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My name’s Joe Kennedy and I want to be your Education Officer for the next year. Thank you for taking the time to read my manifesto - it sets out what I want to achieve and what I can achieve if you elect me. If you’ve any questions at all don’t hesitate to give me a shout; you can find me on Facebook or email kennedyforeducation@gmail.com. Cheers, Joe Kennedy

Who you ask? I’m Joe, a final year law student here in UCC (where did the time go?!). I hail from the wholesome heartland of West Cork. I’ve been Business & Law Rep on the Students’ Union and Auditor of the International Relations Society this past year and at weekends I try my best at making coffee. Any free time I have is spent reading, trying to play a bit of music or learning jokes from my niece: what do you call an alligator in a vest – an investigator! I’ve enjoyed my time in college immensely and would love to be given the opportunity to stay here another year and do my best to help improve the quality of education in UCC.

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Table of Contents 1. Semesterisation – p.4 -

Review

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Communication

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Troubleshooting

2. Specific Policies – p.6 -

Library

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Lecture Recordings

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Employability

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Blackboard

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Mature Students

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Postgraduate Students

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Placement & Study Abroad

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Teaching Awards

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International Students

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Peer Learning

3. Campaigns – p.12 -

Hit the ground running

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Exam Success

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What else you got?

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Study Abroad

4. Union – p.14

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Class Rep Elections

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Student Representation

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Class Rep Training

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Union Reform


Semesterisation Semesterisation is coming this year for students in all years of study. Semesterisation is one of the most significant changes to education in UCC’s history. The academic year will start earlier, there’ll be no study month and the opportunity to cram for exams will be severely curtailed. It’s a huge change. I believe it’s a positive change but many students are going to find it a difficult transition. As education officer I will ensure this transition is as smooth as possible and that any problems are resolved as quickly as possible. With 2 sets of exams I anticipate a significant increase in the number of students coming to the Education Officer with problems. This is an extremely important part of the role and will remain a priority for me as Education Officer. Review The 6th and final phase of the introduction of semesterisation will run from August 2014 to August 2015. This involves monitoring the first year of the new regime and seeing how it can be improved. If I’m elected I will set up a monitoring group consisting of the Education Officer, the four college reps and the welfare officer to catalogue issues which arise throughout the year. This way we will be able to see the impact that semesterisation has had on students and what improvements need to be made. At the end of my term I will have a comprehensive report on how semesterisation has impacted students which can be used to lobby for changes. Communication The Students’ Union has agreed to take a leading role in communicating how semesterisation will work to students. As Education Officer I’ll work closely with the Commercial & 4


Communications Officer to ensure we can do this effectively. It will be my job to tell the other officers what students need to know and when they need to do it.

Troubleshooting The college must also be responsive to changes needed during the year – it’s little consolation to a student to tell them that the problems will be fixed next year. The University has said that the guiding principle must be that the student is not in any way disadvantaged by the introduction of semesterisation. I agree completely and will hold them to this.

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Specific Policies Library As students the library is our greatest asset. An ongoing issue has been the lack of plugs in the older part of the library. This is a huge problem: for many students they can only study as long as their laptop battery lasts. Temporary solutions have been rejected due to fire safety concerns. A permanent solution must be found quickly. I’m determined to pursue this issue and let the university know that the current situation is unacceptable. The introduction of lockers where students could charge their devices would help alleviate the situation. Certain spaces in the library are under-utilised – especially the large area next to the stairs. It’s your space; what do you want to do with it? One proposal that I have is an area where students can eat and drink while studying but I’m open to suggestions. If elected I’ll use class reps, Student Council and online polls to find out what students want to do with their spaces. With a strong mandate from students on what they want I’m confident that over the next year we can put the space to better use. Fish bowl: the fish bowl is an important space for students to study. Capacity is an ongoing issue especially around exam time. A simple solution to the problem of students trekking down to campus only to find no spaces left is to put up online that it is full. Although the fishbowl is a useful space, students still don’t have access to books once the main library is closed. We need a book vending machine in the fishbowl with the books students need most. The library is interested in this initiative but it needs lobbying at different levels in the university. If elected this is something that I’ll pursue vigorously.

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A complaint students make around exam time is that people leave their stuff in the library and head off for a few hours and there’s nowhere left to study. This is unfair but we do need to make allowances for students who are just going to get some air or grab some food. It’s also impossible for library staff to police constantly. I will lead a campaign to encourage students to self-regulate and alert library staff to flagrant offenders.

