ANNUAL REPORT 2018/19
Welcome to the GSA Annual Report 2018/19. As the elected Student sabbaticals during this time we’re delighted to highlight in this report some of the key initiatives and campaigns we helped drive forward to both support and strongly represent postgraduate students. ‘Make Postgrads Matter’ became our campaign theme in this year and we hope the legacy you’ll see as our golden thread throughout all the work achieved. Whilst remaining modest in numbers, a new Representation Coordinator and part-time Researcher established in this year has helped provide a great foundation for improving the performance of what remains one of only three dedicated post graduate student unions in the UK. Something we’re all incredibly proud of. We hope you are inspired by some of our and the team’s achievements in 18/19, helping both strong representation and support of post-graduates. If you’d like to find out more about the GSA, volunteer, or discover how to get involved in providing our services and events, we’d love to hear from you. Please contact email@example.com or visit our website www.yorkgsa.org for more information Charlotte, Sehrish and Amy GSA Officer Team 2018/19
REPRESENTATION 4 CAMPAIGNS 6 WELFARE 8 ACADEMIC 10 COMMUNITY 12 ACTIVITIES 14 EVENTS 16 FINANCES 18 CEO REPORT 19
PHOTOGRAPHY AND DESIGN BY MATTHEW STALLWORTHY ADDTIONAL PHOTOGRAPHY BY VICTORIA NOBLE AND JOHN HOULIHAN
OFFICER AND COUNCIL STRUCTURE This was the first year of the GSA’s altered representative structure following last year’s restructure and the introduction of the Academic Officer Role and the newly designed Association Council.
Officers President - Sehrish Shafi Vice President Wellbeing and Community - Amy Bullard Vice President Academic - Charlotte Chamberlain
Council Council Chair – Daniel Lock Communities Officer – Maha Naeem Events Officer – Sofia Sarabia Equality Officer - Sarah Wright Colleges Officer – Veerle Kappen Sports Officer – Kate Densley Volunteering Officer - Neil Cox Faculty Rep - Sciences - Rounak Ghosh Faculty Rep - Social Sciences - Killy Zhao Faculty Rep - Arts and Humanities - Miguel Santos
1,861 WATCHED ONLINE ELECTIONS HUSTINGS LINKS WITH OTHER GSAS & STUDENT UNIONS This year the GSA made a concerted effort to form stronger links between other Graduate Unions and postgraduate officers in Students’ Unions. We hosted a shared officer training event at the start of the year, inviting Keele Postgraduate Association and Cambridge Graduate Students Union, to visit York in order to share best practice and explore common issues and ideas. The GSA continues to be one of the leading organisations in the field of postgraduate representation with a growing number of students’ unions across the country asking for our input on how to engage their members. Our officers continue to play an active role in the National postgraduate network, highlighting York’s position as a place of excellence for postgraduate students.
ELECTIONS Each year the GSA hosts two sets of elections. The first, in the Autumn term, recruits the part-time voluntary student Council. The second, in the Summer Term, recruits the full-time Sabbatical Officer team for the next academic year. Student Trustees are elected in both sets of elections. Student interest continues to be low in the Autumn elections. This year, three positions were uncontested, while two had no candidates run at all. Both these roles were later filled through the co-opting of interested students but the roles were unfilled for the majority of Autumn Term. Student engagement in the elections is also low - with a 5.1% turnout. Compared to the 2018/2019 election, this is an improvement in turnout (up from 3.5%) but a reduction in interest in the roles available. The Summer Elections saw better interest and engagement. Eleven candidates submitted nominations for the three Sabbatical Officer roles and the student trusteeship. Every role, with the exception of the student trustee position, was contested. The turnout for this election was 19.1% with 1110 votes cast (up from 16% the previous year). This year saw a significant publicity campaign, more information available online and a virtual hustings. The hustings proved popular with two of the three hustings receiving over 500 views (901 and 753) allowing all of our students both on campus and distance learners to engage with the campaign process.
