Last week, your newly elected officers attended the annual National Union of Students (NUS) conference in Birmingham. The event is all about training new officers and took place over two days where the team attended various workshops and listened to key note speakers.
The NUS conference takes place every year and is a great opportunity for newly elected officers and Students' Union staff to meet other SU officers from all over the UK and find out what challenges may be in store for the year ahead. Being led by the NUS elected officers and the CEO of NUS, it was an educational couple of days for our team!
Lauren Ellis, our newly elected SU President, commentated that 'Overall the conference was fantastic and a great opportunity to meet other SU officers and share good practice. The NUS speakers were awesome as they related to the modern era we're all in'.
Our Vice Presidents attended a few workshops over the two days and here's what they thought...
Sophie Blanks, Vice President for Education
Sophie attended the 'Challenging Academic Representation' workshop which addressed the need for engaging course representatives further and actively encoraging collaboration with the University. Course representatives at Chichester are part of a support network for your academic studies. They attend programme board meetings as well as speaking with heads of department issues or ideas that have been raised by class groups. Essentially they're there to listen to your feedback and make sure your voice is heard during your studies
The workshop also discussed the importance of review panels and they role they play in maintaining teaching quality. A review panel at Chichester usually comprises a group of experts including a course representative and looks to gain perspective on existing and proposed programme content across all subjects at the University. The vast majority of Universities in the UK pay students the same as they do staff to attend review panels (approximately £400) whereas our students receive a £50 amazon voucher. This could be something for the officer team to look into and strive to change as it would certainly encourage more students to take part in the academic process.
A number of issues affecting students were addressed throughout the conference including overcoming barriers to engagement for commuters. Research from The Student Engagement Partnership TSEP shows that commuting students are far more likely to drop out of their studies than students living close to campus. The University experience of commuting students is often vastly different from what we consider 'the norm' as there's much less focus on social engagements. Students that commute, experience problems with transport and tiredness which can impact attendance and ultimately the grades that they're achieving. This is particularly relevant to Chichester Uni as we're a split site and our students often have to travel to attend lectures and seminars. As an SU we're here to represent the whole student community and when looking for potential solutions, Sophie came up with some great ideas...no 9am lectures and to potentially introduce a commuter lounge space.
Ilbert Ankumu, Vice President for Welfare
Illy attended an 'Access All Areas' workshop which spoke about equality and equity of Universities, for example, how accessible our Students' Union is for disabled students, societies and sports clubs.
The workshop also addressed the issue of the drinking culture within University life and how this has an impact on the inclusion of students who don't drink. We have a big drinking culture in the UK (and especially at University) and the SU is committed to be so much more than a bar, it can be a chill out space between lectures or somewhere just to watch the match. Illy mentioned that 'What's really important is that we don't deter students who don't drink from coming to the SU and attending all the events that are going on'.
lly also attended the 'LGBTQ Plus' Workshop' where the topics focussed on the LGBTQ community, inclusivity and how the SU can increase awareness in the student community. For example, whether local authorities or the University could introduce gender neutral toilets across campus? Many suggestions were made throughout the workshop and many focussed on how sports, societies and clubs could undertake LGBTQ plus inclusivity training to educate their members and ultimately tackle homophobia.
The conference addressed a huge range of topics that effect student life and upon returning to Chichester, Illy reflected that 'the more that the University, Students' Union and NUS work together, the more beneficial it will be for our students and their experience at Chichester'.
If you'd like to keep up to date with the NUS and all that's going on then check out their website. It's well worth a look, they post some interesting stuff about study, finances and everything that's impacting students in the UK!
Also, if you'd like any further information or would like to discuss any of the topics addressed above then the SU officers would love to hear from you! Their contact details can be found on the SU website.