NUS' Strategic Conversation

At the end of the term, Claire (Chief Exec) and I went over to Sheffield for one of the NUS’s events. Now, I can already see your eyes rolling… just for a moment, we can all forget about the drama within the NUS as this event was actually really helpful (and mostly facilitated by staff).

The morning started with a few welcome speeches from the Full Time Officers, before moving onto some key strategic issues within Higher Education/FE.

Charlotte Gerada and Elspeth Hoskins: We are UnDivided

Can you believe the first topic of the day was Brexit? Classic. The two ladies started off by explaining how UnDivided began – as the two of them voted differently at the last referenda. This project developed to make sure that the voice of young people is not overlooked during this momentous process. The campaign is trying to understand what young people really want post Brexit; the team are calling out for anyone between 13-29 years old puts forward their demands for the negotiations, and the top 10 (managed on a voting system) will be presented to parliament. It is an incredibly interesting campaign – if you know what demands you have, make sure you submit them, if not then you are able to vote on what you believe they should prioritise for young people! Check it out.

Judy Clements, Office of the Independent Adjudicator

Hopefully this isn’t a department you already know about, so I’ll give you a quick description. The OIA is ‘an independent body set up to review student complaints’ which is free to students. Clements wanted to highlight some of the information the OIA receive to help us understand that student complaints can teach SU’s about the student experience. The main cases the OIA have seen are (no surprises here) academic and specifically, Universities inability to make information available in a timely manner. Interestingly, 55% of complaints that the OIA recieve are not justified – as students haven’t understood the regulations or worked within them. Now, if you looked at the media you would expect there to an increase in complaints in regards to DSA cuts, sexual harassment and discrimination – but the OIA haven’t had this reflected in the complaints they've recieved (not to say it isn’t happening, obviously). You would, however, expect an increase in number of students complaining with mental health challenges, and you’d be right. You would also be right if you guessed the highest number of complaints came from professional degrees (Med, Law, Social Work) and if you said PG students or Internationals… Intl definitely threw me, but then you consider the fees they pay.

The OIA has some advice

-          It strongly encourages students to use their Students Unions/Academic Reps if complaining

-          Students’ don’t need to pay for legal advice – the OIA is designed to be non-legalistic and FREE.

-          The role of the OIA is not to reinvestigate, nor will they interfere with academic or professional judgement – they are here to assess whether it was properly and fairly run, and to recommend a remedy.

Felix Morgan, Senior Strategist and Innovation Lead, Livity

Probably the most interesting talk for me came from Livity, a youth marketing agency, who spoke about how to use Digital to drive engagement and influence. Livity have an incredible understanding of what drives us and have used this knowledge to improve and benefit the lives of young people. They told us that SUs should be focusing on peer to peer implementation and empowering the membership, we should be valuing our influencers because young people trust their authority. Most interestingly, Livity told us that ‘boredom is extinct’ and has been since 2010. We now live in a 24 hour world where we are constantly being distracted or interrupted, so people might say they are bored after 5 hours on Netflix, but that's not necessarily true. Researchers are only just understanding the impact of boredom, and have claimed that it's biggest impact will be on our creativity: it affects the way you are forced to discover and imagine.

Real mixed bag of information, eh? There were also some more in-depth sessions which I went to, but this blog is already quite long – I’ll give you an update on another day.

Finally, there was a NUS company law meeting where student unions were asked to approve a motion, which had gone to National Conference. The motion was for a full time paid NUS Trans Officer and an autonomous NUS Trans liberation campaign. Lancaster voted in support on this, and it was approved! The NUS is the first organisation in Europe to have a full Trans position. Success!