19.1% TURNOUT WITH OVER 1,110 VOTES CAST COLLABORATION WITH YUSU One of the most positive outcomes from this year was the strengthening of our working relationship with YUSU, in particular between our two officer teams. This led to an increase of both Unions joint working and strategic planning on a number of projects resulting in better outcomes for both postgraduates and undergraduates.
NATIONAL INFLUENCE Following questions posed to key people in Higher Education (in person at events and via email), the GSA President and the Representation, Advice and Welfare coordinator were invited by Nicola Dandridge to the Office for Students (OfS) to be consulted about the priorities and issues concerning postgraduate students. This was a very useful visit for all involved, and has placed the GSA (alongside the PG Officer from the University of Birmingham) in an ongoing dialogue with the OfS as their go-to advisors on Postgraduate issues. The GSA Officers also attended postgraduate conferences to share best practice and support networks. These included ones run by the NUS, as well as one by the Postgraduate Officer Network, in which the GSA is very active. These conferences underlined the value of the GSA as leading the sector in understanding the needs of postgraduates, with other Students Unions approaching them for advice and specialist knowledge. As a part of the national Postgraduate network, we also take part (and lead) monthly skype meetings to share concerns and best-practice solutions with officers around the country.
NATIONAL POSTGRADUATE CONFERENCE 2019 This year the GSA hosted the National Postgraduate Conference 2019. This event was a huge success for the GSA with 8 speakers and 54 delegates from 24 Students’ Unions. There were some disruption caused by hot weather and damage to the national transport infrastructure that meant some delegates were unable to attend the day, but there was a general consensus by those present that the day was a success and that they would like the GSA to host the conference again next year. The event was a day of information sharing focused on the postgraduate experience in Higher Education. Experts in the postgraduate experience, on topics from mental health, the funding landscape and postgraduate widening participation came to speak to Sabbatical Officers and Students’ Union staff from across the country.
REPRESENTATION AT UNIVERSITY COMMITTEES Ensuring consistent representation at key university committees and project groups is a priority for the GSA, as it allows us to best act upon the views, wishes and needs of our constituent population. A growth in number of such committees and groups has, over the last year, resulted in greater postgraduate representation in areas such as out of term time catering, postgraduate accommodation, postgraduates in colleges and mental health provision, alongside the more traditional academic committees. In addition, the GSA were able to get more involved in larger University projects such as Together York, and key university recruitments. We also worked closely with the University’s Associate Pro-Vice Chancellor for Teaching and Learning to help ensure the University understood the needs of its postgraduate taught students and was adequately catering for their needs. In addition, to the work on PGTs we also supported the University with its offering to distance learners, surveying and working to create online support services and communities for those students, as well as actively targeting our communications to ensure that Distance Learners could be an active part of the Postgraduate Community.
54 DELEGATES FROM 24 STUDENT UNIONS ATTENDED THE GSA NATIONAL POSTGRADUATE CONFERENCE
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DE-STRESS WEEKS For both exam periods in January and April we built on last year’s “De-stress week” campaigns with a range of activities to help students keep healthy during the busy exam and hand-in times. January’s de-stress sessions included a popular meditation session, and collaboration with the University library to bring Guide Dogs onto campus. A “treat hunt” around the library provided good engagement on social media and an opportunity for students to interact with the campaign on a low commitment level. In April, water bottle giveaways were organised for each day of the week and were very popular outside exam halls. We also produced a leaflet with de-stress tips to encourage best practise outside of our sessions.
Other events in April such as craft sessions, pop-up arcade and revision brunch were less popular, but those who came appreciated what was on offer. Earlier promotion of these activities and more low-commitment opportunities might improve engagement with this campaign
MENTAL ILLNESS AWARENESS WEEK The GSA repeated this campaign, which was coordinated by VP Wellbeing and Community. The GSA hosted a week of evening talks focussing on a range Mental Illnesses in order to de-stigmatise and normalise the dialogue surrounding mental illness. Each talk focussed on a different mental illness and features input from leading experts on the mental illness alongside individuals with lived experience. This year the talks included: PTSD & Me, Postnatal Depression, Talking Therapies, Alcoholism & Mental Illness and Suicide. PTSD & Me was particularly memorable as both speakers, the expert and the individual with lived experience are students. The talks were well received by students, particularly within the Department of Health Sciences. This campaign is a great way to engage with the local community and an opportunity to invite external organisations onto campus. This year the following organisations were involved: The Tuke Centre, Changing Lives, AA and York City Council.
