In November we ran, in partnership with the university, the first virtual Student Voice week. At the Association, our by-election wrapped up at the start of the month and we welcomed 8 new members to our leadership team as well as a new student Trustee.
Throughout the month we had the opportunity to be influencing a lot of OU discussions. We were involved in getting agreement for an international help page and have influenced the creation of a multiple modules help page as well. Our new Council member and President attended Council, to bring students voices to the highest level of the University. Gareth had the opportunity to attend an external meeting for Higher Education Funding Council Wales, to ensure distance learners are considered across the nations. We also were involved in recruiting staff tutors for the WELS faculty, to ensure tutors managers understand the wide needs of OU students.
On various OU committees, we had the chance to be involved in actioning consultation feedback that happened from as far back as 2017 in relation to student communities, improving support for students who fail of postpone an exam and in better allocation of additional funding for Mental Health Support in Wales and Scotland. We are also involved in updating the Assessment guidance and Assessment Handbook for students considering the pandemic.
At the Association, we are pushing forward with our strategy projects and started planning the February Freshers event. To strengthen our voice across OU governance committees, we have just concluded a second round of Central Committee rep and Sentate Reference Group member recruitment to fill in any gaps and ensure we have a wide range of reps with different experiences. The Association has responded to the Office for Students consultation on the National Students Survey in multiple ways, as we have had concerns over the relevance of it to our students for years, now was a good opportunity to ensure distance learner voice is heard in the English regulatory body.
Vice President Engagement
(posted on behalf of the Central Executive Committee)
This academic year’s remote exams will be written as open book exams, so no webcams watching students during exams. Anyone with exam additional requirements, please talk to SSTs asap. Students told me problems experienced when studying 2+ modules; fed some to the OU, contemplating how to feed the rest back.
November is always a quiet month. TMA’s deadlines come thick and fast. But there is always something happening: planning next Freshers, optimising the events planning and advertising, meeting with societies’ reps, continuous work on the Community and the Sense of Belonging Task and Finish Group. Really looking forward to December!
Getting elected as FASS Far was my biggest highlight. It’s great to be part of the team representing the fantastic community of OU students. I’ve organised a FASS online meet up for December, and I have some ideas for Freshers.
Appointing a whole raft of reps. Student Voice Week, especially the Meet the OU Leadership session. Becoming Co-Chair of the Peer Review Group and ensuring that my drive for improvements in meaningful student engagement is paying off. And getting onto the Senate Governance Review Oversight Group for the same reason.
Most of the month has been taken up with sorting access to forums, completing the necessary paperwork for Council, induction, reading Council papers and getting up to speed on other matters on top of a full-time job and writing a Master’s dissertation.
I have created social media presence so Scottish students are aware of my role within the Students Association in the hope they will communicate any future issues that may present. Relentlessly I'm building on these so Scottish-based students are aware of what we can do to support them.
The biggest highlight was seeing students take advantage of Student Voice week and it coming together! At the Association, I have worked on a social media policy, a new event process to make attendance easier and planning the ongoing Hoot Advent calendar to cheer students up for the festive season.
The absolute best part of November was Student Voice Week (but don’t tell my wife it wasn’t our anniversary). Seeing so much enthusiasm from staff and students for engagement was great, with the personal highlight of the week being invited to facilitate a discussion on student involvement in curriculum design, which was open to staff OU wide.
Inviting students with complaints to become part of, and contribute to, the resolution of their problems has met with some encouraging success. It’s not quite JF Kennedy’s ‘ask not what your country can do for you...’ but more ‘how can we work together on a solution?’.
Since being elected, I have been settling into my role and introducing myself to students and the faculty. I held my first online meetup recently to introduce myself to students, which went well, and the students had great ideas as to what they would like to see happen going forwards.
Lorena Fontan Grana
The Wales Volunteer Panel has been working very well as a team holding productive sessions where students were able to feedback on issues including the Welsh Manifesto, NSS 2020 results and the Draft Tertiary Education & Research Bill. Student representation has played key part in the development of the Wellbeing & Mental Health Project in Wales.
During this month, I have mostly been engaged in team building and catching up on matters since I was last on the CEC.
Learning how everything works, getting used to the new schedule and frequent meetings are probably one of the bigger achievements this month.
A busy month with Student Voice Week on top of more normal Admin role activities, requiring juggling Association activities with other roles outside the OU. Particularly enjoyed supporting the event for F/T Law students when one student complemented my moderating at the end, I thought I was just being bossy.
I have spent most of the month attending the Induction sessions. I have also had the other responsibilities in my life of working part time, studying and self-care making sure I eat and exercise at home to enable me to be energetic to keep up to speed with the work undertaken in my political party.
I have worked with the OU on communications language to ensure inclusivity for ALL black students as many students have expressed discontent with the term ‘BAME’, and with the OU Gender Equality Steering Group on the widening gender-inequality gap in HE around the impact of COVID19 on students with caring responsibilities.
My main highlight has been working with OU staff to amend training content provided to tutors who deal with international students. I also worked with academic services and secured an FAQ help page aimed at international students around Brexit, which has also been e-mailed to all international students.
Hosting the Meet the Senior Leadership team panel in Student Voice Week. The engagement of all involved was incredible. There were a few nerves about how it would go but it went so well that there is talk of doing it again. Well done to everyone who got involved in the week’s activities.
This month I have been working with the WELS faculty to ensure increased student voice involvement across the faculty. I have also enjoyed the Student Voice week Quiz which enabled me to spend time with students in an informal setting.