Oli Coles

51 Weeks Down…1 To Go

So with handover week next week, and therefore only one week left of my term, it has now been 51 weeks since I started as your first ever VP Student Communities. I will take away some great memories of the past year, and here are a few highlights of my year in office.


Restructured JCR Halls Committees – Each hall committee changed from 12 positions to 7 positions, with each position having clear responsibilities set out to stop any confusion. The new structure allowed for each JCR Halls Officer to work closer with staff members and zones to be more effective in their year.


JCRs Hall Elections – Had the most successful JCR Halls Elections EVER! I created opportunity profiles that were online for all the positions, so students knew. We had 139 nominations for 70 positions, beating the previous record of 99 nominations for 120 positions. Archers Road were the most successful JCR with 36 nominations, and we had a whopping 9 people run for Archers Road President. We also had the highest elections turnout across halls, with an average of 29% of students voting across all the halls, and 49% voting in Bencraft!


JCR Training – This year I changed the way the JCRs were trained to take on their role. We trained all of the officers before they took up their role, starting with a large group training session, where we outlined the key areas they would work in, and encouraged them to work as a team. They then had individual training sessions with other people who were in their position, and the relevant staff and officer in SUSU, who could give them expert instruction on what to do throughout the year.


PGR Association – I have worked with the University and Alex, the PGR Officer to create a PGR Association. This will represent all PGR societies, and promote their interests both to the University, and to SUSU. The final few documents supporting it are falling into place, ready for volunteers to take up positions within it over the Summer, ready for next year. The Association will be a key aspect in the welcome and induction of new Postgraduate students, and should mean that SUSU and the University can better support PGR students.


Reviewed International Committee –¬†over the past year I have been reviewing the international committee, and looking at the positions that sit on it, to make sure that it is representing all International students. The review has taken place, and the new committee structure has been created, ready for the new International Officer next year to elect volunteers onto it.


Community Forums – I have created Community Forums this year for students at Winchester, NOC and SGH, as well as for Postgraduate students. These forums allow students an online location where they can communicate with each other, discuss social plans, work or ask questions to SUSU and suggest ideas to improve their experience.


Erasmus Park Common Room – I have worked to improve the Erasmus Park Common Room this year. I’ve installed a new TV, that works, new sofas, as well as a projector and screen that can be used for games nights, movie nights, or to practice work presentations. By giving it a bit of a face lift, it will encourage more students to use it, especially with the diverse community that is up there.


Common Room Identity – over the next few days, all the common rooms are having SUSU identities added to them. These are based on an original one that is in South Hill, and will explain to residents what a JCR is, as well as promoting our welfare services, and some of the activities that students can do in their common rooms. It also has a bit of history about each JCR, giving the date which each JCR was founded, after a lot of searching through old library books!


Winchester Space – I’ve been very fortunate to be involved with opening the new WSA Cafe space in Winchester. Over the past year, we have looked at the best ways in which we can use it, and over the Summer months, we will be installing an improve SUSU Identity for the space, as well as increasing the staffing hours. I also managed to pass a policy at the Open Council, which will mandate all Sabbaticals to visit all the sites once a month, which will be great for increased engagement with our satellite campuses.


Postgraduate Social Program Р This year we have increased the social program on offer for postgraduate students, from just the fortnightly Quiz, to a monthly program that has included free Pizza and Games nights, and Cheese and Wine nights, all of which have been very successful.


Fixing International Fees – the first real project I worked on was alongside the VP Education, David Mendoza-Wolfson, and the President, David Gilani, where we managed to lobby the University to fix varied International fees. This meant that when students arrived at University they would be able to know exactly how much that they will need to pay by the end of their degree, rather than finding unexpected increases year on year.


Improving Participation Project – I have worked on the Improving Participation Project, looking at ways in which we can improve the participation of some of our under-represented groups. Out of this project came the successful event that was Inspiring Women, which I helped to co-ordinate, and I also wrote a report which looked at our Spring Elections nominations data over the past couple of years, and how representative the candidates were. I also created a survey which looked at the barriers students found when nominations themselves.


Covered Sustainability Zone – during Beckie’s time off, I also covered all her work as part of the Sustainability Zone. This involved training some of our initial volunteers in the BEES Project, as well as supporting the E+E Committee with Swap Shop and the E+D Committee with Inter Faith Week.


Here are a few of the other things that I have worked on over the last year:

  • Attended meetings of the Aldwych group
  • Co-ordinated the JCR & Fresher Reps Presentation Evening
  • Restructured and recruited over 500 Fresher Reps
  • Got new lockers for SGH Students
  • Worked with David MW to ensure NOC students can submit work on Highfield Campus
  • Co-ordinated a successful Freshers Programme 2013
  • Planned a Welcome Progamme at Winchester for 2014
  • Co-ordinated the most successful JCR Event ever…the JCR Christmas Ball 2013
  • Worked with Residence Support to renovate two Senior Common Rooms at Glen and Connaught
  • Written the Student Communities Strategy for the next 3 years
  • Lobbied the University to ensure that students who can’t pay Halls Fees termly in advance, can change their payment strategy
  • Ensured WSA students who live in Southampton based Halls can get transport to Winchester paid for
  • As a SUSU Trustee sat on both the Commerical and Financial Sub Committees
  • Launched a weekly events progamme for Winchester students
  • Worked with AISEC and Jawad, the International Officer to deliver the International Cultural Event
  • Worked with Winchester students to co-ordinate their Summer Ball
  • Worked with Residence Support to create events during the Christmas Holidays for International students remaining in halls.


I’ve had a great time as your VP Student Communities, and I wish Anjit all the best for next year, and I look forward to seeing how this Zone continues to grow over the next few years.


Finally I would like to thank my Student Leaders for all their hard work over the past year:


David Gunns – JCRs Officer

Jawad Bhatti – International Officer

Alex Barbu – PGR Officer

Henry Pearson – NOC Officer

Sohaib Rufai – SGH Officer

Amy Harwood – Winchester Officer

Tom Gleeson – E+D Officer

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