As I write this report, your Committee is in its first week of handover. Your incoming officers for the next academic year are shadowing the current officers and are already brainstorming their aspirations and lines of work for the next academic year. From the little bits I have been privileged to be a part of, it is very exciting and you can rest assured that your incoming Committee are enthused and eager to get down to business to represent YOU and YOUR interests.
Whilst your incoming Committee get started with the next academic year, I want to reflect on the previous month of work your current Committee have done for you whilst I write my final Presidential Monthly Report. And it is somewhat scary to think that, after two years of representing our fantastic postgraduate community here at Keele, my time in the KPA is coming to an end. But a month to go until that happens, and you’ll hear more from me in that time! But to real business, what have your Committee been doing for you this past month?
- Summer Dissertation Supervision: Thank you to all who came forward and let me know if your school was not providing dissertation supervision over summer, some special thanks also to those who provided course handbook evidence! We took this evidence to the senior leadership team who agreed with us that this was wholly unacceptable and approached the schools where we had highlighted this practice was taking place. All the schools have got back to us and senior leadership and have informed us that these policies are not a blanket ban on supervision and that students can still access supervision over the summer period (dependent on the availability of the supervisor, for example annual leave). They have agreed, however, that the wording in the handbooks is not clear on this matter and senior leadership have required them to review the wording with the input of students at Student Voice committees. We see this as a positive step and hope it helps all those students who were concerned about dissertation supervision over summer. If you continue to have issues to access your supervisors due to these policies, please do let us know and we would be more than happy to represent your case!
- Strike Fund: Towards the end of May we, along with the SU, sat down with the University to discuss how to use the funds in the strike fund, which had totalled £276,000. The aim of the discussion was to determine how to use the strike fund, after considering the range of possibilities put forwards by yourselves. It was a very long discussion as we tried to determine the best use of the funds to benefit all students whilst also considering the broad diversity of the student body here at Keele. We, in particular, advocated for a portion of the money to be spent in a way that current third year and Masters students could benefit from it, given they had been disrupted as well and would not benefit from the long term investments (as many of you had strongly expressed to me during the strike period), and that we saw the only real way this could be achieved was through enhancing graduation. After much deliberation we agreed that the fund would be spent on three areas: 1. This summer and winter graduation enhancement; 2. To supplement the University hardship fund; 3. The creation of a Partnership Fund that students could apply for funding to deliver student experience enhancing activities and to fund other student experience priority projects as agreed between the KPA, SU & the University. Although this will not benefit everyone in equal measure, we as a Committee felt that this was the best settlement when considering the complexity of ensuring as much of our diverse community could benefit from the fund as possible. If you do have any further questions on this, please do feel free to send them to me and I would be more than to happy to either answer them or direct you towards someone who can.
- Overnight Study Space: This Friday, the library will cease its 24/7 opening times for the summer vacation period. A night owl? Then do not worry! Remember, we have already negotiated with the University to have the Lennard-Jones PC lab to be open 24/7 during vacation periods. So, if you want to continue your late nights of work you now can, just remember to take your Keele card to gain access. Any problems with the space? Please do let us know!
- Chancellors Flexible Study Space: In recent weeks we have worked with the Estates team to organise focus groups and gather feedback to inform the development of the new flexible study space in Chancellors. The initial drawings have been finished and will be on display in Chancellors on Thursday 12pm-2.30pm, please do go along, have a look and give your feedback. They’re also looking for names for the new study space. Got ideas? Then let them know on Thursday or email them to us and we’ll pass them on!
- Partnership Agreement: We and the SU have been having meetings with the University to discuss the creation of a Partnership Agreement that will help define how we will work in partnership to enhance the student experience at Keele whilst also highlighting that as separate organisation we will at times disagree on matters, sometimes publicly. We hope that this agreement will encourage a more holistic partnership in the future, allowing us all to use our strengths collectively to enhance the student experience at Keele.
- Summer Accommodation Charges: We have heard that some postgraduates may be being charged higher rent during summer compared to term time. We would like to understand more of this, so if any postgraduates out there feel they are being charged a higher rent during the summer period please do contact firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know!
- Wellbeing Week: Ending on a high, Monday 21st May saw the start of our first ever Postgraduate Wellbeing Week. This week had a variety of events and activities to help postgraduates with their wellbeing and to raise awareness of postgraduate mental health and wellbeing and its differences. Many articles were shared, many tweets sent, and we saw fantastic engagement from you all in the activities. Thank you to all who got involved, the week was a great success and had a great impact, with our activities being noted by the University and being retweeted as far away as Cardiff! We also noted your invaluable feedback on your postgraduate experience and will be using this to inform our mental health strategy going forward.
I hope this report has been of interest to you all and has allowed you to keep up to date with the work your Committee are doing. As always, this is just a snapshot and does not represent everything your officers are doing on your behalf. But if you do want to learn more about what we are doing or are aware of things that we should be looking into, then please do send me an email and I would be more than happy to help!
I hope you are all enjoying the sunshine (that I can see out of the window of our office) and that you will make the most of it as it is still about! Do enjoy the rest of June, don’t forget the Clubhouse will continue to be open if you need a place to unwind, and I look forward to seeing you all about during my final month as your President. Do keep an eye out for my final messages towards the end of the month!