My final goodbyes to SUSU
After a whole year as your SUSU President, another as VP Communications, another as Surge Radio Station Manager, another as Surge Programme Controller, and one as a keeno Fresher… it’s FINALLY time for me to leave SUSU. I’ve had an amazing time as President working to help improve the lives of students at this University, and below are some of the things that I’ve been able to achieve this year thanks to the support and hard work of students, fellow Sabbs, student leaders and trustees, SUSU staff, partners around the city of Southampton, and University colleagues. There are far too many people to thank for making this year so incredible for students and for myself – I’ve learnt a LOT.
So thank you. I can’t believe that after 5 years I’m leaving SUSU – I hope I’ve been able to help out and give something back for all the incredible opportunities this place has given me. For anyone reading this, I just hope you’re able to make the most of these opportunities as well. Amongst this blog are some photos of the great times I’ve had this year.
1. The University agreed to end International Fee Disparity!
From 2015/16, all international students will no longer have their tuition fees increase between years of study. Every international student should know what their degree will cost them… and now this will be the case. I’m very proud of the University for making this change.
2. SUSU helped ensure that this year £2.2 million was given out in bursaries!
Through lobbying the University to give all students entitled to direct financial support a choice between fee-waivers and bursaries (when in the past, they would have only received a fee-waiver), and by running an education campaign reaching over 3000 students – SUSU ensured that more money got into students’ pockets than ever before in Southampton.
3. The University has pledged to remove ALL Hidden Course Costs!
The University have agreed in their regulations that all course costs will be publicly displayed in module specifications when students are choosing to come to Southampton. SUSU has now launched a campaign to work out what these costs really are, so we can ensure the University is displaying them. We will also then be campaigning to work out which costs should be covered by students, and which by the University. We currently already have data from over 160 postgraduate students on their costs and experiences.
4. Students in future years will receive over £5 million in bursaries thanks to SUSU!
Recent successful lobbying with the University has meant that they’ve changed the default financial support option for students. Our estimates show that this will increase the amount of bursaries that students receive in total to over £5 million – an incredible growth on previous years that will help ensure that finances are no barrier to education. We are also working in partnership with the University to ensure that the Hardship Fund can be more flexible for students applying for financial support.
5. SUSU’s Housing Campaign goes viral and tackles the problem at the source (the agencies)!
2000 likes across the album // 250 students signed up to Pledges // 25,000 individual users reached on Facebook… But most importantly, 5 of the worst agencies signed up to our pledges to provide better housing. On top of this, our Vent About Your Rent survey received double the number of submissions from last year. We built a strong force of students who were passionate about housing and were featured on the BBC, Jack FM, Daily Echo and many other news sites around Hampshire for our efforts. We now also have better support in terms of staff resources, funding, and an elected housing officer to take this forward in future years.
6. Lobbying the University to act as Housing Guarantors for students without a UK-based parent / guardian!
Since December I have been working with colleagues in the University to create a system where they would be able to act as Housing Guarantors for students without a UK-based guardian. Many international students have to pay rent upfront when trying to find a house. 12% of students without a guarantor weren’t able to find accommodation because of these charges, and 49% were charged at least 3 months of rent upfront. I’ve created a proposal, which will be reviewed by University colleagues to say whether it can go ahead.
7. Every student’s Grad Ball ticket was made £10 cheaper, the event sold out, and was a great success!
I felt that a change was needed to our Graduation Ball in order for students to really buy into it… and this year they really did. The price of the Grad Ball was reduced by more than 20%! My pilot of the Graduation Ball Committee has been really useful at times this year, and there is lots of work to make it more effective in the future. We even started off the Grad Ball awards… and weren’t those photos fun?
8. The City Council unanimously supported SUSU in action against to-let signs!
The City Council unanimously voted to take stronger action against to-let signs. SUSU is now working with the City Council to write up a Code of Conduct so that hopefully from October this year, there will be a temporary ban on letting boards across the whole of the first semester – removing pressure on students to begin looking for accommodation.
9. SUSU is researching for the creation of a Job Shop to get more part-time jobs for our students!
As approved at the March Union Council, SUSU is now undertaking research to find more part-time jobs for students. We’re doing this research in partnership with the University and this will be an incredible step towards ending student poverty. I am confident that everything will be ready for a launch in the 2014/15 academic year.
