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Stevie Wise Manifesto

Realising our potential - because our education matters

Policy Overview.

1. Teaching and Learning

1.1 Main Library 24 Hours & Longer Opening for smaller libraries

1.2 Fast-Lane Computers for printing

1.3 Campaign to protect silent study areas

1.4 More e-reserve items

1.5 Podcasting

2. Student Life and Student Services

2.1 Price-matching Library Café with other EUSA outlets

2.2 Cash machine in Library Café (and The Pleasance too!)

2.3 Oppose move of Counselling Service

2.4 Extra KB Buses

2.5 Better food at KB

2.6 Widening Access

2.7 Graduate Employability

3. The Feedback We Deserve

3.1 Prescriptive, Proactive, Personalised Feedback

3.2 Make exam scripts available

3.3 Sharing best practice

4. The DoS System - Long Term Goals, Short Term Solutions

4.1 Campaign for reformed DoS System

4.2 Two-year minimum DoS guarantee

4.3 Group DoS Sessions

4.4 Compulsory, comprehensive training

Introduction

The thing that makes Edinburgh University an outstanding place to study is that its potential is overwhelming. We are one of the best universities in the world, and yet there are some issues which crop up again and again when we think about ways to improve teaching, learning, and the university experience as a whole.

Whatever corner of the university you find yourself in during the working day, whether it‟s the playing fields of Peffermill, the laboratories of KB, or beyond the walls of university working with the local and national community, there is one thing every student has in common. That is that they are here for their degree, and that degree not only matters to them now, but to their future, and the impact they will be able to make on society.

“We are all here for our degree, and I promise that, if elected, I will always be here for yours

I am a fourth year student of Religious Studies at the School of Divinity. University has not been easy for me. I was forced to drop out of university in 2007 because I couldn‟t afford to be in Edinburgh anymore. The only reason I came back was because my amazing Director of Studies made the effort to phone me and encourage me to do so. If it weren‟t for her, I would not be here today.

During my time at university, I have always had part time jobs, so I understand how difficult things can be for student workers, and for students from poorer backgrounds, or those who are the first in their families to come to university.

For this reason, I set up Access Edinburgh, a society which sends volunteers to speak to students from schools with low-progression to university, encouraging them to aspire to university if they so wish.

Because of my experiences, both good and bad, I understand the value of a good education, and the challenges that come with it for thousands of students every year.

1. Teaching and Learning

“You should not have to work around a library’s opening hours; they should work around you, however you work best”.

The library is not just a place, it is a resource, and one that all students should have fair and equal access to when they need it. The ongoing refurbishment of the Main Library has improved this resource significantly, but there are still things that need to be done.

1.1 Main Library 24 Hours & Longer Opening for smaller libraries

The Main Library must be open 24 hours a day. A recent pilot scheme proved very successful, and produced some very positive feedback from the students who used it. If elected I will deliver a 24 hour library.

There are students, like me, who have to work during term-time. There are students who are parents, or carers. There are students who have classes all day long. There are students who are involved in extra-curricular activities, or students who study on campuses outside of George Square and so need to be able to use the Main Library at times which suit them. We need a 24 hour library, because the demands of our daily lives are what dictate the way we study.

Shorter opening hours for libraries like the JCM library at KB or New College library at the School of Divinity limits access to specialist resources that aren„t available elsewhere on campus. If elected, I will ensure that site libraries are open longer.

Smaller site libraries are not only important for the students who use them regularly. Cross-over between disciplines means that students are sometimes required to refer to books and resources that are found in libraries away from where they usually study. Longer opening hours would mean that these resources are not only more accessible to those familiar with these libraries, but also for those who aren‟t.

1.2 Fast-Lane Computers for Printing

When students want to use university computers quickly and for a short period of time, they should be able to. If elected, I will introduce Fast - Lane computers so that students can beat the queues when pushed for time.

Until this year, the highest number of students entering and leaving the Main Library in one day was 5000. In week eight of last semester, this doubled, with 10 000 students using the library in a single day. This reflects how good our library is, but also explains why finding a computer can be impossible at times. Any student who uses the Main Library regularly will know that peak times mean big queues for computers, and this can be incredibly frustrating if all you want to do is print off an essay, or check Web CT for something urgent.

Fast-Lane computers will be in place in particular areas and will have fewer programmes. They will not be there for using Facebook or to chat on MSN, but will be in place for those people who just want to pop in and do a bit of printing, or send a quick email.

1.3 Campaign to keep study areas silent

The new group study pods in the Main Library are hugely popular with students who like to (or have to) work together. Now we have them though, there is no excuse for noise elsewhere. If elected, I will run a high-profile campaign to keep study areas silent.

I love the group study pods, but from speaking to other students, it has become clear that I‟m not alone in thinking that the library is too loud. The provision of group study space must be coupled with provisions to protect silent study areas. We must provide appropriate working environments for all students, no matter how they work best, by taking active measures against talking, using mobile phones, playing loud music through headphones, and anything else that may cause distractions to other students.

