VP Student Communities: Postgraduate Experience

In Features

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Hello! My name is Emily Harrison and I am your VP Student Communities for 2018/19.

As part of my role, I oversee the representation and support of Postgraduate students. However, I do not do this alone! We also have elected PGR reps and a Postgraduate Committee who help provide feedback about what students want and help to deliver PG events and activities.

This blog post is intended to be a bit of an update as to my current progress on a few projects, and what you can expect to see from the Students’ Union in the next few months.


Earlier this year we set out to elect our first Postgraduate Research Representatives. These Reps provide academic representation at a Faculty level and represent SUSU’s first attempts to provide granular PGR representation on this scale. We’re pleased to confirm that we elected 3 of the 5 representatives, and they can be reached using the details below:

  •         Nick Hillier – Engineering and Physical Sciences – feps-pgr@susu.org
  •         Richard Curtis – Environment and Life Sciences – fels-pgr@susu.org
  •         Samuel Redgrave – Social Science – fss-pgr@susu.org



At the first Student Communities zone, one of the Union Committees that I chair, one of our PGR Reps fed back to us that they felt there was a lack of welfare support particularly for PGR students who go on leave for mental health reasons. I raised this as an issue at the most recent Doctoral College board (One of the University committees that I sit on to represent Postgraduate interests). As a result, I have begun to have conversations with relevant University departments about how we can help improve PGR experience in this area. So what changes are we making?

  • Improve the signposting of support services: We are looking at sending all student emails periodically throughout the year to remind you of all the fantastic support services that are available should you need them.
  • Communication about suspending: Currently, when you suspend your studies you typically get just one email letter that simply states when you are suspending from and to. I am pushing the University for more regular communication sent out throughout the suspension period to remind you of your date of return and how to extend your suspension if you are not ready to come back. I’m also working to get details of support services on the emails that are sent out during this period.
  • Back to study: Our PGR reps also raised that there seemed to be no clear Back to Study process for people when they return from leave. I will be meeting with enabling services in the next few weeks to discuss the idea of having meetings for students when they return to assess how they are doing and if there are any changes that need to be made for them to continue studying.

We want to hear from you! What issues have you found and how can we help improve your experience? If you have any suggestions please drop me an email to vpcommunities@susu.org or get in contact with one of our fantastic faculty PGR reps!



We have had several You Make Change submission from Postgraduates about the opening hours of outlets and availability of services during the summer. The two most common issues were:

  • SUSU Shop opening times: In the summer, the SUSU shop typically shuts at 4pm. You asked for the shop to be open longer so you were still able to purchase food and drink in the evenings. As a result, I have met with our Union Services team and we came up with the idea of having a pop up stand with sandwiches, milk, stationary ect. in the Stags which is open until 11pm Monday-Wednesday and 12am Thursday-Friday during summer. This way, you will still have access to all of the essentials until late!
  • Boldrewood Cafe opening times and hot food options: You were unhappy that the Boldrewood Cafe was only open until 5pm and did not provide hot food options other than paninis during the summer. As the Cafe at Boldrewood is run by the University, I met with their catering team and it was agreed that during the summer the cafe would be left open as a space to sit and study in until the building closed at 11pm. They are also hoping to get more microwaves installed there so that you will be able to bring your own food to heat up.They are also now in the process of reworking their food offer so there will now be more food options available!



I have also had a few PGR students get in touch with confusion over whether the University pays for demonstration preparation time. After looking into this, I found that there is no explicit policy on this and as such has often led to a discrepancy across faculties with some students receiving payment for prep time and others not. Of course, this inconsistency is confusing and so I raised it at the most recent meeting of the most recent Doctoral College.


Following on from this I have met with the Quality, Standards and Accreditation team at the University to get some clarification put into the new PGRs Who Teach policy, which came out this semester. Unfortunately, making changes to University policy is a rather lengthy process so this will be unlikely to have a quick resolution. However, I will of course keep you updated as we progress throughout the year!



  •  PG Christmas Event: On 5th December, we will be hosting a FREE Christmas Event exclusively for Postgraduate students in the Bridge from 7pm. There will mince pies, alcoholic and non-alcoholic mulled wine for the first 200 people plus performances from MagicSoc and FolkSoc throughout the night! In the spirit of Christmas, we are also asking you to bring an item such as tinned food, sanitary products, toiletries or small toys for the shoebox appeal. There will be the opportunity to package these at our wrapping station!


  •  Power Teas: Come and unwind with a free hot drink and a chance to chat to fellow PG students! (Sometimes there are plants…


  •  PG Breakfast Club: I am very excited to announce this brand new PG exclusive monthly event that we will be trialling from January. Each month there will be a set discussion topic for you to come and chat with fellow PG students about whilst grabbing a free breakfast!


  •  Summer BBQs: In the summer months (March-September), we host FREE monthly BBQs exclusively for PGs. Come down to the Redbrick and grab a free burger!


  •  Summer Event: In July, we held the first PG Fun Day in partnership with the Postgraduate Committee. This was a fantastic free event with a bouncy castle, candyfloss machine, outside games and a BBQ! Following the success of this event, we will be looking to host this every year so you can look forward to this again next summer!



At the most recent Doctoral College board meeting, it was raised by some head of faculties that they had had some students express issues with the University travel booking system, Clarity. I am now undertaking some student consultation to see if the majority of students share these negative experiences. I will pass this feedback on directly to the University and work with them to help improve the system.

Want to have your say? Head to the Postgraduate Community Facebook page to vote in the poll here. 

If you would like to share more detailed feedback, you can email me at vpcommunities@susu.org!


Tags: , , ,