Presidents Blog 01/07/2022

Student Leadership, Firsts and Lasts...


Hi Everyone,

I hope your week has gone well. The weather in Bristol has been hit and miss and occasionally I have got soaked going from the office to the house when I have left my coat in the wrong one of the two! Hayfever has played a massive part in this week. The pollen count has been in the ‘go back to bed’ range all week and the downpours haven’t helped with that. Something though that I love and hate about the summer all at the same time is the smell of summer rain. It smells amazing and I always stop to smell it before collapsing in a fit of sneezing!

This month, as part of our 50th we are celebrating all things Student Leadership related. The elected student leaders have been an integral part of making sure that the voice of students is heard right across the university. So we will be celebrating some of the achievements and also saying thank you to the current team whilst getting ready to welcome the new team. You couldn’t have a Student Leadership Team without the staff that supports them so we will also celebrate them as well. 

As part of our 50th birthday, we are aiming to raise £50,000 for OUSET; we now have a Just Giving page if you would like to give any donations. We also have some merchandise in our shop, all profits will contribute towards that £50,000 so go and check it out. You can now also passively give to Open University Students Educational Trust (OUSET) if you shop at Amazon. If you sign on to Amazon Smile and search for OUSET you will be able to know that with every purchase, you will be supporting other students!

We have now managed to produce a version of The Hoot for students in secure environments. This is such a fantastic thing, and I am proud this has happened. To find out more check this out.

If you want to get involved in volunteering, why not look and see if you could volunteer at a graduation? You can find out more here.

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Monday

Monday was a predominately admin day for me to write handover documentation, so I only had a few meetings.

I met with Gabby Cull, Head of Executive Support, and Reiss Millar, 50th Project Manager, to discuss the activities taking place at the July Student Leadership Team meeting to celebrate 50 years of the Association and Student Leaders. 

I then met with Sue MacCabe, Head of Strategy and Insights, for our final look at the strategy report. We also discussed how some of the Association working groups would feed into the strategy and how their KPIs could be measured.

Tuesday

My first meeting was with Mark Price, interim Chair of the Board of Trustees. We managed to go well over our time with the different things we were discussing. 

The afternoon was back-to-back with meetings starting with the regular Government and External Affairs (GEA) catch-up. This was Beth Metcalf’s, Interim Chief exec, first meeting so Michelle Smyth, head of GEA, did a run down of the different external policy changes and guidance that would influence the OU and therefore students. Higher Education reform will be an important topic for the future, so things like what will minimum eligibility requirements look like and what will the lifelong learning entitlement look like for part-time distance learning students. It is good that both Michelle and Tim Blackman, Vice-Chancellor, are able to be involved in some of these conversations and use their influence. 

Next up was the monthly Pro-Vice-Chancellor of student’s team meeting with the Association. Another first for Beth. We discussed the Universities Minister, Michelle Donelan’s letter to Vice Chancellors around the Race Equality Charter and its influence over Freedom of Speech. We also talked about the B3 submission to the Office for Students. This is around student satisfaction and making sure students have a voice in this. We also covered budgets and relationship agreements. 

I then had a catch-up with Liz Marr, Pro-Vice-Chancellor of Students and Sally Hayes, Director of Students. Followed by a catch-up with Beth.

Wednesday

I had another meeting with Gabby Cull about the Student Leadership weekend. This time it was to discuss the running order of the evening dinner. 

Next up I caught up with Heather Bloomer, Head of Digicomms. We discussed handing my twitter around over and content gathering at the July weekend. 

Student Satisfaction Improvement working group was next. It was my turn to chair, and we had an update on the NSS, Student Surveys and the Brand tracker as well as the Action Plan. 

The OU’s Sustainability Steering group met next. There is a lot of work going on with the OU in Wales and this was reported on. There is a lot for the next student leadership team to get involved in. 

We require a further two external trustees for our board of trustees and we spent an hour shortlisting for interview. There are some great candidates.

Thursday

I met with Reiss Millar to discuss the 50th podcast and to make sure that we are on course with the documentation ready to hand over to the new team. Reiss also shared with me the new achievements video which is amazing! It’s fantastic to see the things that the Students Association has done over the years and been a part of improving issues for part-time distance learning students. 

I managed to get a bit of time in the middle of the day with Dave who had taken the day off work, we don’t often get time during the day, so it was really lovely.

In the evening the whole team had a session on endings with external providers Pecan, I made a huge list of the achievements of this student leadership team. Amazing!! 

Friday

My first meeting was my last meeting with Haf Merrifield, Director of Strategy. It was lovely to hear how the new strategy was going to be reported on and I am looking forward to the conversation in Council next week. It was also Beth’s introduction to Haf and the strategy team. 

I then had a meeting with Beth and Lucy Richardson, Open and Access Faculty rep and then a meeting with Fanni Zombor, VP engagement.

My last meeting was with Camilla Briault, assistant director of the governance team. 

So, I am in my last month of being President so there are a lot of ‘lasts of’ to come and lots of goodbyes but in the meantime, I am still cracking on with the job at hand getting it ready to handover! This weekend I am switching off and watching the monsters, who are almost as tall as me now, play some cricket – fingers crossed for some good weather!! 

See you on the other side, but until then, Go Well!!! 😊


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Sarah P Jones

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