And in the end…

As I’m sitting here writing this before my last ever day as a full member of SUSU I’m thinking back over a life changing 7 years. This have been filled with experiences, campaigns, events, and an election or three!

When I started as a science foundation student in 2006 only just able to attend lectures due to having CFS/ME I could never have imagined the journey I was about to go on.

To end my time as the second ever student to have been your SUSU President to be elected for two years is truly an honor, and one which I would never have guessed would happen.

I’d like to say to anyone out there who thinks that they could never do this, that they’re too shy, or that there is something which holds them back, there really is nothing you can’t achieve and you should especially go for the things you think are out of reach. I never thought I would win presidency, and I was overwhelmed when I did, but thanks to overreaching I’ve had the most incredible two years at the end of my time with SUSU and the University of Southampton.


What have I done?

The last two years have been a relentless blur of activity, but in my final blog I thought it would be worth highlighting a few of the achievements which I’m proud of. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but hopefully a snapshot of my time.


White paper response

In my first week of office the governments released a white paper on higher education which was set to forever change the landscape of higher education. In response to this we managed to get a statement to student within a day analysing the key concerned, and in the longer term we were able to produce the nay joint Union and University statement in the sector to the national consultation, giving your loud voice, and receiving one of few personal responses back from David Willetts (Universities Minister)


Challenging PG Fees

I have spent much of my time talking to anyone who will listen about the travesty that is the relentless rise of PGT fees to £9000 due to the change in UG fee. I have spoken out about this at all levels of the University, and were suitable joined voices with the vice chancellor in highlighting the issue publicly, with an article co-written published in the Times Higher.


Challenging international fees

I was able to begin the raise the issue of a lack of fee security between years f study for international students. I am pleased to have begun to get discussion going around the topic, and am hopeful that the next years team will be able to change this poor practice.


Fee waiver vs bursary

One of my proudest successes happened vey quietly towards the beginning of my time, and I was unable to announce it for a long which due to commercial sensitivities. For the new 9k fee payers our University offed one of the more generous packages of fee waivers (money off your tuition fee) but all evidence pointed to fee waivers offering little to no actual benefit to students, with the vast majority likely to have their fees written off in the first place. For most students what they needed is money in their pockets. Through months of lobbying, and negotiation I had the University agree to provide those eligible the choice between receiving their financial support as a fee waiver or a bursary. This has had the potential to put hundreds of thousands of pounds back in our students pockets.


Access agreement

For the last two years I have been a part of the Universities access agreement writing group. This agreement is about the work the university does to ensure all students can have access to the University, providing in particular support for students form financially difficult, or untraditional backgrounds. Through my work on this group, and though the use of research into student need, I have had the chance to shape the proposals in the agreement into something which will provide far greater support for our students, and open up new opportunities.


Prayer Space

Working with ISoc I was able to solve a 10 yer problem of inadequate Islamic prayer space on campus. The previous space was inaccessible, regularly flooded, and was less than half the size needed. Within 9 months I’d delivered a fully costed plan, identified funding, and within 12 months I had delivered a fully refurbished and expanded space. The result of this sees our prayer facilities ranked number 1 in the world for student satisfaction (iBarometer 2013).


Friday night re-launch

Last year we saw the failure of our regular Friday night. I’m proud to have led the project to reimagine, and re-launch the event, which saw strong attendance and engagement throughout the second half of that year.


Union Redevelopment

I’ve spent 2 years talking on and on to anyone who will listen about creating a SUSU Facilities Master Plan for all our our sites. The result of this work is that the University are now committed to significantly reshaping facilities focused on providing a world class student experience. We now have a clear vision for how we will get there, and over the coming year the next team will be working on a substantial project to bring this vision into a reality.


Union structures

In the less front facing side of my role I am ultimately responsible for SUSU as an organisation. During my time I have had the chance to get involved in the transformation of the trustee board from a management meeting to an effective and high performing board.


University-union relationship

I’ve worked hard over the past year to extend way we engage with the University, and to strengthen the relationship we have as we became an independent charity. We’ve moved from a pastoral relationship to that of an equal partner, and I believe we have come a long way in two years.


The Bridge

Had approved one of the most significant changes to the Unions commercial out lets, the Bridge, which has seen a huge increase to the use of the Union and has become one of the best spaces on campus.


Elections together

During my second year I was determined to pull all of the major Union elections together to tackle the issue of voter apathy, and poor turnouts in volunteer positions. After significant debate the proposal to move them together was approved, and I’m proud to have see voter turnouts for councillors, trustees, and student leaders move from at worst the low 10s! to thousands of votes for each and every position.


Speaking out against bullying

During my time I always spoke out where I saw online bullying, or negative culture developing. This included work on improving the positive culture, and speaking out during councils about respecting each other.


Union funding

In my time I’ve focused on getting the Union into a strong funding situation. Through negotiations with the Universities we’ve increased the investment into the Union by the University, and through improvements to the budget process we were able to invest more than ever before into student groups, and support for our students.


Winchester redevelopment

This year we were successful in securing over £700,000 worth of funding for redeveloping student facilities at Winchester campus. For years our we’ve struggled to provide a comparable experience for our Winchester students, and I’m pleased to be leaving the Union with a project which will transform the opportunities for those students.


Photography studio

As a part of the membership engagement centre development I secured a redeveloped Photographic studio enhancing the resources available for our students.


Grad ball move

Made the move to a permanent home for the Grad Ball which can deliver a high quality experience for all of our students on the same night. I’m proud to have been able to deliver two Grad Balls where we’ve massively increased the quality of entertainment, the amount invested in acts, and have kept the price frozen for 3 years (with an effective £5 discount with the removal of credit card charges).


Final Thanks

There is a saying which I have a fondness for that suggest greatness is about standing on the shoulders of Giants.

I would also like to take this as an opportunity to thank a range of people who have inspired me during my time at University, but importantly who shaped the way in which I undertook the role of President.

These are some of  the giants upon which shoulders I’ve stood (in no particular order):

Jaki Booth,  Sarah Ling, Tony Ling, Emily Moore, Barry Dore, Jayne Sermon, Tony Addison, Liam Burns, Toni Pearce, Laura Perry, George Attard, Godfrey Atuahené Junior, Christina Stone, Tom Constable, Danny Grufferty, Sabb team 11/12, Sabb Team 12/13, Billy FitzJohn, Steve O’Reilly, Andy Wilson, Becky Proctor, David Topham, Claudia Fry, Don Nutbeam, Debra Humphries, Alex Neill, Tessa Harrison, Charlene Batchelor, Sophie Patterson…

…and to the all those who’ve helped me on the way and been a part of my journey thank you! (sorry for any I’ve missed off!)


And finally, I would like to dedicate this blog to my wife, who has supported me for almost 12 years, and who had to lose two years of our time together to a job which consumes all of your life, and to my son, who had to compete with SUSU for my time, but who love more and more each and every day.

I’ve been Uncle Sam, thank you for electing me Your Union President…


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