We had a record number of nominations this year and want to thank each and every person who has been involved. During the inital nomination process, we asked students what they wanted to ask candidates to get a better idea of who they might vote for during this year's Association Elections.
This article introduces all candidates running for Vice President Roles, so keep your eyes peeled for more information on Area and Faculty Reps, Trustees, President and Deputy President candidates.
Below are the answers candidates have given. You can see the
candidates' full manifestoes on the election website.
Vice President Questions
What would be your suggestions for Association spending that best represent and benefit the needs of students?
*An admin error means that the question attached to these answers was previously incorrect, this is no reflection on the candidate.
Anyone who has prepared a budget knows that there are always staple items that must be accounted for first. These are usually items that allow the organisation to continue to function. These are, by necessity, the primary priority for any organisation. However, beyond these critical functions, I believe that the top priority for optional spending should be put into projects to increase inclusion and equality throughout the student body. These are top of the Association’s Values for a reason. I fully support anything that can be done to help others overcome the barriers to their own success.
My suggestions would be to look into finding more and news ways to work with high street stores, online shopping and supermarkets to provide discounts to OU students; saving them money on day-to-day essentials and more luxury goods as a result of studying. A special OU student discount scheme (perhaps in the form of a card) would be popular; in my opinion. We should endeavour to offer much more variation of discounts compared to usual student discounts as we are a much more varied alumni that don’t necessarily all want 10% off Vans or 20% off Apple Music.
Any Association spending must further the objectives in our Articles, which include:
- Promoting the interests and welfare of OU Students
- Furthering the personal development of students
The pandemic restricted many events so I would like to see us revitalising those activities which address the points above, particularly delivering undertakings around the regions so students can attend in person.
Spending should focus on giving students skills, experiences, and networks to set up their own initiatives. By having the Association train students in advocacy, this encourages new projects others can take part in. I would work with my fellow committee to fund events such as hackathons, talks, and skill ‘speed-share sessions’ to upskill students. Meanwhile, I would offer support to societies by implementing a project / event fund to reduce the barriers for outreach.
What would your first priority be if you were to be elected?
My priority must be to meet the rest of the team. I am fundamentally a people person. The best place to start would be to meet the people I would be working alongside and start getting to know them, their roles, and their existing experiences.
Knowing people always makes it easier to communicate information clearly and have better relationships with people. Which can help me better understand if someone is struggling with something or makes it easier to approach people if I require help.
My first priority would be to review policies to see whether there were ways to make life easier for everyone. I am someone who is a passionate advocate who wants to open things up by removing unnecessary barriers which make it difficult to say, do or think anything. I also want to make things understandable and easy to access – simple language, less jargon. This will hopefully make participation more enjoyable and more inclusive for the majority of people.
My absolute priority is to progress the Culture and Governance Recommendations provided by two external consultations, as these are urgently needed for us to increase the democracy, transparency, and efficiency of our Association as well as increasing student participation.
I would speak to those currently in post. First this would include the incumbent, to learn more about the mechanisms OUSA has to support students. I would build on current work, planning regarding subventions, and relationships with University staff. Second, I would reach those leading student societies to see what works and what the Association could be better at. This may include assisting with financial reporting, offering an event fund for societies to bid into, and/or facilitating marketing to students. I would then look to develop these and incorporate them into a two-year plan providing transparency of what I hope to achieve during my term.
The Association, the University, and society in general are seeing increasingly diverse challenges when it comes to finances at present. What experience do you bring that will allow you to approach these challenges effectively?
My charity experience prior to the Student's Association includes being Trustee & Treasurer of a £4m+ Rural Services charity and Director of Finance & Administration of a £4m Disaster Relief charity. At the other end of the scale, I have been Trustee and/or Treasurer of the local branches of charities including Crimestoppers, Talking Newspaper and currently Advanced Drivers.