16 DEDICATED WORKSHOPS AND EVENT ACTIVITIES HOSTED BY GSA DURING MENTAL ILLNESS WEEK
MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS WEEK The national theme for Mental Health Awareness Week 2019 was Body Image and the VP Wellbeing & Community, alongside students, coordinated a number of events during the week, including a diverse bodies photoshoot. The events were moderately attended and it is recommended to plan, coordinate and promote this campaign earlier to have a larger effect.
SHINE A LIGHT This year the VP Wellbeing & Community coordinated a sexual violence campaign, during the National Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week. The aim of the campaign was to raise the awareness of sexual violence among the student population at the University of York and the support available. The GSA involved various internal and external stakeholders in order to raise awareness university-wide and city-wide. Thus, the GSA collaborated with the colleges, YUSU, senior members from the university, academics, external charities (Survive, IDAS and MESMAC), York St John University and North Yorkshire Police, who all assisted with organising and/or were in attendance at events during the week. The campaign included a #lightupthenight march around campus (with over 120 students), facilitated small group discussions highlighting intersectional experiences, the colleges creating artwork and a conference-style event. The VP has created a Post-Campaign Evaluation Report, including recommendations for future campaign work.
DRINK AND DRUG SAFETY SURVEY (DDSS) The VP Wellbeing & Community worked with external partners, Changing Lives and YUSU Advice Centre to develop a survey highlighting the current use of alcohol and drugs among the postgraduate and undergraduate student population. The survey identified the alcohol use and drugs of choice amongst students, their motivations for doing so, their current knowledge and implementation of harm minimisation practices and where/ how they would prefer to access drug/alcohol advice and information. The results will determine the nature of future GSA wellbeing campaigns, reaching postgraduate students appropriately.
CAMPUS COHESION STEERING GROUP This year the VP Wellbeing & Community co-Chaired the Campus Cohesion Steering Group (CCSG) with the Academic Registrar. This group aims to improve the experiences of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic students, postgraduate and undergraduate. The VP developed an Action Plan aligned with the current Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy, which will start to be implemented from September 2019. For the next academic year, the GSA President will co-Chair CCSG.
GSA ACADEMIC STRATEGY This year, the GSA’s academic offering has been greatly enhanced by the creation of two new roles - the Academic Officer and the Representation & Democracy coordinator. This has resulted in the GSAs first Academic Strategy, looking at improving both the engagement of reps and the wider student body. It identifies areas of change for our representative system in: • • • • •
Communication with reps - now consolidated into rep newsletters Rep support - including the creation of fortnightly Rep-Drop ins Rep training - the GSA has created a new suite of training for reps, split by PGT/PGR/GTA, which will be delivered in September 2019 Periodic Review and Academic Quality Processes - the GSA is now taking the leading role in PG engagement in these processes. Bespoke provision and rep systems for the International Pathway College and Distance Learning programmes
COURSE & FACULTY REPRESENTATIVES This year was highly successful in both the recruitment and engagement of course reps. The GSA ran termly faculty forums for Reps to meet and discuss common issues, with a number identified and solved within the academic year. This year our Academic Reps were highly engaged, both with their departments and the GSA, resulting in a number of in-house departmental campaigns and changes to course structure.
Our three Faculty Reps were also highly valuable, coordinating and collecting feedback from the course reps within their faculties, they also provided input and insight to the GSA council about the Academic issues facing students.
ACADEMIC QUALITY PROCESSES
The Academic Officer undertook a number of Academic and Quality Assurance related tasks with the University during the year, including several periodic reviews of departments with high numbers of PG students.
