As many of you are aware, I shall be leaving my post as Kingston University Students’ Union president as of 1 July 2011.
I wish to extend my deepest thanks to all students and staff at the university. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time as the KUSU president. The post I’ve held over the last two years has been the most exhilarating and challenging post I’ve had to date. I’ve loved being challenged by students and staff alike. I have thoroughly enjoyed working alongside academics that are exceptionally passionate about their subject and have teaching it.
I have been privileged enough to represent such a diverse body of students, whose views are so different that the only way to even have a chance at getting a glimpse of what the whole student body wants is to live, breathe, laugh and cry with the students. The journey has been quite a learning experience for me. I’ve sat with students as they’ve dealt with the rigours of their everyday lives. And then tried to reconcile this with my role on the Board Of Governors and the myriad of committees that I sat on during my time here and cannot. They seem such a world apart, in many ways they most certainly are.
This is exactly why Students’ Unions are exceptionally important. We are to help bridge the gap between the organisation and the students themselves. And in the years to come, when students’ views/opinions become even more important, as they begin to pay even more for their tuition, it is absolutely essential that the Board of Governors, KUSU and the University work closer than we ever have to make sure we’re all trying our utmost to ensure we continue “Making Life Better for Kingston Students”. I have all faith in the incoming president, Chris Dingle, and I hope that you can support him as you have done me. He has the same drive to push forward with ensuring students views are at the forefront of all that KU does.
It has been my honour to represent the students of Kingston as best I could. I’ve not always known the right steps, and at times I’ve made them up as I’ve gone along but, I am proud to say that two years down the line my manifesto promise of having a union that is as “Loud and as proud as I am” has been, to some degree fulfilled, for we are much louder now than we were two years ago.
Thank you ever so much!
I have no regrets.
It ‘s been an interesting last few months, to say the least!
My last blog was just before the national student demonstration in November. It’s been all systems go since then. The vote for the increase in tuition fees went through and students access to university has been stunted. UKBA have announced the results of the Tier 4 review. Here’s the link to the UKBA page: http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/employers/points/sponsoringmigrants/eligibility/tierstudents/
With fees now to be set within a range of £6,000 – £9,000 per academic year. Putting students into record debt post-graduation, funding for University education being greatly cut, I think it is fair to say that Higher Education in England is definitely on “the ropes” and the HE landscape has changed for good. HE is in the middle of what looks like definite marketisation. Universities will now have to start looking at initiatives for further income generation. Our alumni become desperately important to us and we have to look at enterprise as a way forward.
Students will become customers and will no longer care about what our GM has termed “Collective Individualism” and will begin looking up “Compare the market” type websites all the more. They will be looking for value for money and I fear, will no longer care about the “Big Issues” as they will be paying more than they ever done. And will ask many more questions of their institutions.
So, how can Students’ Unions remain representative of their student bodies? Do we have to become simply organisations that provide needed services? What is the way forward for Students’ Unions as representative bodies? In recent months we have focussed, and rightly so, on the national education strategy. But now, we need to start paying attention closer to home. And listen, not only to the voices that shout the loudest, but also to the voices that don’t shout at all. The student who may never come to SU offices to speak to the officers, but will share his/her very valid views over a drink in the bar and the student who, roaring drunk at 3 in the morning will very candidly tell you their opinions.
All of these are valid views. I think that in the times to come, students’ unions need to become relevant to their student bodies. University Board of Governors’ will begin to pay more attention to us. They will scrutinise our accounts more and will ask a lot more questions of us. How will we prove to our institutions that we continue to remain relevant? And how can we prove that we do actually speak for the students?
In this last academic year, I’ve worked hard at building a closer relationship with the Kingston University Board of Governors. And I think it’s safe to say that the Kingston University Students’ Union boasts a closer working relationship with the University Board of Governors than we ever have. We now need to ensure that we keep that and work closer together to ensure the university keeps students’ issues as primary.
Now more than ever, institutions will look to Students’ Unions to help define what our students require. And if we cannot give coherent evidence based responses, I fear we will find ourselves quickly becoming irrelevant, and extinction is the inevitable end.
I’m thankful that Chris Dingle (Current VP Education) has been elected as the new President, to succeed me. He has a very clear route in forging forward. And has a firm grasp on our strategic goals and the ways to ensure they are met.