Lecture recordings The University needs to take an approach of encouraging lecturers to record lectures and make them available online for students. Some lecturers do this already and students find it very helpful for revision or double checking something they may have missed in a lecture. Some people in the University are concerned that this will lead to a drop in lecture attendance but there’s no evidence to support this – all the reports show that students still attend lectures and use the recordings for revision. As Education Officer, I will work towards increased recordings of lectures to complement lecture attendance.

Employability Employability of graduates, particularly in some disciplines, has been a major issue over the past few years. However, with significant improvements in the economy the situation is not as dire as it once was. Graduate employment rates have now returned to 2006 levels and over 90% of graduates are now in employment or further study. The placement module initiative for 2nd year Arts students has been a success and I want to build on it. Not only do we need to increase the number of placements and employers involved, we also need to make sure that students know about the opportunities and 7


encourage them to participate. As Education Officer I will work with the Careers Office to develop more placement opportunities and with the Commercial & Communications Officer to better promote these opportunities. UCC Works is a great initiative for recognising students’ commitment and dedication during college. In a jobs market where academic qualifications alone are simply not enough, it can really make a jobseeker stand out. I want to expand the scheme to other areas such as providing IT Workshops which you can find out more about below. I believe the extracurricular work students do deserves to be rewarded with full academic credit, not just noted on a student’s transcript as is currently the case, and as Education Officer I will work to further this aim. Blackboard: Blackboards a great resource if used correctly – but a lot of the time it isn’t. Discussion boards are rarely used but can be a really useful tool for sharing resources and asking questions. Updating the calendar on blackboard can also help students keep track of assignments and exams. It’s not enough for material to be put on blackboard, it needs to be put up correctly. Poorly labelled notes or lack of folders can lead to students wasting time looking for material. As Education Officer I’ll work with the University to ensure that lecturers make the most of blackboard and to set a minimum for what students can expect.

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Mature Students The needs of mature students are not being met by the University at present. The issues surrounding the mature student common room is a prime example of this. On the academic front a number of issues also need to be addressed – IT skills being the main one. While some IT workshops are provided, they are not enough. This is an issue not unique to mature students - many students coming straight from the leaving cert don’t have adequate IT skills. I want to introduce different grades of IT workshops to cater for the differing needs of students. These workshops would be taught by students who would then be eligible for a UCC Works award.

Postgraduate Students Postgraduate students have unique demands and are often I feel underrepresented within the Students’ Union. The Postgraduate Council has been a significant development in giving these students a stronger voice. As Education Officer I want to strengthen the Postgraduate Council in order to get better feedback about what the students want and to get strong mandates from the postgrad community that I can act upon.

Placement & Study Abroad The opportunity for placement, particularly for Arts students, needs to be increased significantly. I think the best way to this is by introducing a placement module. This has already been trialled and demand far exceeded availability. In many other universities

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placement is an essential requirement of an Arts degree. It gives students needed experience, adds greater depth to their degree and increases prospects of employment. There are great opportunities for UCC students to study abroad – in Europe, Asia and increasingly in Latin America. These are fantastic opportunities that will make you stand out when go into the workplace. Semesterisation will make it easier for students to go abroad for a single term. As Education Officer I will take a leading role in informing students about these opportunities and how beneficial they can be. I’ll do this by organising events in partnership with the International Education Office. However, finance can be a barrier to students who want to study abroad. As Education Officer, I will lobby for a scholarship fund to help students study abroad and I already have the backing of a number of departments.

Teaching awards: The College of SEFS recognises an outstanding lecturer and postgrad demonstrator each year with an award selected by students. This is a great initiative that allows students to show appreciation for staff that have really helped them and to encourage better engagement by lecturers. As Education Officer I will introduce this award in all colleges.

International Students International students, whether here for a semester, a year, or their whole degree, add richness and variety to college life. Looking after the needs of international students is an area where the Students’ Union needs to work harder.

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Although all international students studying in UCC have met English language requirements, many still want to improve their English. Buddying Irish language students with a native speaker is a great opportunity for both students to improve their language skills. This is already done in some departments but we need to expand it and it’s an area I as Education Officer want to take a leading role in. We need to be sensitive to the fact that international students can come from different academic backgrounds and may struggle with certain types of assessment in UCC. As Education Officer I will organize seminars in conjunction with the International Education Office to help these students.