Financial challenges such as we are experiencing currently have a tendency to be cyclical, for example the high inflation we are seeing may be a UK 30-year high however it has been higher in the UK in my working life, indeed I can recall it higher in the 1970's. My 40+ years in financial roles has given me both skills and experiences that can meet these challenges as I have seen worse. For example, in the early 1980's when I worked for an international company at their London HQ, one of my responsibilities was a branch in Argentina where they had inflation heading for 1,000%. I learned a lot about current cost accounting as well as daily cash flow forecasts to ensure cash held in Argentinian Pesos was only what was needed that day. Our Association challenges pale in comparison, believe me.
How would you propose to keep in regular contact with students during your term to stay up to date on their needs and issues in relation to academic representation?
Students are the most important people when it comes to providing the right support for education. I would hold regular meetings using a hybrid system to ensure that all students can attend for them to give their views and opinions and as a chance to update them on the work I am doing as vice president. I would be happy for students to contact me and provide a time scale for replies which I would stick to religiously, opinions are the best way of making a difference and as a student representative it would be my job to make sure these are both listened to, acted upon and reported back. Finally I would use the student association newsletter and social media to provide students with regular updates from the team at OU Education.
I’m not sure about all of you but with the volume of social media channels at our fingertips it is a wonder how we couldn’t stay in touch… but let’s not forget it can be rather lonely behind the keyboard, especially as many of us are already distant. So I am not only going to pledge to keep communications two-way on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn (or whichever floats your boat) but also to ensure you have access to virtual and physical meet-ups too where we can connect, debate issues, and make absolutely sure that your messages are heard and represented!
How will you look to hold the University’s educational programmes to account?
Following my first meeting with the OU students if I am elected I will bring their concerns to the all relevant teams within education at the OU. I will scrutinise the standard of provision based on the responses from students and hope to work constructively with the right people to ensure any teaching gaps are filled.
I will look at how the OU caters for an ever changing world of education, the 4 countries within the united kingdom provide very different curricular now and we must as a university work together to find the compromise on how we can ensure all are being taken into account.
Finally I would look to bring representatives of the OU to regular meetings where students could put questions to both myself and the representative.
It’s vital that educational programmes proudly represent work of Open University and in keeping with the Association’s mission and vision… this is not a space for going rogue!
If elected as VP Education, I would be holding them to account by:
- ensuring actions have clear targets and mediocrity is not ignored
- Acting responsibly as critical friend to assure discussions have clear constructive feedback that informs rather than only critique
- Endorsing frameworks for reporting that questions programme management to confirm they are fit for purpose and meet needs of all students
- Continuing work of current VP to prioritise fair academic representation
VP Equality, Diversity and Inclusion
As VP EDI, how will you help the Association achieve their Black Lives Matter Pledges?
Through the Associate’s pledges of the BLM movements, there will be continuation of fair and inalienable rights within society.
Enhancing the movement of people reuniting together within the community to dismantle racism and understand that we are all entitled to the same rights protected by the law. Protests are pushing for liberation, whereby the association can aid those being discriminated.
Educating ourselves on anti-racist and non – violent actions along with supporting BLM pledges and implementing them in the workplace. Promoting these rights encourages diversity, along with success and accomplishments being at the forefront of this pledge, creating positive changes.
If elected VP EDI, I would help the association to achieve there BLM pledges by speaking to all students of colour, and act as a voice for them within the association, championing their concerns, not only as a representative, but an ally. I would also try wherever possible to promote education of both Black history and of how we can all help to challenge racism in any form, conscious or not, to ensure the OU Students Association, and by extension the OU itself, are welcoming and inclusive for members of all ethnic backgrounds.
As VP EDI, I will help the Association achieve its Black Lives Matter Pledges by ensuring that not only training is undertaken regularly, but also ensuring that students feel safe in speaking to their tutors and the Association about any concerns they have in regards to what the University and the Association are doing to reach their goals of change. The Association has pledged that they will not stop fighting until they see change for the better through many means, such as challenging the effectiveness of 'Equality Champions' as well as improving upon the equality scheme. I will do everything I can to ensure that students can see the changes, I will spend time talking to students of minorities who have concerns and do everything in my power to push for better. I will listen to the voices of students and always make it a priority to ensure that the pledges are being fulfilled.
