Farewell, but not Goodbye
Without a doubt, this has been the best year of my life. I’ve learned tremendous amounts, I’ve met incredible people and I’ve worked to improve things for other people, and made meaningful changes that I hope will improve the education for thousands at the University of Southampton for years to come.
To begin with; a word of thanks to the hundreds of academic representatives, on all levels of the representation structure; you volunteer your time to help hundreds of other students, and represent them to the University to improve what they get.
I believe that this has been a fantastic year for Education at SUSU, putting it at the forefront of what we do and engaging people from all over the University into feeding into what we offer. Because of this improved focus, the Trustee Board has effectively tripled the Education Zone budget from £5,000 at the beginning of the year to over £14,000 in the coming academic year. This means that the Union will be better placed to fund improvements to how we represent you, by investing in our Course Rep structure and also your education – running more campaigns and activities to engage you in education and push the University to make more, meaningful, improvements.
My main focuses this year have been on improving choice and opportunities for students, particularly by fighting for
improvements to the technological offering that the University provide. Over this summer, all lecture halls will be equipped with recording devices so that all lectures can be recorded. I am working with iSolutions to try and build a University policy that will ensure that all lectures in the future are recorded and saved so that students can watch them back as they wish. The week of my writing this will also see me go to a meeting to help plan the University strategy for technology in learning, hopefully codifying important improvements into a plan that the University will be held to. On top of this, I pushed the University to invest in a system that would allow people to use state of the art software from home, and this has come in the form of the University VDI, which I will write a blog about to explain later on this week. What I’ll say now is that this is an incredible exciting development that will mean that students won’t have to, for instance, go to NOC in order to use MatLab.
I’ve gone on a lot this year about the library and improvements made to it that include more seats, more plugs and the 24 hour pilot. This pilot has been extraordinary, and only one night that it’s been operating has seen fewer than 100 students in the library at 3am. Though I don’t necessarily endorse working throughout the night, I am a strong believer that students should be able to work how and where and when they feel they work best. Surveys have continuously shown that our students work best in the library, and these figures also show that we are now allowing students to work there when they feel they work best. Ensuring this pilot happened took a lot of my time and energy, going through many committees and other meetings to ensure it stayed at the top of people’s agendas.
One big commitment to my time has been working on the upcoming Higher Education Review by the QAA. As a part of this I am both on the University steering group, and have been checking over the University drafts of their submission, currently at over 120 pages in length. I am also responsible for writing the Student Written Submission for this process which means I’ve been writing, have hired a researcher and have been at briefing and training sessions around the UK.
When it comes to online submission of work, this is something I’ve had lots of ups and downs with this year, due to some level of unreliability. I am now working with the Academic Registrar of the University along with members from the Technology Enhanced Learning and Living Board to build a policy that will ensure that all work that can be submitted online is done so.
I’ve also worked on a new Personal Academic Tutor policy for the University that will be implemented for the next academic year. This brings equity across the University as to what is offered at giving academic and pastoral support to our students.
I’ve worked hard to improve the feedback provisions here at the University of Southampton and our Big Question from Semester 1 of this year helped us put some ideas to paper to ensure this improvement. One small improvement for instance is that all future module handbooks will remind students that if they want oral feedback then they can go to their lecturer for 15 minutes of this type of provision. Due to the number of complaints about feedback legibility I am also pushing for all coversheet feedback to be typed instead of written.
I finish my year as Vice-President Education having pushed the University to make real strides in its digital provisions in education, something that I believe is necessary to ensure that Southampton remains a top University, and will have huge positive impacts on our students. I am passing a lot of work onto Sophia, the next VP Education, and I know that she will continue working in the best interest of all of our students.
My headline manifesto pledge last year was to give you a 24 hour library, and that is also most likely my headline achievement. It is however not the one that I am most proud of, the prioritisation of enhancing education through technology has to take that spot.
Thank you all for reading, for supporting me, and for engaging with your representatives so that we truly can represent you.
Have a great summer!