Hi guys, it’s Arun Aggarwal, Vice President of Student Communities for 2017/18. As you might know, we have a campus in Malaysia which I’ve just come back from!

Part of my remit as a Sabbatical Officer at the Students’ Union is to look at our offer at sites and campuses, and see how we can work to represent students and enhance their student experience.

With our Malaysian campus, we helped a few years ago students set up the Student Association (basically us but ‘Unions’ are prohibited there…) and run their first elections. Historically, we send them an amount of money – around £2,500and let them get on with things. This year, the Membership team and I have tried to make a greater effort in staying in contact with them. We’ve been video-calling them about once a month to get updates, and we’ve been sending over any information that can smooth their transition, as they do two years in Malaysia and two in Southampton.

With international campuses, if they offer an education that is equivalent to studying in the UK, the UK Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) audits them to make sure that they are up to the same standard. Ahead of the QAA visiting our Malaysian campus, the University’s Quality Standards and Accreditation Team sends out a delegation to do their own review. I was invited to go with them to focus on the student experience, and I immediately jumped at the opportunity, as this was something I wanted to do since the beginning of my term!

Our time there was brief but very constructive – we spent a day and a half on campus, meeting and talking to students and staff, including the new CEO (watch out for our upcoming interview with her…).
The campus is a lot smaller than any of ours here in the UK, just one building with four floors. It’s all open roofed and beautifully green, with labs tucked away as all of the students there do a foundation year, or an engineering course. The campus sits at the back of a whole Higher Education complex, surrounded by the likes of Reading and Newcastle Universities. I won’t lie, in comparison to the other Universities, ours felt like the littlest sibling, but with the amount of gentrification of the area, hopefully we can plan to grow and become more prominent.  However, it was clear from meeting the staff and the students that the smaller size of the campus suited them. They knew everyone on campus, had very good relationships with the academic and professional staff, and got very involved with all the clubs and societies offered to them. The scant issues that were raised were noted to be addressed, and I left feeling happy that we can aid the students out there.

Hopefully this is the beginning of a closer bond between the Students’ Union in the UK and the Student Association.

Arun Aggarwal, VP Student Communities

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