I would help The OU to achieve their BLM pleaded by keeping a vigilant eye on student that might fall victim to racial discrimination and racism motivated abuse and eradicate any injustice that I believe to be taking place and highlight and report my findings and concerns to the relevant authorities.
How will you ensure Equality, Diversity and Inclusion are at the forefront of the work you do with the Association?
Establishing that everyone’s views, approaches and beliefs are taken into consideration, and no one is being excluded or isolated. Ensuring that the association understands the detrimental impacts of discrimination of equality and diversity can cause serious mental health and social exclusion problems.
Focusing on the ideas that the association treats student’s and others with respect and dignity can positively include everyone and this is crucial within this student association, whereby everyone should be able to voice their ideas and opinions and be heard.
Working as a team will promote success, feelings of sense of worth and achievement.
I believe that everyone is deserving of an inclusive and diverse setting which they feel apart of. Since enrolling with the OU, I have found the OUSA spaces I am a part of to be just that. However, there is still improvements to be made, such as ensuring the OUSA uses, and encourages the use, gender neutral language and a persons correct pronouns. I would also not take action on an issue without consulting with the members the communities it affects, to ensure I act as a VP EDI for all students I represent.
The ways in which I will ensure that Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion are at the forefront of the work I will do with the Association include, allowing students the opportunity to have their voices heard by spending time listening to their concerns and relaying information promptly to the Association. I will always take time to think about how to change things for the better, ensuring the university and the Association are safe and welcoming places for all students, I will ensure that any concerns are dealt with correctly and I will not stop pushing for change. As a student who suffers from hidden disabilities and is a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, I have spent a number of years in education, pushing for Equality, Inclusion, and DIversity, and advocating for change, so now I will take this to the role of VP EDI.
I would ensure equality diversity and inclusion are at the forefront of my work by making sure the OU is completely free from any kind of social discrimination and operates as an anti racist institution by embracing every single student with equal privileges enabling them to achieve their goals by flying the flag of diversity.
How would you propose to keep in regular contact with students during your term to stay up to date on their needs and issues?
As VP Engagement my e-mail inbox will always be open to students’ ideas and issues. I will host regular drop in sessions on Teams for those who prefer to communicate verbally and will maintain a regular presence across a full range of media channels – ensuring that students can reach me in the way that suits them best.
I will produce a regular blog on The Hoot to keep students up to date and will seek to share short and snappy updates across a variety of platforms so that students can keep up to date where they scroll best.
I will actively engage with students in the spaces they frequent (e.g. social media, forums, discord), ensuring they know I am approachable and can be contacted in those areas and via email.
I will raise awareness of the various activities and channels available for student input, while creating opportunities to engage directly with students so that I can listen to their views and opinions.
I will work on the Association's communication strategy to make the best use of our communications channels (e.g. the hoot, website, social media accounts, newsletter), while making sure our content is relevant, engaging and accessible.
What would your main strategies be to encourage students to engage with the Students Association?
I will seek to work closely with the elected VP’s Community and Student Support to ensure that opportunities are projected across the OUSA website, social media platforms and forums to ensure no opportunity is lost in our e-mail inboxes. My aim is to ensure that every OU Student can find their place and people and make the most of what the OUSA has to offer.
I will also create a space by the students for the students, using blogs/vlogs to capture student experiences and answers to common queries/challenges, allowing students to share their experience, helping newer students find their feet.
To understand how to get students more involved with the Students Association, we need to evaluate the key principles of student engagement. This should involve talking to and listening to our students, so we can shape meaningful and worthwhile engagement that suits our diverse student community.
Using research-based evidence we can plan new initiatives or engagement opportunities, using platforms that students prefer, so they become more involved and engaged.
Clarity, communication, and collaboration are key: so students hear about what is going on, have clear expectations of that engagement, and understand the benefits of being involved in our engagement opportunities.
VP Student Support
What do you foresee as the biggest barrier to study for students and how would you look to reduce this?
