Presidents Blog 1/10/2021

Council Strategy, Sustainability, and Freshers...


Hello everyone,

It’s been a while!! I have come back after two weeks off to a very busy diary! But let me tell you about something amazing I got to do whilst I was off. We have now broken ground on our garden office, so we had a digger, a dumper truck, and a skip parked in the garden and on the driveway. All week I kept asking for a go on the dumper truck and eventually I was allowed. It was so much fun to drive, I do have photos, but I look like a demented Bob the Builder, so I am not sharing! It was the most fun thing to do but when you are only 5 ft 2 on a good day and disabled getting up and down was hilarious fun for those watching and assisting! It was good to switch off and spend time with the monsters and with my long-suffering husband. I managed to binge-watch a couple of things including Line of Duty. I didn’t watch it when it was first on but now, I am just starting series 6 and I am loving it!

Whilst I was off my induction tutorial for my course took place. I am so glad that I managed to attend. It has allayed any fears that I have about my course and also reminded me why I love studying with the OU so much. I am just starting EE812 Educational Leadership: Exploring Strategy. 

Monday was my first day back and it started with meeting with Reiss Miller, who is the Project Manager for Conference and the 50th celebrations, and Matt Porterfield, VP Admin, to discuss the applications for students to be on the conference steering committee. We had three very strong candidates who we invited to join and that left us with two spaces – if you are interested please do get in touch through this link. I had a catch-up with, Nick Braithwaite, who is the executive dean of STEM and also the university lead on sustainability to talk through what the plans were and how students can get involved. Sustainability is a bit of a buzz word but really as the biggest university in the UK, we ALL have a responsibility to get involved. In the afternoon the Governance review group met to discuss the outcomes of the survey and focus groups. In the evening was a fantastic Freshers event where students came along to meet the student reps and find out a bit more about what we do and also how to get involved. If ever you are looking for a way to get involved, please do visit our website to find out more. And don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter to get up-to-date news. 

Tuesday was the Council Strategy day. Council is the highest governance in the OU and Tim Blackman, as Vice-Chancellor, reports to Council. So as a Council member does that make me the VC’s boss?? Something to ponder 😉. We spent the day discussing the next point on the new university strategy and we had focus groups to discuss how this sat with various areas, including sustainability and student success. Tim gave a brief update at the beginning and said something that I have found really interesting and will continue to ponder, Living our values is the how, the mission is the what. One of the later sessions was around EDI and the OU has had money from Santander to put together an amazing piece of learning called Union Black: Britain’s black cultures and steps to anti-racism. The OU has made a commitment to becoming an anti-racist university and we all have a responsibility to commit to that goal. This course is really good – I have just completed the first 2 hours of it and I highly recommend anyone doing it; you can go through the Santander website here to find out more. It is free! The strategy day was followed by a short business meeting and then I met with Danielle, the student member of Council, to catch up and discuss some things that I had missed whilst off. I also had a conversation with Fanni, VP engagement, around Student voice week.

Wednesday started with a meeting with Pete Turner, head of community at the Association. We discussed the upcoming Freshers event with Tim Blackman. Just making sure that we were fully prepared and were ready. I then met with Heather Bloomer from our DigiComms team and Reiss to discuss some branding ideas for the 50th, really exciting stuff!! There are a lot of policy changes in the off, coming down from all of the devolved governments and also from Westminster and I met with Claire and Emma from the OU strategy office to discuss these. I also had our quarterly meeting with Haf Merrifield from the strategy office, I always enjoy catching up with her and also knowing how open they have been for student input into the new strategy, it’s good to know that our voices are not just listened to but heard. I had a very brief catch-up with Fanni around Alternative formats, just picking my student brain! Student Satisfaction improvement Working Group was next and as always a great meeting, but hard work to Chair. We looked at the NSS results and the OU Brand tracker and had reports from various teams. After this, I had a quick catch-up with Ian, Deputy President. One of the best things about Wednesday was the Freshers event, ask the VC. I enjoy talking to Tim and some of the questions that came in were tricky questions for him to answer. It is always great to see that the VC wants to talk to students and hear from them about what will make their university better. If you want to follow Tim on twitter I highly recommend it. 

Thursday morning was September’s Senior Team. I really enjoy this meeting, although it is a very long 3 hours! It is great to hear reports about what is happening around the university in the nations, faculties, and various business areas. Did you know the Open University now has an asteroid named after them?? It is called Open Uni – Asteroid 69423, you can read more here. I then ate my lunch whilst talking to Sue McCabe, our strategic projects and change coordinator. Of the many things we discussed was the Strategy update for the upcoming CEC meeting. I also have met with Catherine Halliwell who is the Associate Lecturer who has been elected to lead the Associate Lecturer Executive – same as me but with the AL’s. You may have heard me mention a lightning talk that I did with Klaus-Dieter Rossade and Cin, VP education, a few weeks ago. Today we are meeting again to discuss writing a paper to do that talk.

Friday is normally my non-working day so I will be starting my studies, but I do have one meeting around the Association App project. 

I hope that you have all enjoyed the Freshers events that have been taking place and that you all really enjoy getting stuck into your studies. Don’t forget that our student reps are here to help and also remember to get to know your Tutor and fellow students. They will be the ones that carry you through to the end. Good luck everyone and have an amazing week!!! 😊


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Sarah P Jones

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