Peer Learning A Latin proverb says, ‘By teaching you will learn, by learning you will teach.’ Peer Assisted Learning has been a great success in physics, mathematics and chemistry but has been slow to expand beyond these subjects. As Business & Law Rep I’ve witnessed the introduction of the scheme in economics. This has proved to be very beneficial for all students involved: the student who is further through their degree gains teaching experience and learns the basics of their discipline in greater depth and the first year gets to learn from an undergraduate student who has taken the same course as them and who they can better relate to. I believe that a module of this type needs to be made available to more students in different disciplines. As Education Officer I will campaign for the scheme to be expanded to different disciplines.

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Campaigns As Education Officer I will work with the Deputy President & Campaigns Officer to develop campaigns that will improve students’ education in UCC and the quality of their degree. Here are some of the ideas I have:

Hit the ground running With semesterisation there’ll be just 12 weeks from the start of the college year until students have to sit exams. It’s more important than ever that students get stuck in straight away and start engaging with the course from day one. As Education Officer I will lead a campaign to encourage students to do just this.

Exam Success This coming year we’ll need an exam campaign in each term. I believe that the focus on exam stress is overly negative and can put students in the wrong frame of mind. Instead I want to work with the Welfare Officer to run a campaign that will encourage students to be prepared and to tackle exams head on in with a positive attitude.

What else you got? A bare degree is no longer enough for employers – they want something extra. This campaign will encourage students to think about the extra things they do have such as clubs or society involvement, a language or other qualifications. It will also encourage students to showcase these extra skills by getting a UCC Works Awards or other formal 12


recognition. As Education Officer I want to help students who feel they may be lacking in these skills to find out where they can gain them and get recognition for it.

Study Abroad Studying abroad is a life changing experience that adds huge value to your degree. As Education Officer I will run a campaign to highlight the benefits of studying abroad. It will showcase the different options available to students in terms of where they can go and how they can afford it.

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Union Class Rep Elections All class rep elections need to take the form of secret ballot elections. Although this is time consuming it is fairest on students. The responsibility of electing class reps is a very heavy burden on the four College Reps. As Business & Law Rep I reached out to societies to help me elect reps in courses closely related to the society. This helped me greatly and also allowed the societies to speak to classes and meet students who might be interested in the society. If elected I will encourage this practice in all four colleges. Student Representation It’s essential that students are involved in decision making at all levels of the university. Neither the education officer nor the college reps can be everywhere at once; it makes far more sense for class reps to be involved in decisions about their degree. Many courses or departments already have student councils or staff student committees – but not all. It’s time that all do. The exact structure may need to differ depending on the course but the essential requirement is that every course or department has a forum for student input and feedback. If elected I will compile a comprehensive list of all these councils and committees and ensure they are introduced to all courses that currently lack them. I will also ensure that the onus is on staff to inform class reps about these committees. Class Rep Training I welcome the return to overnight class rep training this year and will continue it if elected. It has not cost the Union anything extra, it allows for more in depth training and interaction with the class reps and it’s an investment worth making. I want to tweak the content of training; some of the talks given in the 2nd class rep training would have been more beneficial 14


at the start of the year, for example dealing with staff and using social media effectively. Greater emphasis needs to be given to the role that Student Council can play and we need to ensure that class reps can engage with council as effectively as possible. This year a 2nd instalment of class rep training was held in the 2nd term. Although turnout was not as high as hoped, the reps there found it beneficial and there was an overall positive reaction. I will continue this if there is sufficient interest from class reps and will use the college clinics to find the most appropriate date to hold the training. Quality class rep training is vital for a healthy Union. As Education Officer I will ensure our class reps receive all the training and support they require. Union Reform I believe the Students’ Union is in need of fundamental reform and as a sabbatical officer I want to play a role in this. Our Union needs a new constitution. Drafting a new constitution will afford us a rare opportunity to reassess the roles our officers play, to restructure the Student Council and to look at introducing electronic voting. I want to play a key role in this process and see a new constitution voted on in 2015.

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Elect Joe Kennedy Education Officer The coming year will be an extremely challenging year with the introduction of semesterisation and it requires an Education Officer who will be dedicated, hard-working and able to protect students and achieve the changes they want. I know I am capable of this. Not only will I lobby the university, I will focus on what the Students’ Union can do and what I as Education Officer can do to improve the quality of education in UCC. If you want someone who can guide you through semesterisation, who can deliver on concrete proposals and who can achieve change that students want and need then elect Joe Kennedy your Education Officer on March 10th & 11th.

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Kennedy for Education Manifesto