The GSA Worked with the Academic Support Office and the York Graduate Research School to send out and promote the Postgraduate Research Experience Survey, resulting in a 40% participation rate. This is an increased response rate from previous iterations of the survey, and reflects a concerted promotional effort.
OFS PTES Pilot
IN 2018/19 THE GSA INCREASED PARTICIPATION RATE IN POSTGRADUATE RESEARCH EXCELLENCE SURVEY (PRES) TO 40%
The GSA were involved in the promotion of the Office for Students Pilot of the survey replacement for PTES at York. This is a project that we are keen to work more on over the coming years, to give the postgraduate voice an equal standing to that of the UG voice portrayed by the NSS.
FIND A PARTICIPANT OVER 60 RESEARCHERS FOUND PARTICIPANTS ON THE FIND A PARTICIPANT WEBPAGE
The GSA receives a lot of requests to share and advertise studies from postgraduate students. To help these students in a streamlined and ordered fashion, the GSA released a “Find a Participant” page on the GSA Website. This page provides a space where students from all departments to advertise for study participants whilst also help other students by volunteering to take part in their studies in exchange.
TOGETHER YORK The GSA have heavily supported this year’s Together York project of International Integration, working closely with the interns running key strands of the project. We have promoted workshops, contributed to session and provided information to the project. It is one that the GSA wholeheartedly supports, with our large percentage of overseas students, and we believe that a fully integrated cohort creates the best possible student experience for all.
GSA ADVICE SERVICE The GSA runs a free, independent and confidential advice service for postgraduate students. We can advise on or signpost for almost any issue which can affect postgraduate life, including Exceptional Circumstances, Academic Appeals, student misconduct, general health and wellbeing, and accessing mental health and disability support. We offer appointments in-person, over the telephone or via Skype, and also offer advice via email. This ensures that all postgraduate students (including distance learners and international students) are able to access our service. The Advice Service has seen a big change this year, with a change in our full-time Adviser. We have also changed the data collected in our appointment booking system, allowing our Advisers to gather more information about the purpose of an appointment prior to it taking place. This is helping to make sure that students can receive the advice they need more quickly during their contact with the Advice Service. This year has also seen a major update to the Case Management Software used by the GSA, allowing us to more quickly and efficiently create student records, case records and case notes. We also hope to improve the range of advice available to students directly from the GSA website in the next academic year. This will help to reduce demand on the advice service to improve access for students, and will also help to make sure that students are able to access advice whenever they need it.
ACADEMIC CASEWORK STATS This has been the busiest year on record for our Advice Service, with the total number of new cases opened between August 2018 and July 2019 at 259 (a total of 106 more cases than in the previous year). This is the 6th consecutive year of an increase of new cases for the Advice Service, with the highest increase in cases seen for the Service year on year. The months of May, June, September and November 2018 saw the largest increases on the previous year, as follows:
Increase in 2018/2019
There has also been a marked increase in certain types of cases advised upon by the GSA Advice Service in 2018/19.
2017/2018 2018/2019 Increase in 2018/2019
“EMMA HAS BEEN A FANTASTIC SUPPORT THROUGH THIS ENTIRE PROCESS - I WOULDN’T HAVE BEEN ABLE TO DO IT WITHOUT HER!”
“VERY HELPFUL, FRIENDLY, WILLING TO HELP, EMPATHETIC. THANKS A LOT!”
96.97% AGREE THE STAFF WERE FRIENDLY AND APPROACHABLE AVERAGE 5.69 OUT OF 6
THEY WERE SATISFIED WITH THE SERVICE AVERAGE 5.42 OUT OF 6 “REALLY HELPFUL, USEFUL TO TALK TO SOMEONE INDEPENDENT FROM MY DEPARTMENT AND GET IDEAS ON HOW TO PROGRESS WITHOUT FEELING JUDGED.”
93.94% AGREE I GOT THE ADVICE I NEEDED AVERAGE 5.3 OUT OF 6
NETWORK GROUPS In helping to support the most positive student experience, the GSA Continues to support the development of its dedicated postgraduate networks, driving to make them student-led and providing each network with its own budget and responsibility for spending.
