CEC Achievements 2020 – 2022
As the majority of the current Central Executive Committee members prepare to hand over to the newly elected volunteers, Kate Wells (Association Representative – International) and Hanna Silk (Association Representative – Wales) look back at some of the many achievements of the 2020 – 2022 CEC.
Firstly, what is the ‘CEC’, and why do you care about their achievements? The CEC is the Central Executive Committee, or Student Leadership team, for the OU Students Association. Every OU student is automatically made a member of the Association.
You care because every two years you vote for us in our Student Elections, and you should hold us to account. We work hard to make your life as a student fairer, to foresee issues before they arise, to iron out any problems and, most importantly, build a sense of community amongst students who are often unable to meet each other in person. A lot of the significant work of the CEC goes on in the background but there are also impactful, collaborative projects that we are happy to shout about!
This article aims to highlight some of the things the outgoing CEC has done well, and some of the challenges we have faced in our roles. Overall, it is a celebration both of our term in office, and our appreciation of each other, showing that despite, or perhaps because of, our challenges and differences we have prevailed, we should all be proud of our accomplishments during this term. Of course, our term in office has been additionally tested by the pandemic, and the trials and tribulations that this has brought to everyone, not least in changing our ways of working together.
Accomplished by this CEC
There are three threads that make up our Strategy with the overall mission of making a positive difference for all OU students:
* Inform and Support
* Engage and Involve
* Influence and Transform
Our values of Integrity, Equality and Inclusivity, Openness and Collaboration are imbedded within these aims.
We have selected just a few of the highlights from our term in office to share in this article. These highlights showcase examples of work across the three threads of our Strategy, and most importantly, bring benefit to us all as students. It is acknowledged that for each of the examples there are very many other examples of invaluable, high-quality work that has been done behind the scenes that have also had positive and impactful outcomes for all OU students.
The Hoot – print version magazine for students in secure environments
The Hoot online magazine is probably the best thing since sliced bread! Regular visitors have increased by 16,000 over the past two years, but we need to maintain the growth and keep our current readers coming back. During the current CEC term, the Hoot was launched in print magazine format in order to be available to students in secure environments (‘SISE’). Last year also saw the publication of the first bilingual (English and Welsh) Hoot Article and Students in Wales newsletter together with an increase in contributions from a wider range of voices. All significant contributors towards building a strong sense of community and engagement amongst all students.
Newsletters, Forums and New Website
In January 2022, the new OUSA website was launched Home (oustudents.com) with plans to establish home pages for each of the nations, and one for international students. The new website gives students clearer signposting to information and updates, including a fantastic range of events and volunteering opportunities. The newsletter for International students International Students – have we got news for you! – THE HOOT (thehootstudents.com) was also introduced and the newsletter for students in Wales has continued to be published in a bilingual format Sign up for news.
The CEC have worked hard to promote the use of the student forums as they are a valuable platform for students outside of social media. The new website includes a link to the full list of regional forums Meet OU students online. It also provides a clear link to the great range of online events that CEC members continue to host and support Events.
Groups and Societies
It has been fantastic to see a significant increase in the number of members of Clubs and societies, with 20 new clubs and 3 new societies meaning overall membership of 84,000 and 7,500 respectively. The Disabled Students Group (DSG), OU Pride and BAME groups in particular have performed extremely well in increasing their membership and adapting to the needs and suggestions of their members.
Individual Representation Service
The Association introduced the Individual representation service in Summer 2021. This allows us to offer individual, direct, case support to students going through Stage 2 and Stage 3 Appeals and Complaints, and to students with cases before the Central Disciplinary Committee. The provision of this service delivers important benefits to students, to the University and to the Association. Students can now access more comprehensive support from the Association during difficult and challenging times in their study journey. There is a wealth of support and advice on the OU Student website Student Support and Advice .
International Distance Learning Student Forum – Athabasca, Canada
In November 2021, the Association joined forces with student leaders and staff from the OU Athabasca University Students’ Union (AUSU) and Athabasca University Graduate Students’ Association (AUGSA) from Alberta, Canada, to discuss topics and issues related to distance-learning student representation such as community building and combating loneliness amongst students.
