President’s Blog 14/01/2022

Conference, Parliamentarians and PGR Students

Hello Everyone!

I hope that you have all had a good start to 2022 and are settled back into the rhythm of everything again. It is lovely in Bristol to see that strange yellow globe in the sky and see some frost on the ground. I hope that you have all seen it as well. 

It has been a busy week with the Conference forums being open and on Wednesday voting on the Governance reforms and other business started. It was good fun to do a debate hosted by the amazing Jackie Weaver. The videos and answers from the For and Against campaigns are on the website. If you have a chance, please go and take a look. 

Just to make sure that I talk about our 50th, of which Conference is the kick-off event, if you have any student stories to share please do. Send them via email to There will be a page on the website soon so keep your eyes peeled. 

Don’t forget that if you have been sent an email to fill in the National Student Survey please fill it in. It is so important for the Association and the OU as it helps us to look at what needs to improve to make your student experience better.


Rob Avann (chief exec) and I met with a member of the OU to discuss some upcoming work, the conversation did end up spending a good deal of time focusing on Lego! I then met with the Scholarship team from ESTeEM. It was great to catch up with work that we can jointly get involved in. My next meeting was with Cin McGuigan (VP education), Nichola Connelly (WELS faculty rep), and Alison Fox from the school of Education Childhood Youth and Sport. And again, it was discussing ways that we can work together. Rob and I had our regular catch-up next. Conference Steering Committee was next up, we went through where each team were up to and discussed some of the programme. On the second Monday of each month, we have our student leadership huddle where we catch up on what is going on and any news that we need to share. One amazing thing that was shared is that there are 29 Freshers events planned so far for Freshers Fortnight; make sure you check out the What’s On page and the Freshers page for more details. 


I caught up with Dan Moloney (director of engagement) and we discussed progress on the debates so that students could see them and an All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) of Lifelong Learning and Higher Education that we were attending later that day. I then met with Reiss Miller (50th and Conference Project Manager). We caught up with what we were doing at Conference and some aspects of the 50th Celebration. My next meeting was with Robyn Slingsby (head of social media for the OU) to discuss the OU’s future social media strategy. As an Association, Rob and I meet regularly with the team in the PVC students’ office. There was a lot to discuss this time from the Student Charter to the Union Black course; keep your eyes open for ways that you can join the course. Next, it was the APPG on lifelong learning and Higher Education. It was interesting to hear from various parliamentarians about the progress of the skills bill through the House of Commons and how they view lifelong learning; there is always work to be done in this area! We put forward a question so once we receive a response, I will inform everyone. Alex Burghardt MP was there taking questions, but he was called away to vote before the end. I then completed some health and safety training before I finished for the day.


I started the day reading Vice Chancellors Executive (VCE) papers ready for my meeting with Liz Marr (PVC-Students) later in the day. I met with Heather Bloomer (head of DigiComms) and we discussed the new website and getting some nation-specific pages on there, so watch this space for more information. I then had a catch-up with Emma Neil from the government and external affairs department in the OU to discuss a possible session at the Secret Life of Students Conference. I also had a meeting with Joan Simons (Associate dean for teaching the faculty of WELS) to discuss the tutor awards that took place last year. I then had my regular catch-up with Liz Marr to discuss the VCE papers, it is great to get the student voice in at this point before they go anywhere else. The Post Grad Research (PGR) team and the Association meet quarterly to catch up with how we are going and what we can do to help each other. There is a new research plan coming out of the societal challenge’s questionnaires that so many staff and students filled out. We now have PGR student reps on almost all of the OU committees that need them; this is another fantastic aspect that we have worked together on. There are so many great projects that the PGR team are working on but there isn’t the time to share them now. 


I spent all day struggling with my internet so the few meetings I had I either had by phone or used my mobile data, which was very frustrating! I met with Reiss over some Conference sessions I am doing. I met with Sue (head of strategy and insights) to discuss the upcoming strategy report. Again, this is another document that has some wonderful news in it around student engagement with the Association. I then had a quick catch-up with Fanni (VP engagement) around the upcoming consultations that the OU will be running. And my last meeting of the day was with Beth Metcalf (director of membership services).


Normally my day off. Today I am doing a training course titled ‘creating a theory of change for your charity’. Should be a good day!

I hope that you all manage to get some downtime over the weekend. I was reminded yesterday that we don’t grow when things are easy, we grow when we face challenges. As OU students we face challenges all the time, especially in the run-up to TMA’s, EMA’s, and exams but we get through them and we learn that we can do it. So, stay positive, you can do it!! I will see you next time but until then, go well 😊

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Sarah P Jones


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