.
How would you make the Union and the University more Inclusive?
As a postgraduate officer, I would ensure both the Union and the university should work together to make it easier for the students to deliver their complaints and appeals, which can be a very difficult experience and unfair to students. This can be done by making an easy-to-use mobile phone application that offers an online chat with any member of the Union. In addition, the response should be via Chat not e-mail since the majority of students access their e-mails through their laptops, not a mobile phones.
I will also work towards full transparency between all (Union – university – students). In other words, the university should be very informative with its replies to students’ complaints and needs, and Union should be very supportive with its resources and fast with its communication between students and the university.
I will improve what food is available and make sure it is more culturally inclusive because many students often find themselves without enough options. I will ensure the postgraduate community is included in all decision-making because too often we are not prioritized. I will improve the University spaces and Union spaces and cafes so we cater to all students and have a range of activities.
Postgrad students come from very different backgrounds, mature, commuting, parents, international, and we need policies that protect all of them and afford them greater flexibility. We particularly need policies, which I will push for, that address equality issues for student parents and ensure they are supported.
Postgrad students should have specific events developed for them and often times most events are for undergraduates so I will work with the activities officer to have a rolling program of events.
I will focus on the support measures for students with disabilities who continue to struggle by improving learning support plans and disability allowance.
How would you improve the Welfare of students?
As a postgraduate officer, I would make the welfare of students my top focus. From my experience I realised that students who go through stress and difficulties are not always able to find the support they need, so we need to make support services more accessible.
Graduation and the lack of a physical one have weighed very heavily on students and I will do everything I can to lobby for physical graduation because students deserve this.
Counselling wait times are also an issue, which needs to be addressed, in addition to having specific mental health support for postgraduates.
I would continue the work to ensure Black Lives Matter is always a focus and shapes everything we do.
The educational experience of students really impacts their wellbeing and so I will focus on both decolonizing the curriculum for master's students and decolonizing research for PhD students. This is more than just the content we are taught – it’s about evaluating how we are taught, and that will be my focus.
How would you improve Communication between the Union and students?
As I mentioned before, students these days tend to carry and use their mobile phones all the time. Thus, there should a simple mobile application that encourages the students to have a live chat with a Union member, and I will work to establish this. I will also improve the communication through the app which is very disjointed, and I will enhance the user experience.
I will have regular office hours for all students to contact me, either in person or online, and I will take part in regular social media updates, working with the other officers to constantly share our work with you.
I would like to work with the BSU Communications to conduct a largescale survey that understands how students want us to communicate with them and implement innovative ways to do this. We also need to have BSU on all sites so we can go to students, rather than them having to come to us.
I would work with the activities and education officer to meet with all Reps and society committees so we can work on our communications plan and understand from their perspective what needs to be done.
What qualities or experience do you have that would you make a good full time officer?
Having run for course representative in the foundation year, through elections that I was voted for, allowed me to interact with other course students and making sure everyone felt comfortable and appreciated within the course. I played a lead role in lobbying for change within my course and I would build on this experience to enable immediate attention to challenges and to make their voice heard.
I am a masters student myself and I have been at the University for over 4 years, I have insight into the undergraduate and postgraduate experience and I have also spoken to many PhD students, which has enabled me to develop a deeper understanding of their concerns. I would carry forward this approach to make sure all voices are heard and that we fully recognize the needs of masters students and doctoral researchers as we cannot lump them into the same category – I will promise to serve their interests always.
Being an ex-member of the Arab Society which taught me how to organize my time between work, events (for being an event planner), and studies, has allowed me to develop experience managing a heavy workload and working effectively in teams on behalf of other students.
I am always honest and transparent and I put my heart into everything I do – this will be no different and I would truly be grateful for your vote. I know firsthand how challenging this year has been, but I hope you can place your trust in me to create change.