Presidents Blog 8/10/2021

Lots of Papers this week and weird weather!


Hi everyone,

This week has felt a little bit like late summer and Autumn all rolled into one. Warm pyjamas at night and sandals and sleeveless dresses during the day – I now need to get out my winter clothes though! No more progress on our office apart from the trenches becoming moats with the torrential rain we had earlier in the week. Hopefully next week we will start to see progress. 

With the Conservative party conference going on there seems to have been a lot around the H.E. environment but for us right now, most notably the criminalisation of Essay Mills. Please find our statement on this on our website. Over the coming months, there will be much happening in H.E. but what we need to push the government for is to continue to take action on this as it is just the start of a much larger issue. 

Did you know that our University Challenge team now has its applications open? Do you fancy your chances?? Well, do you feel lucky…Punk?? (to quote a well-known actor!!) We also have a lot of volunteer opportunities at the moment so check them out and see if any of them fit the bill for you. We are well and truly into Black History Month; check this out to find out why it is necessary and what we are up to throughout the month.

Monday morning, I had a so-called ‘quick two-minute’ catch-up with Gareth (FBL Rep); he is the student rep on the AL contract implementation board, and he just wanted to catch me up with this and a few things about CEC this weekend. Talking of CEC weekend, this is where the elected student leadership team get together once a quarter to discuss how best we can work to represent the student body and what things we can do to make it better for students. We produce quarterly reports, and you can have a read of them here. I met with Gabby, who is the head of executive support and staff welfare at The Association, to discuss the papers and who was going to observe CEC. I then met with Georgie to have a diary check-up, I find this really useful to try and make sure I don’t overload myself. Honestly, it does make a difference!! I meet with Sue every week to discuss where we are with Strategy and today, we had a chat about the performance report that goes to our Board of Trustees. We also talked about how sustainability could fit into that strategy and how we can get the Student voice in on this. There is a new comms strategy that is exciting to have. The aims are not terribly different from what we already do, but, hopefully, the application of what we do will be better. Dan and I met to catch up, as we do regularly, this time it was to discuss meetings with the Students Association from Athabasca University in Canada. Unfortunately, these will not be in person – apparently, there is no budget for a jolly to Canada!! Not sure why as Canada is so lovely 😉. I then met with Fanni to discuss some Student Voice Week plans. I also spent a lot of the day in between meetings reading papers for CEC and Senate. This week I have had these plus Vice Chancellors Executive (VCE) papers and Board of Trustee papers. Lots of reading and writing this week!! 

Tuesday was a bit of a less hectic and more fun day. It started with a quick catch-up with Reiss and Matt to discuss the Conference Steering committee and how this is progressing and the agenda for our next meeting. Every quarter I catch up with one of the Scholarship groups in the University – eSTEeM. I really love the conversations about how we can involve students in scholarship within the University. Scholarship is cyclical and looks at how to improve teaching and learning and then implement the findings. We then discussed how we get students involved in coming up with projects amongst other things. They will be running sessions during student voice week which will be amazing. I then met with Reiss again to discuss, this time, plans for the Students Association 50th Celebrations. We discussed various ideas on how we can raise money for OUSET and how we look into those. We also discussed getting students involved in the steering group. WELS has an annual teaching excellence day and I have been privileged to be involved in this 3 times so far, as judge and someone who announces the prizes. It always amazes me the dedication of staff to make things better for students. The Tutor awards were second to none this year with 1 tutor gaining 19 nominations. The support our Associate Lecturers have given our students over this last has been amazing. There were also 8 student awards. I was humbled to hear the student stories; these had been nominated by tutors. Next, we had a governance review comms meeting where we discussed the FAQ’s we have answered and the consultation that took place. 

Wednesday I had a discussion with Ian Fribbance, who is the executive dean of FASS, around a paper that is going to the Senate next week. It is always good to catch up with Ian. Me and Rob had our regular catch-up around what I have been up to and just really updating each other as to what was going on. I spent some of the morning writing the article on Essay Mills for the website and then passed it to Dan and Fanni for input. I had blocked out a lot of Wednesday for reading papers and to do pre-work for a course I was attending on Thursday. Later in the afternoon, I met with Heather, who has just started as maternity cover for the manager of DigiComms. We discussed essay mills and an article about what is going on in Higher Education and also how we were going to work together. I am really excited about working closely with Heather again. Tim Blackman, Vice-Chancellor, and I meet regularly to discuss what is going on in the University as a whole but every so often we pop extra chats in the diary, and this was one of those such catch-ups. We discussed a few different things that might have implications for students including some of the social mission things that the OU are doing. I then caught up with Gareth again around the AL contract issues, just to keep me in the loop. Wednesday evening, we had a Board of Trustees meeting, this was not a regular meeting but one that was scheduled to discuss one matter. 

Thursday started early with a meeting with Liz Marr about VCE papers, I did get up even earlier to make sure I had them read!! We meet to discuss the papers before VCE so that she can take a student perspective into these meetings. I also asked her about where the University is with student Face to face meetings on campus in Milton Keynes. We had a conversation around Academic conduct. I then met with Reiss to discuss LinkedIn and how I can use it. We also discussed an article for Open Minds and the Omega magazine around the 50th Celebrations. I spent the morning on the final session of my leadership training, talking about understanding our biases and how that could affect recruitment and also looking at what attitudes are needed in leadership and what is resilience in leadership. We then had a half away day to discuss Governance review comms and the challenges. This was a great session, and a lot of learning was taken away from it. We then had a debrief and I caught up with Sue about the discussion forum and then with Fanni around student voice week plans.

Friday evening is our social for CEC and then all day Saturday and Sunday morning will be the substantive part where we discuss the papers and make decisions.

It’s been a busy week and will be a busy weekend. I hope that you all are starting to settle into your studies, I have made a start with mine, so far so good!! Have a great week and I will catch you next week 😊


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Sarah P Jones

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