2500+ STUDENTS CONNECTED THROUGH ONLINE NETWORK GROUPS
PHD NETWORK The PhD Network has continued to offer PhD Students with regular cake afternoons and evening drinks events. The “Secret Life of a PhD” event, a joint Masters and PhD Network event, was again the most popular event of the year. The PhD Network also supported the setup of a new set of workshops focussing on the challenges faced when starting a PhD.
The Masters Network delivered a number of events per term, with the usual offerings of pizza socials and BBQs infused with more ice-breaking activities to encourage the mixing of students from different departments. The Masters Network also helped host a range of cultural events such as a Holi Paint Party in March.
COLLEGE TUTOR NETWORK The College Tutor network continued in its role to provide support to the Masters and PhD students who live in college to support all students as college tutors. There was a noticeable lack of engagement with the College Tutor Network this year, but regular, small scale events took place throughout the year among a limited number of people.
GTA NETWORK The GTA Network got off to a flying start this year, holding workshops with UCU to look at the rights of Graduate Teaching Assistants. We had received continual feedback from GTAs that they would appreciate a forum in which to discuss common issues and solutions and share experiences - this network fulfils that function. It generally operates through discussion of topics on the network Facebook group, with occasional workshops. This network is set to underpin a much larger piece of work by the GSA on the GTA experience over the next couple of years.
LGBTQ NETWORK The LGBTQ Network made a concerted effort to include more accessible events this year including café crawls and cosy films nights. For LGBT History month, a film screening of the musical “Rent” was organised with an informative talk about the history of HIV and the AIDS Crisis.
FAMILY NETWORK The Family Network continued its good work providing weekly play sessions at the St Lawrence’s Centre every Monday, along with a calendar of events throughout each term. Success came from “multi-activity” afternoons that included activities for children of all ages, supported by student groups and societies from the University. A structure of planning Family Network events has been implemented meaning that more activities can be offered, with “Multi-activity” afternoons happening once a month.
WELLBEING NETWORK A new network for this year, the Wellbeing Network was an initiative from our GSA Council Communities Officer. The Wellbeing network met every Wednesday from Week 2 - Week 9 during term time to provide an open safe space to discuss mental health and wellbeing with like-minded postgraduates. Although attendance range from around 1015 students per week, it was greatly appreciated by those who engaged.
NETWORK WEEK In addition to Welcome Week and to provide an additional schedule of activities during the first week of the academic year when postgraduate students are still arriving, we ran a series of events to encourage students to get to know one another in more detail and introduce our postgraduate networks. Each network had a dedicated event acting as a welcome social. New events added this year such as the speed networking session were very well received and will be included in next year’s offer.
POSTGRADUATE COMMUNITY FUND This year, the postgraduate community funded 7 outstanding projects being chosen. Although we were unable to fund every project that was applied for, we were able to offer feedback and support to help applicants continue projects that would not be accessible to the wider PG community.
The Brain and Language Cross-Pollination Project - £450
Mary, Femininity, and the Secular: An Exhibition - £742.50
Linguistics, Psychology, Computer Science and Education have a great deal of overlap. Some modules even have identical names. Yet students have no idea what’s going on in other departments, and how excellent research here at York is pushing their own areas of interest forward. This series of structured social evenings would be designed to cross-pollinate between departments, so students can get to know other passionate people studying similar topics, and hopefully expand their social and professional networks as well as exchange ideas, perspectives and expertise.
This exhibition explores new meanings of femininity in contemporary secular images of the Virgin Mary through original artwork by twelve international artists. As part of an ongoing ArtsBased PhD, the exhibition is accompanied by talks and a workshop in which participants will discuss their views on the artwork displayed and produce their own alternative images of Mary. This project aims to bring closer the university’s research to York’s residents by giving them an opportunity to participate in current interdisciplinary academic research; and by giving postgraduate students a space from which to share their research with the residents of York.