It’s safe to say that there are some tough times ahead for KU and KUSU alike. Now is the time to begin to work together so that we do not simply weather the coming storm, but we come out stronger than when we began.
Higher Education may be on the ropes, but it’s not out for the count.
On Tuesday I attended the graduation ceremony of students from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and was immensely proud of these students, many of whom are friends. People I’ve shared time, notes and many a dancefloor with. And it was indeed a happy time for all.
This was somewhat tempered by the Dean of Faculty, Professor Martin McQuillan, who gave an impassioned speech on the humanities and the arts and the removal of provision for these by people who didn’t have to face the obstacles they’re now putting in front of today’s students. He spoke of the injustice of this, the great irresponsibility being showed by the government that proclaims “fairness for all” and then he spoke of hope. Hope in the graduands of the day, for their resilience and their mettle will help to ensure the arts and humanities do not die or simply become the domain of the higher middle class.
Never has there been such widespread fear and outrage across the board, amongst both students and staff. The picture being painted for Higher Education’s future is the bleakest we could have possibly imagined. In essence, we are being used to prop up the financial sector. And that is exceptionally irresponsible.
Yesterday the government announced a rise of tuition fees to between £6,000 and £9,000. With a claim that any institution wishing to charge beyond the £6,000 point show evidence of widening access. I wonder what more evidence they require, beyond what many institutions have already been doing? There are many institutions, Kingston, London Metropolitan and Middlesex, to name but a few that are already known for their work in widening access. So I cannot help but think this a move to create a two-tiered system, where students will then have to make University choices based on how much the degree costs. And of course the assumption will be that the more expensive the degree the better the programme, in effect marketising Higher Education. And only people from the higher echelons of society will even think of trying to gain entry to the institutions on the higher tier.
On paper, they claim that this system is more progressive. Well, students and staff across the board right now say otherwise, they’re saying this is a regressive system. This is an unhelpful system. This is a system that returns us to a time when not all could access Higher Education. Is this what the government meant when they proclaimed fair access for all? Did they really mean to say “Higher Education is not your domain” for this is the message they send out.
As a result, I call on all students, all staff, all members of the community who are as passionate about this as we are. All who are as incensed by this as we are, to come and march with us on 10 November 2010 through Central London. Join many students and staff from across the country as we proclaim and ask the government to put themselves in the shoes of the people whose lives they’re changing. More information can be found at www.demo2010.org
Fair for all?
I was never an activist. I was never the one to stand at picket lines. I was never one to shout at the establishment. I always believed that a person made their own luck, if you worked hard enough, you fought and got the stumbling blocks out of your way. I was never a believer in pointing the finger.
I was never an activist. Though, I do believe in justice, fairness and responsibility. Where is the justice? Where is the fairness and who is taking responsibility for the situation we now find ourselves in? It was never students’ fault. Yet students must pay? Where is the justice? Where is the fairness? Where is the responsibility? T
he new government proclaims fairness as their watchword. Is it fair to take away the livelihood of thousands of teachers? Is it fair that in a day an age when we know that Higher Education is the route to upward social mobility they remove the provision for Higher Education?
A system is being created wherein people will come to believe that no matter how hard you work, there is no hope. In this day and age where there is despondency aplenty, is this the message we want shared amongst our friends and loved ones?
I was never an activist. But I was always passionate about my work, passionate about my degree, passionate about my beliefs.
Many years ago, I was homeless, lived in a homeless hostel. While many of those around me blamed the establishment for their lot, I decided against it. I went from menial job to menial job and slowly clawed myself back to respectability. After having proven myself in the world of work, I decided to return to education full time. Greatly appreciating the opportunities afforded to me. I’ve worked hard, gained my degree and decided to hang around to help others, only to find that the system that promised to aid people will no longer aid them. Tell me, is this fair?
People with life journeys akin to mine will no longer have the facilities to study their passions. And if you’re not a scientist or a mathematician, then there’s no room for you. Is this fair?
No, I was never an activist.
But I believe in justice, I see in injustice.
I believe in fairness, I see only unfairness.
I believe in responsibility, I see only irresponsibility.
This is how an activist is born
Hey all, below is the reply I rec’d from Labour PPC. I’m eager to organise a debate on campus between both candidates and would definitely love to hear view points from you guys. Thoughts please!
Thank you for writing to me about tuition fees and higher education funding in general. I have been very happy to sign the pledge and commit to voting against any increases in fees.