10. Increasing our Grant to Medsoc to allow their membership to be FREE!
I’ve always believed that for the hundreds of medical students who study at Southampton General Hospital, Medsoc is in a fantastic place to support them. However, at the start of this year, we weren’t supporting them in a way to achieve this. At the last Trustee Board in June, the trustees approved a proposal to increasing funding to Medsoc to £10,000, so that they can make membership free to all medical students. Thanks to Ellie Seaby for her incredible work on showing the diversity and value of medsoc for those students. I hope all medical students make the most of this change next year.
11. Recruiting a new Chief Executive for SUSU!
Earlier this year, our Chief Executive, Jaki Booth, got offered a job as the Chief Executive of Sheffield Students’ Union (the #1 SU in the country). Since then we’ve been interviewing to find a new Chief Executive. We had over 60 candidates for the position, including Chief Executives from around the third sector and other Students’ Unions. After a long and thorough process, we’ve found a fantastic candidate to take SUSU forward, which will be publicly announced shortly.
12. Increasing Integrated Masters programs, so more students can afford to take up Postgraduate Study!
After an initial test in the faculty of Humanities, the University have agreed to introduce an increased range of integrated masters programs (undergraduate masters), which allow students who are studying at undergraduate level at Southampton to gain further qualifications without the same financial costs of taking on a separate postgraduate degree. It’s a small step to looking at the mess that is postgraduate study in the UK.
13. SUSU is now investing 10p of every £1 from commercial outlets back into student activities!
On top of the money that goes into ensuring that we can employ hundreds of student staff each year, and the money that allows us to buy from ethical sources, oh and pay our taxes, we can now better demonstrate to students that the money you put into SUSU will always come right back to support you.
14. Extended Opening Hours over vacation periods to better accommodate our Postgraduates!
After direct feedback from postgraduate students over Easter, we quickly considered and adopted some changes for the Easter break so that key SUSU services had their opening hours increased to allow Postgraduate students who are still studying to benefit from their Students’ Union.
15. SUSU has kept student value by introducing a Meal Deal in the Shop & Café!
Across this year, both the SUSU Café and the Shop have introduced meal deals, so that students can get a hot lunch on campus for under £5 and a cold lunch for under £3. This has already saved money for thousands of students from what they would have spent on meals in previous years, and has made sure that more students can afford to get food on campus.
16. SUSU finally made the decision to stop running a regular nightclub!
After a lot of work over the summer engaging students in putting on new club night, Pulse, our Freshers’ Week Pulse events received an incredible amount of positive feedback, however once again the attendance quickly dropped after Freshers’. This year, rather than allowing it to continue and costing the Union money, we ended the regular night and opted for less often larger events – selling out our Christmas Ball and Graduation Ball – and vastly increase attendance at alternative events like our Laughter Lounge.
17. £15,000 was given out through the revamped Innovations Fund!
Across our two rounds of bidding, we were able to give out money to allow SUSU performing arts to buy a new trophy cabinet, the safety bus to run all night across the 24hr library period, the Athletic Union to expand their Focus Sports provision, and Enactus to begin an incredible new project around sustainable fuel and community engagement.
18. Southampton’s Fairness Commission has active SUSU Representation!
Southampton City Council set up a commission to look at fairness in the city of Southampton, and I was given a seat as a commissioner. This group has been researching different angles of fairness in the city, and I’ve been ensuring that students are fairly considered in these conversations. SUSU was also part of Southampton’s Fair Employment Week.
19. The University is investing more into knowing what students want!
The University has set up a strategic committee (the Knowing Our Students group) with the sole purpose of better understanding what our students want at the University of Southampton. Set up this year and with representation from the President, University Registrar and all University services, the committee looks at data from student surveys and priorities from SUSU to put students at the heart of the University.
20. Students now have free access to microwaves on campus!
Possibly the most important change of the year…? Forever in SUSU, students will be able to use our microwaves and know that SUSU is here to support them at all levels. Whether it’s national lobbying against changes to their student loans, or just heating up some soup for lunch – we’re here for you.
Thanks for reading. I’d like to end this blog with a few specific thanks. Emily Sheldrake and Rob Stanning who were on the Surge Radio committee in my first year and helped me get involved; Alex Cunningham-Scott and Shane Murphy who gave me the confidence to run for President; Tessa Harrison and Jaki Booth who have been so supportive and inspiring during my time as President; and my team of Sabbs, who I love so much and I will miss spending each day with.
David Gilani – Union President 2013/14