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>> Over 6,000 of you voted in the academic polls, and – after a lot of counting – the results are in. In the last few weeks you’ve probably seen me around campus encouraging students to get involved with the academic polls. This was a brilliant chance for you to tell me what you think I should be working on, and a way for me to make sure I’m working in your academic interests. We gave students a token which counted as a vote, and told them to place it in a jar which was labelled with the issue they thought I should be focussing on. A staggering 6170 students voted in the polls – and after a long time counting, I can finally announce the results: 1. Expand the library (2526 votes) 40.94% of the votes were for library expansion – making it the clear winner of the polls. 2. Mental health training for academic advisors (1744 votes) 28.27% of all votes were in favour of making m e n t a l h e a l t h training mandatory for all staff before they’re allowed to be academic advisors. (Read Jo Swo’s blog about why this is important). 3. Reading lists should be released at least 2 weeks before term begins (719 votes) 11.65% of students voted to get their reading lists confirmed earlier – giving them much more time to source cheap editions of the books and get a head start on their reading! 4. Timetables should be accessible earlier, and more consistent (596 votes) 9.66% of students thought I should be pushing the university to release timetables earlier, and asking them to reduce the amount of seminars that have room-changes last minute. 5. Standardised, online marking for coursework (585 votes) 9.48% of the votes were for eradicating handwritten feedback on coursework. Though we’ll still be fighting for good quality (and legible) feedback for coursework, it’s clearly not a priority for most students. It’s obvious from the results that students are very concerned about library space – and with student numbers set to rise in the next few years, the University needs to come up with an immediate plan to improve study space for students. During my time as Undergraduate Education Officer, this is where I’ll be channelling my efforts. issue 5: 29th november 2016 news and views from your officers @unionuea uea.su union.info@uea. ac.uk/ueastudentsunion 5 things we spoke to the University about this week amy, theo, joe, maddie and jo your SU full time officers >> This week Student Officers Theo Antoniou-Phillips (UG Officer) and Madeleine Colledge (PG Officer) focused in on some general UEA policy, especially that regarding teaching spaces, to bring reform for what the university has promised will be a more student focused experience. 1. Hot Food that won’t break the Bank Amy, Campaigns and Democracy officer, has been pushing to get students cheaper hot food options on campus. In a meeting with Estates, Security and Catering, she argued that food outlets should drop their food prices at the end of the day – both giving students a chance to get a cheap hot meal and reducing food waste. 2. Too many students, not enough space With the University set to increase student numbers by 2,000 in the next few years, current teaching space shortages and strain on on-campus facilities are set to get worse. Though the University has long-term plans to deal with this strain, none of these plans will take effect until 2020. This week, Theo, Undergrad Education officer, met with the Vice Chancellor to demand that the University urgently considers how they’re going to deal with these issues in the shorter term. 3. Looking at the Learning Spaces Problem- long term Maddie, Postgrad Education Officer, attended the Learning and Teaching Spaces Group, where she argued in favour of a new room audit. When implemented, this should highlight how some teaching spaces are simply inadequate, and force the University to take action. 4. Make your voices heard! Also agreed on at the Learning and Teaching Spaces group was a system that Maddie feels will connect students closer to the issues they face on a daily basis. Over the coming months, students should be seeing a new way of reporting inadequate room facilities, possibly over text, so that students can make their voices heard to the university. 5. Library expansion Theo also had a chat with members of the executive team following their tour of the library. In light of an education poll that showed library expansion as top of the student population’s needs he wants to drive a 5 year plan towards renovating floors 01 and 02 which will implement more rolling stacks which that, it is hoped, will add another 150 student seats! we demand a better library theo antoniou-phillips SU undergraduate education officer >> Postgraduate students make up 30% of the population at UEA – and their academic interests need representing as much as undergraduates’. In the upcoming months, I am going to be focussing on three areas of improvement: organisation of courses, management of space, and support for mental health and career development. Integrating the Integrated Masters Students In terms of organisation, one of my main focuses in the next few months is to get the integrated postgrad students included within the postgraduate community. The current situation is unfair: not only do these students pay the full £9000 a year, as opposed to the rates offered to other postgraduates (such as the £7,300 for MSc Environmental Sciences), but they aren’t even permitted to use the same facilities as other postgraduates. I’ll be fighting to make sure that students on integrated courses are given the same rights. Where are our Spaces? One of the key issues that the w h o l e of the university faces is the lack of space – and this is even worse for postgraduates. At the recent Learning and Teaching Spaces Group I held UEA’s Estates department accountable for the severe lack of resources that the many postgrads face. I hope to ensure that they stick to their promise to make a specific postgrad space in all Faculty buildings. These spaces are vital if we want to encourage postgrads to talk to each o t h e r a n d foster a research community. Clear Support Structures for Mental Health and Career Development With the on-going work of the Honesty Project, I want to really focus on the mental health issues present in the PGR and PGT community. Working particularly with the schools of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing (LDC) and Health Sciences (HSC) –which are particularly underperforming in mental health support – I want to enforce more training for advisers so they can better help students. One of my other key focuses in this area is improving on how prepared students feel about their future. In a recent survey for Postgraduate Taught students, we discovered that 21% of