KPA Presidential Monthly Report March

Dear Postgraduates.

Firstly, a brief apology for this late report. Due to a significant increase in our workload (caused by a number of factors)  this report has been delayed but is hopefully still useful as a summary of what we have been up to.

So, excuses out of the way, onto my report! As you will have probably noticed, this last month has been a rather eventful month in Higher Education and so we have had to adjust our work accordingly. Below I’ve detailed some of the work that your officers have been doing for you. As always, this list is not exhaustive, but we hope it gives you a flavour of the work we are doing on your behalf. If you have any questions, queries or are aware of something that we should be working on, please do get in touch with myself at kpa.chair@keele.ac.uk.

  • UCU Strike Action – On Thursday 15th February, the KPA membership voted at an Ordinary General Meeting (OGM) to stand in solidarity with UCU who were undertaking strike action. More importantly, the membership voted to support its members affected by the strike action, whether that is students who have missed teaching or PhD teachers who have engaged in the strike action. Over the past month we have supported UCU where we can and have even undertaken a fundraising campaign for the Keele UCU Local Hardship Fund, which supports those who engage in strike action with casualised staff (such as PhD student teachers) being prioritised. We have also been lobbying the University to answer the plethora of student queries about what will be done to mitigate the impact of the strike action. Personally, I have answered a whole range of emails and it has become very clear to me that the University communication has not been as clear as it should be and the responsibility to communicate the University position has fallen on the KPA and the SU. This is not solely our responsibility. In response to this, students arranged a silent protest outside of University Senate on Wednesday to protest the lack of communication from University Management and I must say, it’s had an impact! The University has committed to improving its communication to students, more details of this will be released shortly. This is even more important given UCU’s announcement of a potential further 14 days of strikes over the assessment period. In preparation for this, we are continuing to lobby the University to answer all the questions students have (such as will this delay my graduation, my dissertation supervision, visa status etc). Please do let me know what questions you have, and I will ensure these are passed onto the University to be answered. No student should be left unclear about what is going to happen, and it is the University’s responsibility to address this.
  • PhD Teachers Pay – It has come to our attention in the past few weeks that there are certain schools who are underpaying (or potentially not paying) PhD students who are undertaking teaching. I had a brief discussion with UCU who confirmed that PhD students who teach (outside of a GTA capacity) should be entitled to sessional teacher pay (starting at £27.55 per hour). At University Senate I asked the Vice-Chancellor if he could confirm that PhD students who teach (outside of a GTA capacity) are entitled to the sessional rate of pay and he confirmed they are and that if there are any areas of the University where this is not happening this should be raised with him. The KPA and UCU will be working together to address the issue of PhD students being underpaid for teaching where we are aware it is happening. However, if you believe you are being underpaid for the teaching you are doing please do contact me at chair@keele.ac.uk and we can discuss how we can represent your case further. PhD students who teach are sessional staff and are entitled to be paid the same – if you’re being underpaid then let us help you address it!
  • Vacation Overnight Study Spaces – We continue to work with the University to establish overnight vacation study spaces for when the library ceases its 24/7 provision. At the moment we are waiting on the University to determine whether a selected location in Leonard Jones can be used in summer, so do watch this space! However, what we can confirm is that, for the first time, we have been able to arrange for there to be overnight study space available over Easter! We are awaiting confirmation of the room, but this is likely to be in Chancellors. Again, please do look out for our announcements confirming where this will be.
  • Disability – The KPA have continued to pressure the University to review its disability provision after concerns raised by certain students that the provision was not adequate. The University has agreed there are areas for improvement and will review this. We shall continue to monitor this to ensure that students with a disability get the necessary support they need.
  • Masters Funding Talks – After the University confirmed that Masters fees would rise by 40% for the next academic year, we organised a series of Masters Funding Talks for prospective Masters students to highlight that they can afford a Masters. The talks were well attended and very well received by prospective students, all of them afterwards saying they now feel confident they can afford a Masters.
  • MPhil – A few weeks ago I was approached by a MPhil student who expressed dissatisfaction with some of the provision of their degree, in particular the confusion that seemed to exist around what they were expected to do. Shamefully, MPhil’s are an area that the current KPA Committee lacks experience on so we approached the University to learn more and to answer this students question. It turns out that even the University is unclear on its MPhil provision and has agreed to review its MPhil offer with us (you may be spotting a theme here!). We would really welcome feedback from MPhil students on their experience here at Keele. If you have any feedback to give (whether positive or negative) please do let me know at chair@keele.ac.uk!
  • PhD Admissions – It has been brought to our attention by people who have recently applied or currently applying for PhD’s how complex and confusing the process is. We and many lecturers agree. As a result, we have scheduled a meeting with admissions to understand more of how this process works and make recommendations of how this could be improved. We shall update you with our findings when we have more information!
  • Bob Beattie Postgraduate Student of the Year Award – This is an annual award that recognises the overall excellence of a member of the postgraduate community at Keele University, not just in their academic pursuits but also their work within the community. Winners and Runner-Ups are awarded £1000 and £500 respectively. Nominations for this award will open on Monday 26th March so if you are aware of any postgraduate who would be worthy of this award keep an eye out for how you can nominate them!
  • Elections – It is that time of year and thank you KeeleSU for the warm up! The KPA are looking for new officers to represent postgraduates in the next academic year. Think you would be a good representative for postgraduates at Keele? Know how the postgraduate experience could be improved? Then there are a range of full-time paid, part-time paid and voluntary officer roles available! Nominations open on Monday 19th March, just email your name, student number and the position you wish to run for to elections@keele.ac.uk. To learn more about the roles available feel free to contact myself!

I hope this update has been of interest, it’s our way of letting you know a bit more about what your elected officers have been doing on your behalf. As always, this list is only a fraction of the work we do, so if you do have any extra queries or questions or are aware of something that we should looking into then please do feel free to contact myself!

Thank you for your time and I look forward to seeing you all around campus soon!

Ieuan Smith
KPA President

Ieuan Smith Written by:

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