Futures in the Past event - £860
Vanbrugh’s Warren: Summer Badminton - £30
Shakespeare and Co: Transport grants - £300
The Warren garden has an outdoor chess set, picnic tables, blankets and outdoor games. Sadly, badminton is past its best and is in need of replacing. We have all the equipment but we need a new net. Great for summer time and will add value to the college’s postgraduate de-stress area.
Transport grants provided for postgraduate students attending a one-day conference bringing together postgraduates and early career scholars to discuss the multiple functions of Shakespeare’s (and Co.’s) plays both onstage and off.
With this event, we aim to address a chronic need for career support and development in the post-graduate community, especially in history and related subjects. Typically those events hosted by the University/Department concentrate on academic careers, yet the growth of public history, directly engaging with broader audiences in different ways, offers post-graduates exciting new career opportunities. We want to bring together speakers representing a range of roles – consultants, curators, publishers, writers and educators – in a careers-fair and advice-panel format where students from a variety of background and stages can ask questions, hear advice, and consider where to go next.
PGR Wellbeing @ King’s Manor - £200 This project aims to be a first step in bringing the ethos and benefits Wellbeing Wednesdays to King’s Manor (City Campus). Currently King’s Manor provides dedicated non-academic spaces for Staff and the single communal Common Room but nowhere for PGRs. This project will create a small ‘chillout zone’ within the Graduate School building (G65) to take advantage of the amazing views across the Museum Gardens towards ruins of St Mary’s Abbey. The area will have a couple of comfy seats, plants, quiz books/ card games and a non-academic book shelf/ exchange, enabling PGRs to take a break away from their desks.
Caelestis Robes - £847.97 A project to fund the purchase of 7 new cassocks for student choir Caelestis, made up of primarily postgraduate students.
POSTGRADUATE SUMMER FORUM In addition to the postgraduate community fund, we also funded the “Postgraduate Summer Forum” a set of 7 fortnightly social seminars bringing together students from all departments and faculties to present and discuss on a wide range of themes. This project provided more academically focussed events throughout the summer activities period whilst also enabling the group of students who coordinated the sessions experience in project and events management.
FREE SPORTS SESSIONS Our 7 free weekly sports sessions have continued throughout the academic year giving all postgraduate the opportunity to stay active and enjoy a range of competitive sports whilst meeting new students. We consulted with the GSA Council who helped in advising any times which were preferred, as well as conducting polls and surveys to highlight any clashes with college sport or other activities. This was done to ensure all sports sessions weâ€™re taking place after core teaching hours, mostly at evenings and weekends.
126 VOLUNTEERS SIGNED UP IN SPRING AND SUMMER TERM 2018/19
POSTGRADUATE SPORTS DAY The GSA Council also ran a Postgraduate Sports Day for students over the summer hand-in period, consisting of a selection of traditional sports day activities as well as team sports such as rounders. The event was well received and we hope to incorporate this event as part of our yearly calendar of events.
VOLUNTEERING MAILING LIST The GSA Councilâ€™s Volunteering Officer introduced a new volunteering provision for postgraduate students. A database of local volunteering opportunities both on and off campus was created, along with a dedicated webpage and mailing list for postgraduate students eager to volunteer regularly.
These flexible volunteering opportunities provide an opportunity otherwise inaccessible for students with a lot of contact hours. We hope to further develop our volunteering provision next year with streamlined, tailored communications for specific volunteering opportunities.
BADMINTON BASKETBALL FOOTBALL NETBALL SQUASH TENNIS VOLLEYBALL
ENGLISH LANGUAGE CLASSES The GSA offers free English classes to the partners of international students and continues to run as a student volunteering project. This year, the project consisted of three classes per week during the Autumn term and one class per week for the entirety of the year, including the Spring and Summer breaks. The classes will continue into the next academic year (2019-2020) and the GSA will continue to promote the project as a part of its core business.
