Claire Gilbert Oli Coles

#SUSUontour (1 week down – 51 to go!)


whole sabb plus a few staff

This is an introductory blog from Claire and Oli (VP Engagement and VP Student Communities) about what we got up to during our first official week in office.

This blog will cover all sorts – from Student Unions’ Conference 2013 to Alydwych and the Open Days we had the privilege of helping out at.

Where’s a better place than to start at the beginning?

We headed up to Manchester in one of our snazzy minibuses hoping to meet loads of other unions in order to learn what they do, as well as develop some of our ideas.

On the first night we had the chance to experience their Student Union building and explore their campus a little – what would you guys think about having a photo of sabbaticals displayed as part of the “SUSU wall”? Please comment below with thoughts!


The next morning was the first proper day of the conference. We went to LOADS of workshops, discussion sessions and speeches and below are some of the things we learnt that will actually influence you guys in the coming year!

Communications: I (Claire) learnt allsorts about Google Analytics and the power of Facebook as well as the psychology of language so look out for different methods of getting you engaged later in the year

Education: We all had a crash course in Higher Education which meant that we could place ourselves in the national issues that were happening. David Mendoza-Wolfson (VP Education) went to an interesting session on representation as well as being inspired by Allan Langford in his key note speech and the potential of world class higher education.

External Community Partnerships: From sessions about Leeds and Liverpool I (Claire) learnt the value of partnerships with other local institutions (yes that will mean working with Solent) to make students seem like citizens in their local area.

Sport: Evan Whyte (VP Sports Development) has headed off to ANOTHER conference (BUCS – the national league of sports competition) but before he flew off he discussed trends around the cost of sports and participation as well as the idea of doing more sports in the local community.


Twitterno2Democracy: David Martin had the chance to go along to a couple of sessions about people running slates (basically a person running for every position in a team, rather than individuals) and has got big aspirations for voter turnout in 2014 after hearing about the voting percentages at other Student Unions.

Welfare: After learning about other Student Unions’ Letting Agencies, as well as meeting with a variety of different Welfare Officers to discuss campaigns, issues and ideas Beckie Thomas (VP Welfare) found the session on tackling mental health stigma the most useful.

Community: I (Oli) attended talks by other Unions with regards to their Diversity policies, and ways in which we can make our elections more diverse at Southampton. I also learnt ways to improve a community within a Medical and Health Care course and will use parts of the discussion to improve the way we work with all our Sites. I took part in an interesting discussion on the merits of having a full time Post-graduate Sabbatical, as well as a completely separate Postgraduate Student Organisation.

New President, David Gilani, also went to a series of sessions about staffing, trustees and how to run an organisation which should mean that we continue to grow throughout the year.

What we tried to do was tweet about key information and cool things happening so that everyone at home also had a chance to access the information did you manage to see any of the tweets? Did you think they were interesting or just annoying?

On Thursday we were separated as it was time for half of us to head back south, while the others remained for the Alydwych Conference which was also taking place in Manchester. The Alydwych Conference is for all Unions in the Russell Group to share best practice as well as vote in policy.SUSU bags

The other half of us returned to Southampton to allow us to prepare  for the Open Days. With over 20,000 visitors on campus whilst the sun was shining’ it was a great chance to spend time discussing the great stuff SUSU does as well as finding out the whole range of activities people love to do.

So after our first week at work we are back in the office ready for strategy writing, policy discussions and recruitment (all the exciting stuff!).

We look forward to reading your responses to the above questions.

Sabb love,

Claire and Oli

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6 Comments on "#SUSUontour (1 week down – 51 to go!)"

  1. Claire Gilbert
    09/07/2013 at 7:28 pm Permalink

    Love the blog, love the questions!
    That wall is awesome, I think it would be super beneficial to have it in SUSU.
    I have no idea how did anyone manage to avoid all the #SU13 tweets, even if they wanted to. 😀
    This sort of blogging together is also a great idea, and I would love to see these sorts of blogs every week – with a little recap as to what everyone is getting up to. It really bumps up the “accountability+transparency” factor.
    Great work everyone, and good luck!

    p.s. I feel guilty about not being at all critical about the blog, but I guess I don’t need to keep anyone accountable anymore. 😉

  2. Claire Gilbert
    10/07/2013 at 12:02 am Permalink

    I like the photo of the Sabbs, definitely strongly worth considering implementing to get the faces out there and the sabbs recognised.
    Would be good to combine with a “what i’m doing for you today” miniature whiteboard.

  3. Claire Gilbert
    Toni Pearce
    10/07/2013 at 2:44 pm Permalink

    I’m not sure I follow why you were at this conference? SU13 is organised and run by the NUS? Didn’t we decide we wanted nothing to do with the NUS last year?

    Good to see that on your first week in the job you are wasting time at an NUS event rather than getting on with improving things for student in Southampton? One can only assume that you have come back from SU13 completely “in love with the student movement” and ready to have yet another referendum…

    Also what is High Education?

  4. Claire Gilbert
    11/07/2013 at 2:54 pm Permalink

    We get to attend the conference as it was originally an AMSU (Association of Managers in Students’ Unions) Conference, which we were a member of. When AMSU merged with the NUS, we were still allowed to attend these conferences.
    Yes, it is run, and organised by the NUS, but the majority of speakers who speak at the conferences are not NUS staff, and some are from outside businesses, who are just there to share best practice.
    The outcome of last year’s NUS Referendum was that we shouldn’t affiliate with the NUS, however one of the facts from both teams, was that we would still be able to attend the old AMSU conferences.

    In regards to how best we could spend our first week, I personally found attending some of the talks very helpful, as we could mold our timetable around exactly what we wanted to learn. For example, I attended multiple discussions on current Post Grad issues, as well as issues with external campuses, and how best to include them in the Unions, something that will really help me this year. . We made great contacts at Cardiff, who have 24 hour facilities and a fantastic letting agency and also with Imperial (also non-NUS) who have similar specialties to us but a far higher level of Medic involvement in their SU. It is through meeting others, and talking with them, that we are able to improve.
    From attending these talks, and discussing my plans with other Student Officers, and Unions’ staff, I have a better understanding of how I am going to achieve my goals, rather than spending my first week sitting at a PC, struggling to work out how to begin.

    I can’t speak for all the Sabbaticals, but I was initially a bit concerned about spending my first week away from the office, however, I have to say that the knowledge I came back with has helped me immensely.
    As for “High Education”, it’s meant to be Higher Education, I will change it now, and term refers to University and such like institutions.

    Hope this answers all your questions!

  5. Claire Gilbert
    PG newbie
    23/07/2013 at 2:27 pm Permalink


    Just taking a poke around your website, as I’ll be starting later this year on a postgrad. Bit surprised that I can’t find anything for PG students, and some of Oli’s comments above ring very true for me. Sure all your undergrads are very nice (I was one, after all!) but where’s the stuff for me? I’m only going to be there a year, and I’ll be living in private accommodation, so I’m really hoping to meet similar people as early as poss….


  6. Claire Gilbert
    23/07/2013 at 2:38 pm Permalink

    Hi Ali,

    First of all, welcome to Southampton! Everything on our website is open to everyone. We try not to divide the information we send out on the website between PG or UG students. Info, like the representation, welfare and Student Groups are the same for everyone.

    In regards to meeting people, we have a special Post Grad Welcome Week which we run with the University, which will have specific PG events, and will allow you to meet other PGs from different faculties, and not just your own! We also run Coffee and Cake mornings every single Thursday, as well as a Post Grad Quiz every other Thursday evening.

    Hope that helps!



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