1.4 Increased budget for e-reserve items

Hidden Course-Costs are a huge problem for many students and one of the biggest of these is the cost of buying key texts. If elected, I will push for more e-reserve items so that your key texts are available to read online.

1.5 Lecture Podcasting

The main criticism of lecture Podcasting is that it would stop students from attending lectures, but recent studies have shown this not to be the case. The main usage of Podcasts was shown to be during revision periods. Not only that, but they are a great way for lecturers to review their own work, and thereby improve the learning experience for all.

2. Student Life and Student Services

Getting a good education is not confined purely to academic issues or services. We need to be healthy, happy, well-fed and importantly, need to save money where we can. The role of a sabbatical officer at EUSA is multi-faceted, and this section deals with this.

2.1 Price-matching Library Café with other EUSA outlets

Studying in the library can be long and hard, making the Library Café essential for lunch and coffee breaks. Students should not, however, be forced to pay over the odds for food and drink. If elected, I will ensure that prices in the Library Café are the same as those in EUSA outlets.

A coffee in any EUSA outlet costs £1. So why does it cost £1.15 in the Library Café?

Why is a bottle of Coke £1.15 in the library café? That‟s 21p more expensive than

elsewhere on campus. It sounds like we‟re quibbling over pennies here, but if you spend

a lot of time in the library, those amounts add up. Students who use the Library Café for convenience should suffer for it financially. This is a simple, yet essential change.

2.2 Cash machines in Main Library and The Pleasance

There are no cash machines nearby if you‟re studying in the library, and having to leave when you‟re in the middle of an essay is incredibly inconvenient. The same goes for anyone hanging out at The Pleasance. If elected, I’ll have cash machines placed in the Library Café and at The Pleasance.

2.3 Oppose move of Counselling Service to Main Library

The redevelopment of the Main Library has been a fantastic addition to George Square, but some of the future plans are not so favourable. If elected, I will fight to halt plans to move the Counselling Service to the Main Library.

I understand the need for a confidential Counselling Service, in a discreet location. Lumping it in with other student services like the Careers Service shows ignorance on the part of the university, and would only put off the most vulnerable students from going. The Counselling Service staff don‟t want it to move, and we the students don‟t want it to move either.

2.4

Extra KB Buses

Getting a good education is not just about good teaching, it‟s about fair and equal access to resources. Students at KB are regularly leaving their lectures early in order to catch the last bus home, and this is wrong. More buses would also mean that students can access resources elsewhere on campus, such as the Main Library, at times that suit them. Moreover, the KB bus is not just for KB students. Many students have to access resources from other departments as part of their degree. This year, for example, I had to use the Moray House Library to write an essay for my Religious Studies degree. More buses at more appropriate times would mean that more students would be able to access these resources when they need them.

2.5 Better food at KB - more choice, healthier options

Again, when considering what makes our education great, we have to think outside the Academic Services box! Getting a decent lunch, at a good price is vital to our health and happiness. At KB, eating off campus is more difficult than it is around other parts of the university, which is why we have to deliver better, healthier choices, at a low price.

2.6 Widening Access

I was the first person in my family to apply to university, and for this reason, I know how difficult a journey it can be. That‟s why I set up a society called Access Edinburgh, which aims to send volunteers to schools with low progression to university, encouraging pupils to apply to university if they want to. Coming from a low-progression school myself, I am passionate about this, and will make Widening Access a real priority at a time when access to university is more difficult than ever. I‟ll do this by supporting and strengthening the Widening Progression initiatives that are already in place, and encouraging more students to get involved.

2.7 Graduate Employability

Graduate employability is of huge concern at the moment. The job market is getting better, but the back log will take a while to clear up, which is why we have to make sure that Edinburgh students are given every opportunity to enhance their CV. If elected, I’ll work with the Careers Service, local business and volunteering projects to actively encourage student involvement. There are many volunteering and work

experience opportunities to be snapped up on campus, as well as off campus. Three years ago I trained as a Big Cheese DJ as part of the university‟s Skills Training project. Any student can do this, as well as other types of technical training, which not only provide a great way to earn money and learn new skills, but are interesting and exciting on a CV.

3. The Feedback We Deserve

“We cannot develop and improve as students unless we’re guided in the right direction. We need to be told if we’re doing something right, and shown where we’re going wrong.”

We are students at a world-class university, yet we feel consistently let down on feedback. Some departments do a better job of this than others. Some lecturers may feel over-stretched, and that they don‟t have time to provide feedback, or that it is not their main concern. For whatever reason, almost every student feels that there are small ways in which their feedback could be improved.

3.1 Prescriptive, Proactive, Personalised Feedback

A number on an essay tells you your overall mark, but no more. Even the word, “good” or a tick in the “satisfactory” column does not constitute feedback. Feedback must be detailed and it must be prescriptive. If elected, I will change the way we think about what the word “feedback” actually means.