“I AM VERY THANKFUL FOR LETTING ME BE A PART OF THIS VALUABLE PROGRAMME. I LEFT THE CLASSROOM FEELING A GREAT SENSE OF ACHIEVEMENT IN EACH AND EVERY WEEK. THE GSA ENGLISH CLASSES DO NOT PROVIDE ADVANTAGES ONLY FOR THE STUDENTS, BUT FOR THE TEACHERS AS WELL.” QUOTE FROM FORMER GSA ENGLISH LANGUAGE TEACHING VOLUNTEER
SUMMER SKILLS WEEK Summer Skills week returned in 2019 with a week of skills-based workshops. These sessions were an opportunity to improve confidence and other social skills along with practical skills. All sessions were moderately attended, bringing back some of the most popular sessions from the past two years including self-defence, sewing and sign-language. We hope to introduce these daytime sessions more regularly throughout the year as an alternative to the majority of evening events currently provided.
GSA AWARDS The year ended with the GSA Awards, which provided an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of the GSA that year and reward those who have volunteered their time. In total, 169 were nominated for the awards, all invited to the awards ceremony in Hendrix Hall. The winners of this year’s GSA awards were:
GSA Volunteer of the Year Hugh Watmough GSA Network of the Year PhD Network: Francesco Ramponi GSA Council Member of the Year Neil Cox Course Rep of the Year Charlotte Ahmadu-Charles Postgraduate Community Spirit Sarah Masefield Making Postgrads Matter Professor Gabrielle Finn Great Service Award Diane Stockdale
169 TOTAL NOMINATIONS RECEIVED FOR GSA AWARDS 2019
EVENTS Over the 2018/19 academic year the GSA ran a range of events from regular weekly events to large ticketed events. The GSA Postgraduate Pub Quiz continued throughout the year with a new quiz master being found, and a regular following throughout the year. A Karaoke Night also ran regularly throughout term 1 and 2 run by student volunteers. A board game night was piloted in term one but unfortunately did not prove popular. Larger events were often themed around national holidays with a Halloween Ghost Hunt Bar crawl and a Winter Gathering formal event with live band selling out of tickets. We once again held the York Heat of the National Chortle Student Comedy competition with a sold-out crowd. We also increased our provision of events over the winter and spring vacations with a range of small scale events to ensure students have options for social activities when most of the University is closed. Most events were led by the Communications and Events Coordinator and the Vice President: Wellbeing and Community with a wide pool of volunteers recruited during Welcome Week and later in the year with the volunteering database.
WELCOME WEEK Welcome Week took place between 17th - 23rd September and was once again our best attended event, with over 3500 attendees over the welcome period. Welcome Week was lead by the Communications and Events coordinator along with a dedicated events intern who worked from July – September supporting events throughout this time. Welcome Week wristbands were less popular this year (possibly due to the price increase to £17.50) but events were still very well attended. Events such as the Welcome Party and Bar Crawl worked well and were most popular with over 300 attendees at each. The Welcome Talk was this year’s most popular event with over 840 attendees (with a queue stretching from Central Hall to the front of the library!) The Retro Party was another very popular event, with many praising its setup and atmosphere. The events at the end of the week including the film night, Ceilidh and comedy night were less well attended compared to last year, with bad weather meaning the film night could not take place outdoors as planned being one of the main factors in the dip in numbers.
Including money raised from this year’s information fair, Welcome Week ran at a profit of £2289.
OVER 40 EVENTS AND ACTIVITIES DURING WELCOME WEEK
WELCOME BACK WEEK For the first time the GSA ran a dedicate“Refreshers” style week of events for returning students and new PhDs in January 2019. The week included 5 main evening events from Monday - Friday. The Quiz and Bar Crawl were popular and busy events whilst the Retro night despite being popular during Welcome Week was less-well attended. Welcome Back Week ran at a loss of -£107 although reviews from students about the events was overwhelmingly positive. It is recommended to reduce the amount of events throughout the week and add an additional event at the weekend for those who cannot attend events during the week.
3,524 STUDENTS ATTENDED WELCOME WEEK EVENTS
TRIPS The GSA organised 14 trips over the academic year 2018/19, with a mix of city trips, visits to attractions and multi-location tours. Ticket sales increased from last year with some trips such as to Lindersfarne selling out an additional coach. All trips were priced under Â£20 and in a radius of 4 hours which helped increase accessibility. Trips with a link to academia proved particularly popular and will be a focus when booking trips for 2019/20.