taught master’s students did not believe that their course has helped them better prepare for their future careers. I’m asking academics to review all of the PGT courses within their schools, and enhance the content that addresses skills development. >> Over the past few weeks, we at uea|su have been building a picture of your UEA experience – figuring out what works well, and what needs to be improved. We’ve found that students are highly satisfied with the accessibility and availability of learning resources at UEA (National Student Survey, 2016). In fact, UEA ranked in the top 10% of universities in this category. This is brilliant. However, there were a few key suggestions students had… Computers and Library Space Shortage On the Portal, UEA still seems to suggest that having your own personal laptop isn’t necessary, because ‘there’s plenty of computing facilities available during the day right across campus’. You only have to walk into the library during coursework/exam season to know this isn’t true. It is common knowledge that there isn’t enough space in the library, and that this has negative impact on student learning. Printing Costs uea|su has installed a printer you can use free of charge, but this isn’t suitable for everything. Only some schools can afford to give their s t u d e n t s p r i n t i n g credits which they can use in the library, and even these are being cut yearly. We’re asking the University to give all students a printing allowance. Growing Student Population An additional 500 students are arriving at UEA every year – meaning that the student population will increase by 2000 students. Though the University is expanding on- campus accommodation, they’re not expanding teaching space and resources at the same rate – meaning this year there’s room shortages, not enough study space and over-crowded seminar rooms and lecture theatres. T h e University has long- term plans to deal with these issues, but nothing that will take effect for a few years. This isn’t good enough. Issues with Joint Honours In the National Student Survey, a number of students within the faculty of Arts and Humanities said that they were unhappy with provisions for joint (and triple) honours students at an undergraduate level. Students felt like there wasn’t enough communication between schools, and they often didn’t receive the information that they needed. We’re going to work with Student Staff Liaison Committees (SSLC) to ensure all students are given relevant information significant to both strands of their course – regardless of their ‘home’ school. What we’re doing about it We’re pulling all of this information together into a report, called the ‘Student Experience Report 2016’. In this, we’ll have survey data and student case studies for the University to consider, and we’ll create 30 recommendations which we’ll ask the University to work with us on. UEA resources among the best in country – but they can be even better joe zilch SU activities and opportunities officer representing the academic interests of postgraduates maddie colledge SU postgraduate education officer >> You’ve been speaking to uea|su, and I’m fighting to make sure your interests are represented. Over the past few weeks, uea|su have been working to build up the most accurate picture of the UEA student experience. We’re trying to work out what most concerns students at UEA, and pulling these together in a report we can take to the University. One of the sections of the report is concerned with the management and organisation of the University. Though this sounds like an administrative issue, it impacts students every day. These are the six key areas that UEA students identified as a problem: 1. Improve the HUBs Students report that they’ve received incorrect information from Hub staff, had delays in getting queries answered, delays in getting work returned, exam or class timetables being incorrect or changed, or generally finding that they’re not getting the support they need throughout their studies. uea|su are asking that the University ensure all of the Hub staff are given adequate training, so that they’re not accidentally misinforming students, and they can avoid admin disasters that have students. 2. Schools need to talk to their students It’s not just the Hubs that are failing students. L a s t minute changes to course co n te n t a n d s t r u c t u r e meant students are given little time to organise their own time, often resulting in conflicting or stressful deadlines. We’re asking that any school which has scored below 80% satisfaction for communication in the NSS immediately investigate where they’re going wrong. 3. Timetables should be released earlier Students are taking on more responsibility than ever. Students need to know their timetables so they can organise their other commitments, and getting them their timetables two weeks into the semester isn’t good enough. 4 . Immediately stop timetabling students in for back- to-back classes on opposite sides of campus This year’s timetabling chaos sees students literally running across campus to make it to lectures on time – and these problems are only worse when you consider students with mobility issues. We’re calling on the University to immediately address this issue. 5. Improve the situation for student carers Not enough is being done to ensure students with caring responsibilities are supported at UEA. Issues such as poor timetabling, last-minute changes to course structure and content or lack of support from Hubs severely impacts their ability to juggle their studies and caring commitments. 6. HSC placements Within health sciences (HSC), there was a great deal of frustration expressed regarding placements, beginning with placement allocation and continuing throughout the placements. uea|su and the University will be carrying out joint investigations into HSC placements to establish students’ expectations, realities and recommendations. This week, all of our blogs will be addressing a different aspect of the Student Experience Report, and we’ll also be releasing the full report for you to read. Check back to uea.su every day this week to find out more. i’m fighting for what matters to you amy rust SU campaigns and democracy officer >> Over the past few weeks, I’ve been reviewing the feedback from the 2016 National Student Survey, which took place at UEA this year. Though it’s clear that students are really supportive of lectures, we received a lot of negative feedback about learning resources, academic support and the quality of feedback from assessments. I believe these can be grouped into three key areas: 1. Feedback quality – many students commented that written feedback had a tendency to be ‘critical instead of suggesting how [the work] could be improved’. 