President’s Blog 11/02/2022

Love, OU, Students!

Hi Everyone,

I hope you have all had a good week. I have enjoyed seeing the sunrise earlier and the sunset later, it gives me hope that spring is just around the corner. On one of my walks down the garden this week it was lovely to see the buds on my apple trees as well. The sun is shining this morning which always puts me in a good mood. 

I hope that you have all signed up for the OU student consultations, if you don’t know what they are, have a read here. There is also a link where you can also sign up, but you need to do it by the 13th. We also have another shiny new writing competition, have a look and see if it is something you feel you can submit to. The closing date is February 27th

In February our 50th theme is Love OU Students. What do you love about the Association? Have you made friends, found love, or just found community? It would be great to hear about your stories. Either email or use the #LoveOUstudents. To get you started I have submitted mine to The Hoot so if you want to share yours, you can use the email to get in touch. 


I met with some of the Student Leadership Team and staff and one of the Trustees to have a conversation about the future direction of the Association and suggestions that could be taken to the Student Leadership Team and the Board of Trustees. We certainly have a clear mandate for change although the governance reforms proposed did not meet the high threshold to pass at Conference. 

I then had a lovely helpful meeting with Gabby Cull, Head of Executive Support and Staff Welfare for the Association. It was good to catch up but also to get some guidance on some issues I had been struggling with. 

My next meeting was with Andy Evans from the DigiComms team to discuss doing a podcast for the 50th. We had a really helpful discussion, and I am excited about how we take it forward. 

I also had meetings with Matt Porterfield, VP Admin, and then Gareth Jones, Faculty Representative for Business and Law. 


I chaired a follow-up meeting of the Student Satisfaction Improvement Working Group where we had presentations about Brand tracking and the new module surveys. We came out of the meeting with some concrete plans with how we take the ideas forward. 

I then attended the first meeting of the Academic Conduct Review Steering Group. It was good to review the terms of reference and workstream formats and also work out where else we can get student input. 

It was then the Stela Operations group, good to hear some progress being made across the university on alternative formats for students. 

I had my 1-2-1 with Beth, Director of Membership Services, next. We had an interesting discussion including the next steps for me. 

Tuesday evening it was time for the International Distance Learning Forum. Our Student Leadership Team and staff meet with the Student Leadership Team and staff from Athabasca University Students Union and their Graduate Union as well. We shared our best practice around EDI issues, and they did the same. It was interesting to hear about the decolonisation and Indigenisation projects that they have going on. One thing that really struck a chord with me was how they approach Digital Poverty from an EDI perspective. 


I met with Pete Turner and Jess Smith, Heads of Student Community, to discuss how Freshers had gone. I also had my regular 1-2-1 with Heather Bloomer, Head of DigiComms, and we discussed this month’s theme of Love OU Students

Next was my regular meeting with Tim Blackman, Vice-Chancellor. We discussed a Times Higher Education podcast on diversity and some outcomes of the Vice-Chancellors Executive (VCE) away day. I also confessed to him that I had snuck in some words in our interview at Conference. I was challenged to get in squirrel, trouser-press, and aubergine! I managed it successfully as Tim didn’t realise until he was told. We had a laugh about it during our conversation and next time he wants to be in on it 😉

I am now part of the Exams and Assignments steering group and that met on Wednesday. Most of the meeting was a discussion on terms of reference and processes. We also discussed getting student input in the right places of the programme. 

I met with Liz Marr, Pro-Vice-Chancellor of Students (PVC-S), to discuss VCE papers. We both then went straight into a meeting with the PVC-students office. We discussed the review of the student charter, some consultations that are taking place, and how we can be involved. 

Next, I had my 1-2-1 with Dan Moloney, Director of Engagement. I also had a catch-up with a student who gave me really great insight into the technology that we use. 


I spent all morning in Senior Team. This is where the senior leaders in the OU get together, and we share what is going on around the University. Today it was the turn of the Nation Directors. 

First up it was Josie Fraser, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, giving a roundup of the political landscape and general updates. 

Northern Ireland is building up to launching their manifesto ready for the elections; we will be doing ours for this as well. In Scotland, there is a survey sent to all MSPs. Around 70 organisations take part in it from across all sectors in Scotland. In the categories for awareness and regard, the OU came in 4th and the only ones above them were well-known charities; this is really great news. Both Scotland and Wales have new OpenLearn courses; the Scottish one is on Scots Language and Culture and the Welsh one is Active Citizenship. Wales is also looking at the new Tertiary Education bill to work out how we fit in. 

There was also a presentation on Data Protection, Finance, Brand Strategy, and Black and Asian Student recruitment. 

It was also the Association’s turn this month to do an update. I shared some information on the 50th, Conference and some great stats on our Annual Membership survey as well as how we are working towards our strategy. Our new brand colours have been well received. 

I then met with Sue for a longer than normal 1-2-1, we had the Council paper to discuss and plan our discussion of the next strategy reporting. 


I am not working today! I have decided that I am going to enjoy the peace of having the monsters at school to catch up on rewatching the last two films I have slept in front of!!

I am now off to try and remember what those films were!! I hope that you are all doing really well with your studies, but if you are struggling and need some inspiration why don’t you have a read of some of the stories from our amazing students, just like you, on The Hoot!

I hope you all have a great weekend and manage to get some downtime, as that is just as important. 

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

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Sarah P Jones


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