DRAFT MICHAEL V O T E
“ With over £900m worth of cuts to Higher Education announced by the government thus far, which pose a very real threat to students’ unions funding, the student experience, student support and opportunity for students to access a higher education - NUS must robustly make the case that Higher Education is one of the few remaining world class sectors in the UK and vital to economic recovery. • I will work with Universities UK, HEFCE, the mission groups, the QAA, trade unions, students unions and other HE agencies to promote and publicize the benefit of the HE sector to the UK economy. • NUS holds the key to the success of a campaign to protect our sector’s future; the authentic student voice. Case studies from students’ unions showing the positive impact our students and graduates have at a local, regional and national level are the way to present our case.
I am standing to be your NUS Vice-President (Higher Education) based on my record as President of Lancaster University Students’ Union. My achievements at a local, regional and national level over my two years in office and based on my desire to lead a relevant, representing and robust national union along with you - the members. At this historic and pivotal period for the Higher Education in the UK we need an NUS that listens, learns and leads. If we are to truly deliver for students in the challenging period ahead, we need experience and energy. We must to return to our core values in order to bring our National Union back to you, our members.
The NUS’ ‘Vote For Students’ campaign in the lead up to the General Election is crucial if we are to be listened to by decision makers. But campaigning cannot cease after the General Election, it is even more important in the new parliament that we hold the newly elected MPs to account on on their pledges to support a fairer alternative to the current ‘broke and broken’ system. • I will continue to lead the fight for a fairer fees and funding system with the passion and dedication that I have led the campaign in Lancaster with. • I will continue the excellent work NUS have done thus far in breaking the growing consensus that students are the only option for obtaining further funding for Higher Education. I will champion the ‘Blueprint’ as an example of a fairer and more progressive alternative not as a perfect solution to the problem. Crucially, I will always respect the policies of our constituent members. • I will focus on building consensus on key principles that our entire Union can agree on rather than spend time naval gazing on the nuances that may be perceived to divide us, when in fact they are what make us the flexible and powerful Union we are.
Michael has been a strong champion for students and educational issues for as long as I have known him, fighting to defend our rights both locally and nationally. As President of Lancaster SU and Chair of Unions 94 he has demonstrated the leadership, commitment and understanding of the issues that make him the best person to lead the HE sector in the national fight for a fairer funding system in 2010 and beyond.
Building on the success of the Higher Education Zone Conference and Higher Education Zone Committee I would introduce Regional Enterprise, Accountability & Consultation Hubs (REACH) The REACH programme would be one way of putting your National Union back to in your hands, it would also bring your National Officer back to you and back under your control and regular scrutiny. • Once a fortnight I would visit a students’ union in a different NUS region to gather feedback and input for the Higher Eduction Zone and national campaigns. As part of the REACH visits I would hold Q&A sessions to allow our constituent members to hold their National Executive Officer to account on their own terms. • The visits would be publicised long in advance to allow as many students and students’ union officers from surrounding unions to take part as possible. • As well as answering questions posed on the day of the REACH visit, I would provide an online opportunity for the submission of questions to me, which I would prepare answers for each fortnight and post on to an online HE REACH blog and podcast. • This flexible and regular accountability initiative would not be a substitute for formal accountability sessions at the Zone Conference, Zone Committees and NUS Conferences and events, nor would it replace visits to local students’ unions to support local campaigns and initiatives; it would be a complimentary inititative designed to focus attention as much on our nations, regions, counties and local students’ unions as on Westminster and central government lobbying.
The backdrop of Lord Browne’s Independent Review of Higher Education Funding and Student Finance provides a perfect opportunity to continue the national campaign to realize the aspiration our National Union has had in the past a National Bursary Scheme. • I believe a National Bursary Scheme remains the most efficient, effective and equitable way to allocate financial support to our students, such a scheme could and should be designed to allocate funds on a needs basis rather than through the lottery which currently exits. The current system allows for grave discrepancies from one institution to the next and from one region to another. • I will be steadfast and resolute in my campaign to champion a National Bursary Scheme, which should replace the currently flawed system. We must replace postcode lotteries with allocations on needs-most basis. Bursaries must be a fundamental tenet of support for a students gateway to higher education not a marketing and recruitment tool for universities wishing to bolster their student numbers. • Student support should as a matter of principle be allocated by government as a democratically elected body, giving the taxpayer real power over the way in which money should be best allocated rather than unaccountable ViceChancellors who are less likely to be punished for pursuing an agenda for their own institution, where bursary allocation strategy is derived on their terms rather than on the terms of those who fund it. • If fair access is to be available to those with the ability to benefit from HE a step change in information, advice and guidance (IAG) in HE. Will also be required. I will call for a single national point of of information provision for students.
UK Higher Education institutions continue to utilise international partnerships as a significant means of diversifying income streams and minimizing reliance on government funding.
At a national level, I will continue to champion and celebrate the diversity of our members.
• I would call for national recognition of all our students as international students. • I will strongly challenge the We must call for universities to internationalise their student experience for the benefit discourse that paints universities of all. Hundreds of graduates; irrespective of their background, nationality or fees status as hotbeds of extremism, which go on to work in other countries and many study in other countries during their is based on a few examples and degree. The global economy means all out students are now truly international. does not promote our successes • It is crucial that international students do not become ‘cash cows’ for universities in bringing together many cultures, religions and races. and that they are not asked to pay more for less. I will support students’ unions in calling for universities to break from the tradition of only providing facilities and • I will work closely with the services throughout academic term time. NUS liberation and welfare • I will fervently represent and protect international students interests throughout a campaigns to celebrate and support the diversity of members period of political uncertainty in relation to student visas. Any developments to the and activities in students’ unions. system must be both equitable and supportive rather than merely punitive political point scoring in disguise.
