Alright everyone? Callum here. Hope you’ve all had a cracking freshers and are enjoying the start of the year. It’s time for me to give an update on what I’ve been up to in my role as VP Education.
The beginning of the summer consisted of a lot of training, combined with going through student feedback so we could start to piece together the big plan. Two key themes really stood out to me when I was going through this feedback, students being unhappy with the delivery of their courses and students feeling overwhelmed with their studies over the last year. After seeing this I was keen to make sure that one of the big plan projects would be an education-based project, which could address these two issues. This project, currently known as more consistent education, is focused on helping students to properly have their voices heard about their problems with their courses as well as a push for personal tutors to consistently provide support for students. I’m also playing a leading role in another great project on the big plan, Financial Focus, which is a project focused on improving financial literacy of students, publicising available support like bursaries and grants, digital poverty, and job support.
After delivering the Big Plan presentation, we received great feedback from University staff. Furthermore, there has been noteworthy progress made regarding many of the projects due to communications with senior University staff. I feel that the point we were making about inconsistent standards regarding personal tutors and the opportunities that students have, to have their voices heard and listened to, about changes they wanted to see on their course (live feedback) really got through to senior university staff. This was later made apparent in the papers and the conversations at Education Committee. We have set plans in place to tell students all about their personal tutor and live feedback opportunities and to later come back and check if students feel they are receiving the experience that they are entitled to. Hopefully we can make a big difference! We’ve made a good start on financial focus too. Some highlights include recording a podcast with a guest about financial literacy, discussing the way forward on digital poverty with Justine Greening, and finding out about and publicising the Essex preparation programme grant on the SU website.
Something students have been asking about a fair bit so far this year is the format of their lectures. I received a few emails from students explaining that they didn’t know why they had online lectures still. Some students complained about having too many online as well. We put out a survey question asking if people’s lectures were mostly online, mostly in person, or balanced. Most people reported it was balanced. I then brought this up with the Pro Vice Chancellor of Education, Madeline Eacott. She explained that large lectures are still often going to be in person due to COVID-19 risk assessments and the idea that there is less of a benefit to having a large lecture in person compared to a small class where you have more contact with the lecturer. She also explained that 73% of all centrally timetabled teachings are available in person. My point from here onwards was that these things need to be communicated to students more effectively, especially given that there are differences across departments. I raised the need for this in Education Committee and there was an action for the University to collaborate with the SU to improve these type of student communications.
There’s plenty of other things I’ve been up to, including helping to put on department mixers, helping to run freshers fair, creating video content, delivering the views of various students on their studies to student insights, and meeting with university staff to discuss projects and ideas. One project that is in the preliminary stages, is ‘Students being active in their own education’. Which is a project based upon finding out how students would like to have more control and choices regarding their education. Some early ideas revolve around things like students being involved with curriculum design. If anybody reading this has some ideas on this front, I’d love to hear them! Or if you have any other questions, complaints or suggestions regarding your education, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Looking forward to the rest of the year!