This collaboration has provided the opportunity to share experiences and best practice. The hope is that further meetings will strengthen the partnerships between our organisations and give further scope to exchange information and ideas on our shared experiences in the best interests of all OU and Athabasca students.
January 2022 brought the highly anticipated Conference attended by 170 OU student student delegates and 34 guests including our Athabasca University colleagues. The conference offered 33 sessions with 17 speakers joining us in sessions covering a wide range of topics.
The EDI conference followed in June with a fantastic variety of events for all OU students to connect with others and wishing to better understand issues related to equality, diversity and inclusion.
Library Support service
In March 2019 there were approximately 1,800 students on more than 130 courses in 150 prisons. Some students in secure environments (SiSE) have access to the OU’s Virtual Campus (intranet site) and printed materials, however, independent study materials found through the Library are not available via these routes.
To overcome this obstacle, in late 2018 (i.e. before the current CEC), the Association suggested a student volunteer scheme whereby OU students in secure environments could send anonymised requests detailing what information resources they were looking for and a volunteer student would then carry out the research on their behalf.
Due to the huge success of the pilot, it was decided to provide the service as part of the Library’s business as usual. The service has now been in place for nearly 4 years and, in total, has received 300 requests! Considering there was a prison-wide lockdown in 2020, this is an impressive number and is a huge testament to the collaborative effort of the teams involved, including the Association, SiSE Team, Library staff, Level 2 and above students, and Warehouse Team.
Read more about this service here
This year ushered in the start of the Association’s 50th Anniversary celebrations 50 years of the Association. With so much to celebrate, a theme has been allocated to each month to focus on different aspects of the Association’s work and history. This month’s theme has been ‘Our Student Leaders’, taking the opportunity to reflect on achievements of the outgoing CEC as we welcome the new CEC members as they start their terms July – Our student leaders.
As part of the 50th celebrations, a new podcast series has been launched: The Association Conversation Station. The podcast offers another way to hear about the history and the future of the Association from key people involved in the Association and the Open University, past and present.
The overall focus of the celebrations has been creating a legacy for the future, including the challenge to raise £50,000 for the Open University Students Educational Trust (‘OUSET’). It is fantastic to see that the fundraising is currently at 40% of the target but support is needed to keep the momentum going Fundraising for OUSET.
Freshers events in 2020 and 2021 adapted well to pandemic ways of working with staff and volunteers working hard together to put on a dazzling array of events.
Student Voice Week
Similarly, Student Voice Week events over the same period have been very successful, continuing to showcase the way in which the Assocation and Open University collaborates so well in the best interests of the student body.
In March 2022 the CEC gave its approval to the Tutor Awards initiative, which aims to recognise a tutor from each faculty and Access who has gone above and beyond in their support of students in the last 18 months. Through student nominations and a panel led by each respective Faculty Association Representative (FAR), a winner of this award will be determined, and the award will be presented at an event as part of Freshers in September 2022. The purpose of these awards is ‘to recognise and celebrate the hard work of tutors, particularly those who go above and beyond the call of duty, in supporting OU Students, to support the growth of relationships between the Association and tutors and to provide an opportunity for students to give positive feedback on their experiences with particular tutors. This initiative has proved to be a very popular way of showing appreciation to tutors, and as such will be made an annual event.
As we say our farewells and welcome the new CEC members, things are certainly looking bright. The 2022 Elections process had brilliant student engagement with a record number of candidates and a substantial increase in votes. The first in-person CEC Business Weekend since Covid took place this month at the Milton Keynes campus and students in Wales recently enjoyed an in-person celebration event in Cardiff. The newly elected CEC members have already made a start on their training and planning for an exciting term ahead!
We hope that this selection of highlights has shown how we have worked together as a CEC and as individual representatives, to be of value, and bring benefit, to our fellow students. We have also worked with our fellow students to navigate the additional challenges brought by being a leadership team working through the pandemic. Hopefully you agree that our report card has a positive tone and we wish you all the very best for the future.