KPA Presidential Monthly Report: May

Dear Postgraduates.

I hope you have all had a good Easter vacation and have had a good start to the ‘third semester’. It’s been a while since I last wrote my monthly report, due to the way the start of April fell, and so this report is covering a two monthly period (so does that make this one bimonthly?). So much has happened in that time and I’m sure that, due to a memory that struggles to remember beyond the past week, I will have missed out much of the work your officers have been doing to represent you and your interests!

Firstly, the committee for the next academic year has been elected! The 2018 KPA Elections (which closed on Friday 27th April) had a record number of candidates and a record turnout out of 173 voters! Thank you to all who engaged in the elections and have helped strengthen the KPA and it’s work to represent postgraduates. Your committee for the next academic year is as follows:

President: George Blake
Vice-President: John Wootton
Association Secretary: Roxy Birdsall
Equality & Diversity Officer: Sophia Hayat Taha
International Officer: Kristine Vu

The remaining positions that were not elected (Student Trustee and Activities Officer) will be elected in the October By-Elections. But in the mean time, I am sure you shall join me in congratulating our new committee and wishing them the best of luck in their work for the next academic year.

But on to the report! Two months is a long time and there is no way that I could capture all the work that your officers have been doing to represent you and your interests, however these items have certainly stood out as notable achievements. As always, this report is to update you on the representative work your officers do and not the events and activities that have occurred/will occur. But any questions on any of these items or any of the work we do within the KPA are always welcome, just send me an email to kpa.chair@keele.ac.uk.

  • PGR Sessional Teacher Pay: As you may remember from my previous report, I was lobbying the university for clarity over what wage PGR Sessional Teachers were entitled to for the work they undertake. In particular, the KPA was representing a group of students where it was suspected they were not being correctly remunerated for the work they were doing. The Human Resources (HR) department, in response to our questions, undertook a 3 week review to understand the University position on what remuneration sessional teachers were entitled to. After the 3 week review, HR confirmed that PGR students who lead seminars are entitled to the Level 1 sessional teacher rate (£27.55ph) and those who deliver lectures (especially if they develop their own resources) are entitled to the Level 2 sessional teacher rate (£48.12ph). The full details of what work falls under what band can be found in the attached sessional teacher policy and the pay rates can be found in the attached rates of pay document. We see this as a great achievement. Whilst confirming university policy, it has confirmed PGR sessional staff pay rights; ending any confusion within school administration and ensuring PGR students are remunerated appropriately. The University has committed to disseminating the findings of its review across the institution and ensuring there is no ambiguity over the pay PGR sessional teachers are entitled to. If you have any further questions on this matter, or feel that you are not being remunerated appropriately for the teaching work you are undertaking, then please do contact me at chair@keele.ac.uk to discuss the matter further.
  • PGR Teacher Training: Whilst lobbying the University on the PGR Sessional Teacher pay issue, it also came to light that many PGR students who teach (especially sessional teachers) were being asked to undertake teaching without any teacher training. Some students had reported not even being offered/directed towards training. This, we felt, was unfair on both the PGR students delivering the teaching and the students receiving the teaching. Through our discussion with HR the Introduction to Teaching and Demonstrating course was highlighted as a key course for PGR students who undertake sessional teaching at Keele. The University has committed to ensuring all PGR students who are taken on to do sessional teaching work are made aware of this course and are encouraged to sign up. You can learn more of this course here.
  • 24/7 Vacation Study Space: As many of you will know, 24/7 vacation study space has been something I have campaigned for since I was Vice-President. And whilst I was able to get a temporary location for last summer, I was conscious of the need for a better and long-term space to be made available. After continued lobbying and discussions with the University, that solution has been achieved! From the end of Easter vacation, the IT lab in Lennard-Jones will be available in the evening on term-time and 24/7 during vacation periods (including this summer). Even better, the University has committed to a long-term solution by committing to create a 365 day (or 366 day on a leap year!) 24/7 study space within the Library. Personally, I see this as a great achievement that was made possible by the support of our postgraduate students who used the vacation overnight study space that was made available last summer and sent a clear message to the University that this is a resource they need. I hope this development will be of huge benefit to all students.
  • UCU Strike Action: As many of you will now be aware, members of the University & College Union (UCU) accepted the offer made by Universities UK (UUK), ending the industrial action. The industrial action raised many interesting issues that we have fed back to the University. Key to this was the issue of the communication of information to students and the discrepancy in information/implementation of University decisions across the institution (for example, Exceptional Circumstances connected to strike action). Whilst we were already in discussion with the University about institution communication, the strike action really brought this issue to the top of agenda’s. Also, now that the industrial action is over, we are lobbying the University to begin discussions on what it intends to spend the ‘strike money’ on, particularly as there is a time critical element of ensuring current students not here next academic year can benefit from this fund. I have no further details on the matter at the moment as they have not mentioned anything, but I will update you all as soon as I learn more.
  • National Work: Over the past fortnight your officers have been around the country representing postgraduates and their interest. Personally, I attended the Change Agents Network (CAN) Conference at the University of Winchester on 19th-20th Here I gave a presentation on how postgraduate education is changing and what Universities and SU’s need to do to respond to this change. I was also invited (last minute!) to sit on the student panel and answer questions from all the delegates in attendance. On Saturday 21st April George Blake (Vice-President) and John Wootton (Association Secretary) attended NUS Sections Conference. Here they represented and discussed postgraduate issues nationally, making suggestions on what NUS should do to better represent postgraduate issues. On top of this, George was elected to the NUS Postgraduate Committee for the next academic year, giving the KPA the opportunity to influence the postgraduate representation work of NUS. I would personally just like to pass my congratulations onto George for this great achievement!

As stated at the start of my report, this is only a flavour of the work your officers have done to represent you and your interests over the past couple of months. This will inevitable not cover everything. As always, however, if you have any questions, queries or matters you would like to let us know of, you can always contact me at kpa.chair@keele.ac.uk. We are always more than happy to answer any questions and represent any cases you may want us to represent.

As the sunshine now starts to return, I hope you shall enjoy the rest of May (don’t study too hard!) and look forward to seeing you all around campus.

Ieuan Smith
KPA President

Ieuan Smith Written by:

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