As Postgraduate Research and Taught students become a growth area for many HEIs it is vital that our National Union engages with these members. Our National Union must oppose protectionist lobbying for research funding for the few institutions conducting “excellent research” at the expense of the many. Fundamental questions must be asked of what constitutes “excellent research” in the eyes of lobbyists who campaign for their own interests at the expense of others. • I will continue to engage with the government’s Postgraduate Review being led by Prof. Smith; ensuring postgraduates concerns and issues are never ignored when discussing the future of the sector and it’s funding. • I will make full use of the amalgamation of the National Postgraduate Committee with the NUS and ensure our National Union’s events are never solely focused on home undergraduate students at the expense of Postgraduates and other traditionally un-reached cohorts of our membership.
In many cases it was the emergency actions of students’ unions and universities that helped mitigate the massively damaging effects on students of a Student Loans Company that failed miserably this year. • I will ensure Prof. Hopkin’s Review recommendations are implemented and that the SLC continues to engage with its “customers”, as set out in the letter from their Chairman to Minister Lammy in December 2009.
Many in the sector refer to students as mere customers or consumers of higher education long before a true market has been established in higher education. Our National Union must shake up this growing consensus and work to rebuild the principle of an academic community, where students are co-producers of their education and student experience. • I am committed to questioning and challenging the emerging view of students as consumers in Higher Education and supporting students’ unions in training academic reps who are then able to make valuable contributions to institutional academic policy developments and restructuring. • I will put support for academic representation at the heart of my term of officer as Vice-President Higher Education; continuing to co-ordinate Course Rep training on a national level for those who want to utilise it. • I will create an online portal/website for student academic reps called StAR; providing up to date information, advice and guidance and a place to share best practice. • I will create new ‘Fix My Issue’ briefings for academic exec officers and course representatives in students’ unions to share best practice and champion leading case studies in student academic representation within the sector. • On the StAR website I will introduce a monthly feature called ‘StARs in the spotlight’. ‘StAR Spotlight’ will feature leading initiatives by local unions and students; celebrating out successes and recognising the unsung heroes of our movement.
• I will actively support and engage with students’ union mission groups in campaigning to protect the common interests of their members. • I will introduce a monthly meeting with the chairs of the mission groups to be to find commonality of issues affecting our members and to ensure our National Union is actively supporting as well as utilising this additional influence and resource within the student movement and the sector. Our National Union would be foolish not to utilise and work with the untapped resource of mission groups, which are an exemplar of grassroots organisation and collaboration on a local, regional and national level by our constituent members • Mission groups like the Arts Group have paved the way with regards to work on paid interns, whilst Unions 94 has begun work on demonstrating to the public and sector the positive impact students’ unions can have on the local, regional and national community when they deliver cocurricular initiatives like volunteering, business enterprise units and housing operations. Our National Union must not attempt to re-invent the wheel or complain that our clothes are being stolen when student officers and students take initiative in trying to develop national campaigns and initiatives - in fact our National Union should support and facilitate them in doing so. • I will work closely with small and specialist unions to tailor our National Union’s resources, support and tool kits to the specific, specialist and different needs of their members.
Best practice should be disseminated nationally in recognising co-curricular activities and key skills developed by students in Higher Education. My experience as Chair of Unions 94 has provided me with a firsthand experience in developing and supporting institutional awards that provide students with valid recognition for the work they have done alongside their degree. • I will support local unions by providing a framework for supporting and/or delivering such co-curricular initiatives. • I would ensure framework and briefings in relation to institutional awards provided unions with support in calling for properly resourced, employer endorsed and student led institutional awards, that therefore delivered maximum benefit and opportunity to the participants.
I would like to lead our Naitonal Union in concentrating its efforts on building consensus of principle rather the pursuance of dogmatic policies at the expense of respect for member unions’ autonomy. I would underpin our core beliefs as a Naitonal Union with ability and experience; always seeking to translate our beliefs in practice at a local and national level. Our National Union must be more about reach than preach. Where there are differences we must play to our different strengths and where there are agreements of principle we must realise our potential and strength as a significant proportion of the UK’s electorate.
With recent success for students in the debate about including student auditors as part of the insitutional audit process, I will continue to work closely with the Quality Assurance Agency in developing their processes and initiatives, always making sure the interest of students are at the heart of what they do. • I will lead NUS in playing a lead role in supporting students’ unions locally in making valuable and evidence based contributions to the institutional audit process through their Student Written Submissions. • I will utilise the national database of Student Written Submissions to help facilitate the sharing of best practice, structure and guidance for this important part of the HE quality assurance process. • My experience in authoring Lancaster’s Student Written Submission in 2008 and currently as a student auditor for the QAA (in their first cohort of student auditors) has put me right at the heart of this key aspect of higher education and given me an insight into an area very likely to be under the spotlight as taxpayers take a keen interest in the quality of the sector as they are potentially asked to contribute further to the sector.
• I will put students’ unions and student officers at the heart of NUS Higher Education events and conferences.
With at least 1 in 10 HE students engaged through FE provision a close strategy and partnership with the Vice President (FE) is vital.
• I will ensure NUS events offer a balance of NUS Officer and staff led presentations and sessions but will include student officers in the delivery of sessions and panel debates alongside sector leaders, national officers and students’ union staff.
• I will actively support the votes at 16 campaign. • I will actively support the campaign to get recognition from the major parties for the importance of the EMA; an issue particularly more pertinent in the current climate of cuts and increasing financial pressure on students entering HE after their period studying in FE.
Leading the campaign for a farier, progressive alternative to the current broke and broken system of HE Funding and Student Finance. A system, which respects the differing needs of mature, part-time, undergraduate and postgraduate students.