I believe that the way we will see the country through the current economic climate is through investment and growth – education and training are key to this; we must continue to invest in higher and further education. Of course, that money must be well spent, and universities, like other publicly-funded bodies, must make sure that they are efficient in their budgets and continue to invest in widening participation. Having been born and bred in the area, I am proud that Kingston University actively works to widen participation but continued funding and investment is vital.
I do not want to see any measures that would put further barriers or constraints on people who want to go to university, especially people from disadvantaged backgrounds and those who fear the financial consequences of what can be such a liberating opportunity.
I agree with the NUS, the University and College Union and Universities UK that the £900 million in cuts that have been announced so far will have a great impact on the system. We currently have a world leading higher education system but constant and massive cuts means it may not stay that way. Courses, departments, provision and jobs are on the line across the country and if elected I would do everything possible to defend these.
I also have great concerns about further education – which shouldn’t be forgotten. FE is being hit hard by cuts too and for many young people is the route into work or into higher education.
I hope this is helpful, and please feel free to get back in touch if you have any further questions or for anything else.
Labour PPC for Kingston & Surbiton
Below is the email I’ve just sent to the Labour (Max Freedman)and Conservative (Helen Whately) PPC’s. I hope to hear from them soon. Their replies will of course be posted here too:-
Dear Max Freedman,
I’m emailing on behalf of our students at Kingston University. We have joined the NUS national campaign “Vote For Students” and are very keen to hear your views on Tuition Fees and the most recently announced Funding Cuts.
The coming General Election promises to be rather interesting to say the least, with no particular party seeming to hold the majority. The students at Kingston University are more than a little concerned about the recently announced funding cuts and we are extremely keen to hear your views on this and what you feel is the way forward for our Higher Education.
With the Government not wanting speak on Tuition Fees until after the Funding Review, which we of course know will not report back till after the general Election, the focus is now on individual MPs and PPCs. As a result we would very much appreciate it if you would sign the declaration below, written by NUS, pledging that you will vote against any increase in tuition fees. This will help inform our students on how to vote during the General Elections.
Our students look forward to hearing from you.
below is an email I sent to Ed davey, our local MP. Once I find out who the Party Parkiamentary Candidates are for the other major political parties, I shall be emailing them also:-
Dear Ed Davey MP,
Thank you for signing the NUS pledge to vote against an increase in tuition fees.
The coming General Election promises to be rather interesting to say the least, with no particular party seeming to hold the majority. The students at Kingston University are more than a little concerned about the recently announced funding cuts and we are extremely keen to hear your views on this and what how you feel, as a Liberal Democratic, our current economic situation could have been better handled, especially with the argument that the funds are unavailable and all must tighten our belts, yet many millions were spent bailing out banks.
Our students look forward to hearing from you.
Below was his response, I’m eager to hear your viewpoint. So please email me any questions you may have either for myself or for our MP. I look forward to hearing from you:-
Many thanks for your email.
I believe that everyone has the right to a good education.
I am strongly against tuition fees. The original argument was that UK universities can’t keep up with US universities due to the amount of money they have to fund research yet I don’t believe the amount of money for research has actually improved.
I do not support increases to student fees.
I along with my Liberal Democrat Colleagues would like tuition fees to be scrapped over the course of the next parliament.
Due to the economic crisis we cannot scrap tuition fees on the first day after the election (we wish we could but labour have ruined our economy) but over the course of a parliament (5 years) we would hope to get to the position to be able to do this.
I cannot imagine how difficult it must be for young people today at university getting saddled with more debt yet seeing that many of their friends who have graduated can’t actually find any jobs!!!
Vince Cable, the Shadow Chancellor for the Liberal Democrats BEFORE the economic crisis was arguing that the Government needed to tackle both public and personal debt, the housing bubble and the banking system.
There are many things the Liberal Democrats would do to make our economy thrive – firstly by tackling the unfairness in the taxation system.
We have to balance the books. To do this we would cut waste in the public sector (ID cards scheme) to protect front line public services. By reallocating Government spending we will ensure that children regardless of their background receive the best possible education, that pensioners are given a fair deal and that radical action is taken to combat rising unemployment.
I don’t want to go on too much but if there are more questions – PLEASE do email me.
I would be very happy to meet with Kingston University students to discuss this face to face. Whether with a small group of student union body or a wider meeting open to all students – let me know which you think is best.
All the best,