2. Curriculum and personal diversity – where 87% of white students were satisfied with ‘academic support’, only 61% of BME students were. This indicates a significant divide in terms of resources for students from d i f f e r e n t backgrounds. 3. L e c t u r e resources – though s t u d e n t s r e p o r t e d that lectures were good, some schools (such as Management) reported that lecturers didn’t vary the content enough, with one student commenting, ‘after nine hours of PowerPoint, it gets a bit draining’. As Undergraduate Education Officer, I am urging University staff to focus on the quality, as well as the speed, of their feedback – focussing on constructive c r i t i c i s m as much as they can. I’m also pushing for students to be given feedback online, so that students can actually read what they’ve been given! I also believe that the starting point to ensuring all students feel supported academically is creating a diverse and representative curriculum. Through this year, I have been working with the ‘why is my curriculum white’ campaign to push each school’s curriculum to be more representative of BME students. I hope this will be added to by upcoming work with the university’s equality and diversity policy more broadly. Many students have told me that though their lecture content is good, they’d like them to be recorded so they can re-visit them. I believe this is key, and this is something I hope to develop with the University in the future. closing the gap between teaching excellence and degree quality theo antoniou-phillips SU undergraduate education officer battling for UEA student welfare jo swo SU welfare, community and diversity officer >> This week, us officers have been pulling together to work on the Student Experience Report. The report draws on a variety of surveys given out to UEA students over the last few years to give us the fullest picture of what it’s like to be a student at UEA. One of the sections of the report looked at Student Welfare, Support and Community. These are the recommendations that I’ll be taking to the University off the back of our findings: 1. Mental Health The University should fulfil its commitment to develop a mental health plan, outlining the different sources of support available to UEA students. Also, I am recommending that academics should be given ‘mental health first aid training’ before they become academic advisors. This way, advisors will be able to recognise signs of mental health problems, and feel comfortable signposting students to the appropriate on- campus support services. 2. Improvements to student safety I’m arguing that the University and uea|su should w o r k together to keep o u r students safe. This i n c l u d e s developing a community- based plan which will see us collaborating with Norwich City Council and First Bus to tackle sexual assaults on campus and in the city. 3. The Cost of Living Crisis In the 2016 uea|su union survey, 65% of students said that they were ‘quite concerned’ or ‘very concerned’ about money and finances. The University should be doing more to ensure there are fair and tangible financial support avenues for all students, particularly on courses which have high ‘hidden costs’ – such as Health Science courses which require students to go on placement. 4. Financial Hardship is an Extenuating Circumstance I’m arguing that financial hardship should be considered as an extenuating circumstance. At the moment, students who are forced to work over 16 hours a week (the maximum you’re supposed to work while studying full-time) in order to make ends meet aren’t given extra time on their assessments. The full Student Experience Report will be published on uea. su in the coming week – keep your eyes peeled for the full list of our findings and recommendations! >> UEA has a long standing reputation as an environmentally conscious university, with our students and staff leading ground-breaking sustainability research. Nationally, universities across the board are struggling to meet their policies, with only a quarter on track to meet their carbon reduction targets by 2020. People and Planet have reported UEA 48th in their national university league table using metrics which focussed on a range of themes, from water wastage to workers’ rights. That said, we are proud of our working partnership with the University where we develop solutions to achieve our common aims. 1. Food Waste. Since Amy’s recent blog on food poverty, the number of students who have expressed interest in getting involved in the campaign has been really exciting! We’ve had a lot of creative ideas about reducing food waste on campus, or ways to use leftovers to help students in poverty. We’re now working with UEA Catering to see how this can be implemented on our campus.. C h e c k out our website f o r updates on this soon! 2. L E D Lighting across our services. Veronica passed policy at Union Council mandating the SU to replace all non-energy efficient light bulbs within Union House and other Union run outlets with LEDs or other energy efficient bulbs. We are now auditing our building and services to identify bulbs which we can replace and how else we can reduce our electricity output. 3. Fairtrade UEA. We have b e e n working w i t h s o m e a m a z i n g staff across our campus to explore the university regaining its Fairtrade status. We will be reaching out to our great sustainability focussed societies to celebrate their work and build a strong Fairtrade campaign on campus. 4. Electronics Watch. As ethical issues officer, Emmanuel has been lobbying the university to sign up to Electronics Watch, an organisation who aims to ensure that all electronic products are sourced ethically, with workers at each level of the supply chain paid a living wage and provided with safe working conditions. 5. GoGreen Week. Veronica has been busy working with SustainableUEA planning GoGreen Week, which takes place13-18 February. Look out for more information and details to be advertised across campus. To follow our work and campaigns please check out the campaigns page at uea.su! we work to make UEA even better: sustainability SU amy rust SU campaigns and democracy officer alth The University should fulfil its commitment to develop a mental health plan, outlining the different sources of support available to UEA students. Also, I am recommending that academics should be given ‘mental health first aid training’ before they become academic advisors. This way, advisors will be able to recognise signs of mental health problems, and feel comfortable signposting students to the appropriate on- campus support services. 2. Improvements to student safety I’m arguing that the University and uea|su should w o r k together to keep o u r students safe. This i n c l u d e s developing a community- based