Listening to students gives me insight into some barriers. These include: disability; inaccessibility; dyslexia; health; job / family commitments; anxiety; mental wellbeing; stress; lacking motivation; poor internet; pregnancy; being a carer or care experienced; isolation; low income; English not the first language; feeling excluded; and low confidence. Being a Trustee of the Association’s Charity, overseeing Peer Support, directing students to Association services, and working with the OU helps remove barriers. The biggest barrier can be students not realising what help is available. I direct students when I can, but if re-elected I’d improve how and where I communicate with students.
Students face many different barriers while studying, however one of the biggest i find is mental health. I would try to tackle this by communicating with students and ensuring they have the support they need from the university to help them. I would be the link between the university and students if they needed extra sessions or time to hand in their work etc.
I believe that low self-esteem and anxiety are going to be the biggest barrier to study, both for current and perspective students. Many people have a fear of failure and I feel that this is the main reason people drop out of their courses or don’t apply in the first place. I want to work with the OU and the student support team to develop an out-reach program that can help students over-come their fears and work with them to improve their study skills and abilities, so they no longer feel anxious or unable to complete their modules.
I think student mental health. It effects someone ability to learn, Confidence levels so lower grades than expected, socialisation with students and it can impact on outside issues such as housing issues/debt/sexuality/gender issues, BAME, Learning disabilities etc. I plan to look into suicide prevention and intervention within the OU student association. Trying to setup a OU Mental Health Line like other Universities. Making sure that tutors and departments have some first aid training in mental health to help students to feel supported throughout their journey through the OU to avoid drop out or study and ill-mental Health.
How would you propose to keep in regular contact with students during your term to stay up to date on their needs and issues?
I read and respond to students on Facebook and in emails, and talk to other student reps, which helps keep me updated with needs and issues. I’m equally happy helping one student by responding to their message as I am helping groups of students by raising issues with various OU staff contacts.If re-elected I’d resume writing Blogs, which include information and humour. I would expand the Study Tips booklet I recently initiated by requesting more tips and sharing that with students, increasing interactions with students. I’d look for a systematic way to improve how I hear from students.
I would contact students via telephone and keep them updated about current issues on social media. I would also ask the university to post my contact details on their website so students can reach me if they have any issues.
I want to set up a dedicated email address that students can send any concerns or suggestions too and develop a newsletter that could be included on the OU website that would show students what is being done to help them with their studies and how disabilities should not be a barrier to achievement. I would arrange termly Zooms that any student can drop in to and discuss issues. I would also have termly Zooms with all tutors so that they can highlight areas they believe students with disabilities may/are struggling with and what could be done to help.
I plan to keep in touch with students on social media such as Facebook through a page/group. I also have proposed monthly calls for students to raise any concerns, they may have when studying and they aren’t sure how to fix an issue. The use of social media will keep students up to date news. I may receive that could be relevant to students who need support. I encourage the use of peer support as-long as their is no judgment and bullying,throughout the use of my group.I am hopeful that students will socialise with others to reduce loneliness and isolation.
What do you believe are the biggest, non-academic challenges facing students during their studies at present, and how will you work with the OU to address these within the remit of OU Student Support?
Mental health problems I’m finding within my course there’s a lot of anxiety around receiving grades and feedback. Students feeling they can’t do the course. There's so much pressure on other students receiving their grades early and getting higher marks. I think it will be a case of student support working with tutors to make sure they are meeting the 10 day deadline because some students don’t receive their feedback till a later date past this deadline. We have to put students' mental health at the frontline of everything otherwise grades will be impacted and student mental well-being.
Isolation affects many OU students. I’d continue to let OU student facing staff know about exciting ways the Association helps reduce isolation and builds communities. They then mention Association Clubs, Societies, Meet Ups, Peer Support etc to students. Stress and emotional resilience can affect students, I’d continue talking to OU staff about providing helpful resources for these. I help students with funds, as an OUSET Trustee (Association Charity), but also talk to the OU about funds available to students. I have contacts across the OU, vote for me and I’ll continue to raise issues as I hear about them.