Council is the highest level of Governance in the OU. There are two students on there, the President of the Students Association and the elected Student Member of Council. At each meeting we provide an update of our activities and every November we are required to give an Annual Report. This is some of what we shared from our quarterly report.
The first update is on the consultations we conducted for the Governance Reforms that will be voted on at our Conference in January 2022. In May we updated on the external Governance Review that we commissioned that provided a series of recommendations in order to improve the Association’s governance structures and processes. Some of those recommendations were broad and required further insights to establish how they might be delivered in practice. We therefore decided to consult students during August and September 2021 on how the changes to our elected student leadership structure might work, and on how the move away from a biennial conference to an annual online AGM would take shape.
We used three different methodologies to gather insights from students and other stakeholders:
The focus groups were hosted by members of the CEC and staff team and were targeted a specific demographics of students in order to try to capture the unique experiences, challenges and barriers they face and understand how that might inform how the reforms can work to better serve those groups and communities.
The surveys for students and other stakeholder groups sought to provide some more quantitative measures of preferences for different approaches to the reforms, while also providing room for qualitative feedback in certain areas.
The student panel forum hosted by PVC-Students provided a more open space for students to provide perspectives and opinions and respond to ideas that fellow students put forward.
Although engagement with the consultation was not as high as we had hoped, we put significant effort into raising awareness about the opportunity to participate across our website and social media channels and making very clear that we wanted to hear from as many students as possible. We had hoped that the time of year – prior to students starting new modules – would mean they had more time to participate. However, we received a lot of useful opinions and insights from those who did participate, including from a significant number who have not previously engaged with the Association.
Perspectives from the consultations are now informing the proposals that will be brought to Conference for students to vote on whether to adopt.
The second update was about some initial engagement data from the 21J (September/October 2021) Freshers Fortnight.
Our Freshers Fortnight for 21J took place between 20 September and 3 October 2021. The key objectives set for Freshers Fortnight were to:
- Provide a welcoming and friendly atmosphere for both new and continuing students; with a focus on social opportunities to connect with fellow students, informative sessions from student representatives, Association and OU staff, and wellbeing.
- Provide an opportunity for students to learn more about the Association, their student representatives, and opportunities available to them.
Encourage further involvement from students with the Association beyond Freshers Fortnight.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic Freshers Fortnight, which is usually a mixture of online and face-to-face events, was held entirely online.
There was an extensive programme of 47 online events and sessions for OU students to take part in. The sessions ranged from:
- Faculty chat
- Area chats
- Social events (Including Saturday Morning Coffee and Chat, Bingo, Friday Night Quiz, Speed Friending, regional online meet-ups and more)
- Informative sessions from students (including a welcome session, Meet Your Student Reps, Study Tips, Societies, Clubs Fair and more)
- OU sessions (run by the Careers Team and the Library)
- Societies and Clubs sessions
- Wellbeing themed sessions
This Freshers Fortnight there was an aim to improve the safety and security of events:
Overall, the initial data collected shows that 21J Freshers Fortnight has been a big success, with big increases on engagement compared to previous iterations. However, a full evaluation of our Freshers activities will be carried out in the Spring of 2022 after the next Freshers, which will provide more detailed insights and learnings to take forward into future events.
I will provide a further Council update after our next Council meeting. I hope this has proved to be interesting!