Report: Student Union meeting, 9 May 2017

This is a report from Maïa Pal, who met with representatives of the Student Union to discuss future collaboration. 

Report from UCU – Student Union meeting

9 May 2017 | 2-3pm JHB 202

Present: Maïa Pal (Lecturer International Relations, Social Sciences UCU rep), Elena Saldana Quintans (SU President), James Patton (SU Vice President of Academic Experience), Robin Mcsorley (SU Deputy Chief Executive)


1. Presentations, long term objectives, and schedule for future meetings

2. Common issues – NSS Boycott, Student reps

3. Communication / website

  1. Presentations/Long Terms Objectives/Future Meetings

Objective for SU and UCU to work more closely together on a variety of issues – which will likely increase as the moves to and from Headington come nearer. Objective to meet regularly in a similar format, hopefully with an extra UCU exec member, and to include a slot for SU officer at UCU AGMs (next date for this TBC – UPDATE: inviting a SU officer to UCU AGMs  was agreed by UCU’s AGM held on 10 May 2017). Agreed for Maia Pal to meet with new officers who are taking position end of June. Meeting to be organised in July, to be booked by SU once calendars are clearer, and from then organise a set of meetings during the year.

  1. Common Issues

NSS Boycott: Both officers commented on lack of effectiveness of NUS boycott – President disagreed with the campaign, and claimed that they felt TEF forced university to improve its position and approach towards students’ demands regarding teaching and services provided. The changes to the TEF being discussed nationally were positive and pushing for less use of metrics, more focus on employability for part-time students and attainment gap for BME students. The president also stressed the importance of NSS comments for the university and how seriously she felt they were taken into account, so she felt the boycott was counter-productive.

The recent NUS conference decided this year to work to develop an alternative framework or TEF for measuring teaching, but also others aspects of university life (volunteering, issues, campaigns, etc.). Nation-wide student union consultation is to be compiled by the NUS, and data is to be analysed locally. No details given by NUS yet. SU have local discretion as to how to compile or analyse data for now. Brookes are going to look at data from the Teaching Awards to find common points or characteristics that have motivated students to nominate teachers.

Both officers emphasised how they were keen to have staff and UCU input, and I stressed how important that would be for us, after explaining why staff may have some cautionary remarks concerning this data, or how it would be used and analysed.

This led into a discussion about teaching methods, the outcome of which was that it would be useful for staff to be clearer about what teaching methods they use, and why, so as to help students also better evaluate and understand the different approaches and styles of teachers. If we are moving into a TEF environment with increasing student-led evaluation of teaching, more discussion and collaboration between unions is absolutely essential. The officers also noted the differences of opinion about teachers depending on the degree level (4, 5, 6, or PG) and we discussed how we could maybe extract this from the analysis of data.

Student reps: the SU is rolling out a new policy for student reps starting this September, which will be announced shortly. There has been confusion and rumours about this policy, and the officers were eager to stress that their policy did NOT involve telling students not to attend departmental meetings. We discussed the various challenges with student attendance, their reluctance to attend long and complex meetings, but also why their presence is absolutely essential, especially in line with previous discussions of the need for more student input into teaching methods and rationale so as to improve evaluation of teaching. Option to organise meetings so as to deal with issues requiring students all in one go, but I stressed this was not necessarily easy or even possible for us.

To recap, officers stressed there was a wide consultation of faculties, committees, lecturers, high percentage of reps, all across faculties, as well as SSCs and associate deans for student experience.

The policy will, most importantly, put in place faculty training of REPs by SSCs and standardise procedures and practices across university.

  1. Communication

We ran out of time but covered some communication issues faced by both unions, in terms of how best to reach both our memberships, and how to improve the image and knowledge of unions’ work, and how we could share valuable insights with each other about how to solve similar problems we face in the current climate of education.

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