All about… the Association elections!

Every two years, the Association hosts elections for their Student Leadership Team and for the student members of the Trustee Board.

The first thing for you to know is that the Association is a democratic member-led organisation, which means our Student Leadership team and some of our trustees are elected by students.  By involving students at all levels of our governance we can ensure that we are achieving our charitable objectives, doing the best we can for students and living within our values.  That is why we need you to get involved to have your say in how your Association is run!

What are the elections?

Your Students Association elections are the perfect time to get involved in how we are run, either through voting or standing for a position. If you have time to get involved, we would love to have you and there are so many positions up for grabs that you are bound to find something that interests you. Elections are a chance for any student to nominate themselves for a vacant position and for students to then vote for their preferred candidate to represent them. 

If you would like to be involved but don’t feel you have the time to commit to one of these roles, you can still have your say by using your vote! We also have several volunteer opportunities throughout the year with varied time commitments, if you need more flexibility but would like to meet fellow students, help your peers and/or gain skills with us.

When will the next elections take place? 

The full elections are held every two years, as those elected stand for a two-year term.  The next elections are due to take place between March and May 2022. 

Nominations for positions open 22 March – 5 April 2022. This is when you would submit your application and manifesto to be considered by the electorate. 

Who can stand? 

Any OU student can stand, so long as you meet any criteria for the roles (e.g., the Scotland Area Rep needs to live in Scotland at the time of applying). We are open to applications from all OU students and encourage students from underrepresented groups to consider standing. We are committed to creating a student leadership team and board of trustees which is representative of the student community. Diverse teams achieve better outcomes for students, particularly if they are more reflective of the community they represent, and so this is something we are passionate about. 

Do you need any experience of the Association to stand?  

No! No previous experience of working with the Association is required to stand for any of the roles. You just need to:

  • be a current OU (Open University) student at the time you stand 
  • be enthusiastic
  • be willing to learn
  • have ideas about what you would like to do if elected
  • have the time to commit to the role you choose
  • complete a DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) check if standing for positions responsible for vulnerable groups

We also don’t expect candidates to have prior work experience within professional roles relating to advertised positions. The Association is a welcoming space for people to grow and learn in. Full training would be provided if you were elected to a role, as well as a friendly staff team who will be around to answer any queries you have and support you throughout your term. 

How do I apply? 

To stand in the elections, you must nominate yourself for a role via our website, where you will find an online application form to share your relevant experience, reasons for standing and manifesto. We need to know that this is a role you want to do, therefore nominations from third parties will not be considered. You also do not require any supporting nominations from anyone else to stand, and the process is easy to follow.  

At any point you can ask for support or guidance from the Association or from Civica to complete your nominations, and we will also be hosting drop-in sessions for anyone who is interested in standing to give you more information and to answer your questions. 

What is a manifesto? 

A manifesto is something we will ask you to submit as part of the nominations process.  It is a document that explains your aims and policies in relation to the role that you are standing for.  It is an opportunity for you to introduce yourself to potential voters, explain your understanding of the issues and challenges associated with the role you are standing for, and describe what actions you will take to address them.  

The candidate zone provides examples and support for writing manifestos.  

Will staff at the Students Association help me to write my manifesto? 

Staff will be available to answer any questions you might have when writing your manifesto. However, Association staff must remain neutral, and so will not be able to write your manifesto, come up with ideas, or give you any help or advice that may provide you with an unfair advantage.

Of course, if you have accessibility needs and are physically unable to complete the nominations form it is possible that our partners, Civica Election Services will be able to help you, and we are always available to discuss alternative submission formats and to support students to access our services in any way we can.  We will be happy to help, so please reach out, we want to enable everyone the chance to engage with us. 

How much of my time will being an elected Students Association Representative take up? 

Elected positions are voluntary, and therefore it is expected that you will engage with your colleagues online during your spare time and occasionally travel to the Milton Keynes campus or nations offices. 

All the role descriptions indicate an expected number of hours you will spend in your volunteer role based on current postholder’s time commitments; however, this can differ dependant on an individual’s working style and availability.  

It is important to remember that you can scale up or down your time spent volunteering by taking on more responsibilities, but for those who work whilst volunteering or who have a limited time to spare, it would be best to speak to the current post holder or a staff member before applying to get a sense of how this role could work for you.  

There is always support from the office and it is ok to take holidays from your role.

What if volunteering affects my studies? 

We understand that elected representatives are juggling their responsibilities as reps with their studies, and often with other demands such as employment, parenting or caring. As such, we try to be as flexible as possible and work with you to help you to prosper in all these areas of your life. You just need to communicate if you need space to focus on something else, for example if you have a TMA or EMA coming up. It is absolutely fine to take it easy for a few weeks to concentrate on your studies – these should always come first. 

Why are there DBS checks for certain roles and not others? 

The Students Association take our duties towards Safeguarding our volunteers, staff, and students very seriously. We recently took some steps towards strengthening our approach and this included implementing DBS checks for student leaders and staff members who are likely to give advice to vulnerable adults or students under 18.  If you want to know more about this, please contact our EDI and Student Welfare team on:

How does the voting system work?

The Association uses a Single Transferable Voting (STV) system which allows voters to order their candidates by preference instead of relying on a single vote. Voters can select as many or as few candidates as they wish, numbering them from most preferred onwards. 

STV means that candidates do not win by receiving a majority, but by receiving a certain quota of the votes, which is decided by the numbers of votes and positions requiring fulfilment. 

When voting closes, candidates are eliminated when it is not possible for them to reach the required quota in each round. These votes are then transferred to remaining candidates in order of preference, meaning each individual vote holds a substantial level of importance. 

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Beth Metcalf

Beth is a member of the Students Association staff team.