HARROGATE KNARESBOROUGH WHITBY LIVERPOOL BIRMINGHAM MANCHESTER SALFORD OXFORD STRATFORD-UPON-AVON BLACKPOOL LINDISFARNE HAWORTH LAKE DISTRICT YORKSHIRE DALES SUMMER SOCIAL GUIDE This year a great focus was put on planning events over the summer period. A dedicated guide similar to the guides produced over the winter and spring vacation periods was produced with a timetable of events covering the summer period up to the new academic year. There were at least 2 events hosted per week with a range of activities to suit all tastes, with a focus on getting outdoors and taking regular breaks.
33 NEW EVENTS ORGANISED FOR SUMMER SOCIAL GUIDE 17
FINANCES + CEO REPORT
University Grant Event Income Other Income
Representation Services Academic and Welfare Core Operating Costs Community Sports
*Based on draft figures
The Graduate Students Association (GSA) continues to go from strength to strength with 2018/19 one of our busiest and most challenging years in our history. Following a successful bid for an increase in funding from the University of York, in this year we have been able to make crucial changes to develop the GSA staff infrastructure and subsequently improve the range of services we offer to support the best possible student experience. Building on the success of the new Research Assistant has allowed us to deliver not just our two main annual surveys (PG Welcome Survey and Annual Postgraduate Experience Survey) but also carry out a more detailed analysis that we have in previous years. We were also able to carry out a number of new research pieces to help inform the university work, in particular looking at motivations to study, international experience and inequality of provision. Another immediate benefit of the new staff structure has been the GSA’s first Academic Strategy, looking at improving both the engagement of reps and the wider student body. It has provided a foundation for changes in our representative system which we are now seeing the full benefits of. This has included the establishment of a newly expanded elected course representatives and council forum; Periodic Review and Academic Quality Processes; and bespoke provision and rep systems for the International Pathway College and Distance Learning programmes. On that note, we remain ambitious and see huge potential in one day becoming not just a sector leader as a postgraduate student union for the University of York but also as a ‘go to’ for all Universities and government as a centre for innovation in post graduate student representation and support - something we laid the foundation for this year with our first ever GSA National Post Graduate Student Conference. In meeting head on new challenges we also saw the departure of our previous CEO and probably in a first, two of our three GSA elected student representatives stepping in as interim joint-CEO to temporarily not just maintain the status quo but also to help develop positive foundations for future success with the hiring of a new Chief Executive, (which I’m delighted to be writing in the capacity of, here today). The immediate challenges are to develop a strong and efficient strategy with collaboration at its heart, something we will be actively developing with our Undergraduate counterparts, YUSU in the year ahead. The opportunity and need is with our respective sabbatical officers to anticipate the needs of all students and work together creatively to identify where we can innovate to maximise our resource and positive impact. We are already working closely with YUSU advisory services and have forged close relations to help both Student Unions meet the dramatically growing demands we are seeing of post graduate students. Using new technology efficiently with a new case worker system installed in 2019; planning ahead to anticipate and mitigate need across the student cycle is essential. In 2018/19 we saw an almost doubling of case loads on our own advisory services. Events for postgrads by postgrads: Whilst not increasing revenues from events, we have been able to increase the variety and volume on offer to all students providing a new emphasis on smaller and more personal non-alcoholic events catering to all post graduate student needs as a complement to our larger more traditional activities such as our Welcome Week, which in 2018/19 saw our highest ever attendance on record. The new staff structure and support has benefited the work of our student sabbaticals and campaign generate. As you’ll see from just looking at the headlines from the ‘making postgrads matter’ pages in this report, we have been able to develop more campaigns than ever before. Ultimately it was a successful year for the GSA seeing some great improvements from just a few months of the new staff structure which we will now hope to build on as we look to develop a new sustainable long term plan to make the most of our new resources. 19
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