When marked work is returned to us, it should be as informative and useful as the sources we addressed in doing it in the first place. Having work handed back to us with a grade and a few short comments is not helpful to our development. One student said to me, “we might as well just sit one exam when we get here and get a degree from that, because we’re never helped to improve anyway”. This is not what university should be about, and the fact that the university offer skills workshops on how to write good essays or how to reference properly for example, shows that they recognise this. Our tutors and lecturers should have information about the different skills classes to hand when they‟re marking our work, meaning that they can not only tell us where we‟re going wrong, but give us the opportunity to learn how to do it right.

3.2 Make exam scripts available

We sit loads of exams every year, but we‟re rarely given any feedback on them at all, and we‟re lucky if we can even see the scripts afterwards. We need more than just the numbers; we need to be shown how to improve. If elected, I will ensure that marked exam scripts are made available to all students.

Attending a university with a reputation as good as Edinburgh„s, it is hardly surprising that we expect a lot for our education. Decent feedback, however, is not a big-ask, it is the bare minimum that we should expect if we are to get the most from our time at Edinburgh and ensure that every single student reaches their full potential.

3.3 Sharing best practice

Some departments provide much better feedback than others, and it‟s important to encourage dialogue to between schools to show this. If elected, I will conduct an investigation into the feedback practices across all of the schools to find out what works best.

We must be bold in our fight for better feedback. The university have to be prepared to be self-critical on this issue since surveys have shown that this is something that it is consistently failing on. Not only is it important to share best practice from within the university, but from other universities too. Edinburgh University must do it all it can to improve in this area if we are to graduate with the best education possible, and I will do all I can to lead the way with this.

4. The DoS System - Long Term Goals, Short Term Solutions

“For many, a DoS is like a bad GP. You go to them with problems

time

and time again, and they dole out extensions. At what point you to a specialist?”

should they refer

Many of us have had mixed experiences when it comes to our Directors of Studies. For some, they serve their purpose once a year, and that‟s ok. For others, they are a

reliable source of help and advice on issue, as and when. Others might be able to hold

a door open for their DoS and not be recognised by them. Considering that they are the

only source of pastoral care provided by the university, this is an appalling situation, and

it has to change.

4.1 Campaign for reformed DoS System

Extensive research has been done by the university into how the DoS System can be improved. The results of this research showed that students need an intermediary to their DoS - a full-time member of staff who we can approach about any issue. The university know that this is what we need, but they refuse to pay for it. If elected, I will fight to show the university that they must give us the support that we deserve by reforming the DoS system.

This is not something that can be delivered overnight, but it is something that has gone on long enough. What we need now is a strong voice to fight for this issue, and I can certainly deliver on that.

4.2 Two-Year Minimum DoS Guarantee

Since coming to Edinburgh University I have had six Directors of Studies. Considering that each of these people was intended to be someone I could turn to for anything, this is completely unacceptable. If elected I will implement a two-year minimum DoS guarantee so that you can get to know the person responsible for your welfare.

This is a hugely important policy for several reasons. Firstly, with the DoS system the way it is at the moment, your DoS is the one person whose name you are given as a port of call for help with any issue whilst you‟re studying at Edinburgh. If that person changes every few months, or even every year, building up a relationship of any kind is impossible, rendering them almost useless in some cases. Not only that, but

transition to university is so important, especially if you are an international student, a mature student, a student parent, or if this is simply your first time away from home. Not only that, but the transition from pre-honours to honours level is a huge jump, and we need someone to guide us all the way through.

4.3 DoS Handbook

When I dropped out of university in my third because of financial problems, my DoS was outstanding. She was an example of what a DoS should be: committed, knowledgeable and most of all, proactive. She contacted me and encouraged me to come back, not the other way around. I want all Directors of Studies to be as good as mine.

If elected, I will introduce compulsory training where Directors of Studies will be given information covering all aspects of student life, from information about what The Advice Place do, to what types of financial help are available, to how to contact the counselling service. All the information will be made available in the form of a Handbook to which your Director of Studies can refer if necessary. It is important that we arm our Directors of Studies with the necessary skills to provide us with the best standard of care, and I believe that this is the best way to do so.

4.4 Group DoS Sessions

When we first arrive at university, we are desperate to meet new people. What better place to start than with the people on your course, who you‟ll have at least one thing in common with? If elected, I will introduce group DoS sessions.

The benefits of this are many: you get to spend more than five minutes getting to know your DoS, and vice-versa. You‟ll also get to meet some of the people that you‟ll be spending the next four years of your life with, opening up new avenues for friendship early on, and easing some of the nerves we all have to deal with during our first days and weeks and uni. It would also give students another way to share information, get answers to questions that we ourselves are maybe too afraid to ask, or simply provide someone else to ask those questions of.

4.5 Compulsory, comprehensive training

Our DoS is our only given contact for any problem that we have at uni, be it academic or otherwise. They should be fully qualified to deal with these issues, and if elected, I will introduce compulsory DoS training which covers all aspects of student life.

Whether you are asking your DoS for an extension, for information about a year abroad, or if you‟re having financial difficulties, a DoS Handbook would mean that if they don‟t know the answer off the top of their heads, they‟ll know where to find it.

There are many aspects of University in which a student must go alone, but support and welfare isn’t one of them.”

Thank you for taking the time to read my manifesto. I really hope for the opportunity to see it through.