All students, including postgraduates, should be encouraged to take part in extra curricular activity for a number of reasons. At postgraduate level, this is often not sold very well. The key selling factors for postgraduate study are normally the location and reputation of the institution as well as the competitiveness of the tuition fees and the graduate employability of the course. Unlike undergraduate education there is not a great deal to sell in terms of student life, and many postgraduates find the experience disappointing when they arrive at the institution. This aspect of the postgraduate market, however, is an increasingly becoming addressed and the availability of Wednesday afternoons is a vital aspect of making access to student life possible.
NPC has recognised many campaigns that have already taken place and wants to support this initiative to extend it further to postgraduates in many different dimensions. In producing the campaign it has sought out support from the National Union of Students (NUS), the Association of University Teachers (AUT), the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education (NATFHE), the British Universities Sports Association (BUSA) and the Coalition for Higher Education Students in Scotland (CHESS). This does not only matter to postgraduate taught students who may have to have lectures or tutorials on a Wednesday afternoon but the postgraduate research students who may be pushed by their supervisor to be in the office or even have to teach in a class. The hours on a Wednesday afternoon should be left unallocated for a number of possible options:
- Undertaking sporting activity or participation in societies that use Wednesday afternoons.
- The opportunity to give seminars to other students in a research group, where taught postgraduates can also take part.
- Opportunity for institutional wide events that postgraduates can attend either for the benefit of their study/research or leisure.
- Training courses that have both an academic and social element to them to broaden the skills of a postgraduate.
- Wednesday afternoons allow a period of consolidation in the week for postgraduates to undertake leisure, catch up with work either during the week or weekends as it suits them best.
- A student representative body has a further window of opportunity to reach postgraduates and run appropriate seminars, workshops or focus groups to discuss pertinent matters.
- Postgraduates are encouraged to take part in activity with a further midweek slot allocated and not so easily pushed into the "all work and no play" mentality.
It is important to make such activity openly available to postgraduates, and also enable encouragement from not only the student body but the institution also who should recognise the broader scope to student development through experiencing higher education.
There are lots of ways in which you can begin this campaign to ensure there is better provision of freedom for Wednesday afternoons. Here are some suggestions as to how your student body or postgraduate representatives can take part:
Survey of courses - Why not first of all send around a survey to the course representatives or departmental administrators as appropriate to find out when exactly classes are timetabled, when postgraduates have to teach and what policy the department holds over full time research students being based in the office or laboratory should they be required to. Also it is worth seeking their views about taking such time off provided they make up for the time on other days. You will then, to begin with, have an evidence base of where the problems lie and what can be done to improve the situation.
Online Petition - If you have seen evidence of where postgraduates are not satisfied with the provision of Wednesday afternoons being available for recreation, why not set up a petition to show evidence of general interest. You could do this either online or have forms for course representatives to seek signatures after a lecture. By seeking opportunity to allow postgraduates to sign the petition you will have some ground to show evidence of a problem.
Model motion - When you have your evidence and you wish to go and lobby the institution, it may be appropriate to take a motion to your student council or governing body. For this there is a model motion that you can use where you will be able to adjust it appropriately to the particular issues you have identified in your institution.
Press release - One way to raise further interest is to produce an article in your newsletters etc. and show results of a survey or petition. This will increase your potential significantly. Again a model press release is also available here.
Write to Vice Chancellor/Principal - One way of beginning to lobby is to take appropriate papers to a meeting where such issues would be discussed such as an Academic Standards Committee (or similar) or write directly to the Vice Chancellor/Principal of the institution. Whichever way you go, you should expect a response to the evidence you present.
This House Notes:
1. Traditionally Wednesday afternoons are available in the institution for recreational and other extra curricular activity.
2. Such activity should be open to all students, including postgraduates.
3. A number of postgraduate taught courses hold lectures on Wednesday afternoons.
4. Research postgraduates can be under pressure from supervisors to remain in the office or laboratory during "core hours".
5. Research postgraduates can also be mandated to teach during Wednesday afternoons.
This House Believes:
1. Postgraduates should be encouraged to take part in all activity.
2. All work and no play for postgraduates, like all students, creates a dull character and is demoralising.
3. Involvement in activity available to postgraduates on Wednesday afternoons is a fundamental right.
This House Resolves:
1. To lobby the institution to address the evidence of where postgraduates are unnecessarily held back from the right to free Wednesday afternoons.
2. To publicise through a press release where postgraduates are restricted from the freedom to use Wednesday afternoons at their leisure.
Dear <name of Vice Chancellor/Principal>,
It has come to our attention from the enclosed evidence that a number of our taught and research postgraduates are unable to participate in activity on Wednesday afternoons. This could range from sporting activity, involvement in societies through to academic seminars and training courses that they could undertake during a Wednesday afternoon that will significantly enrich their student experience and personal development.
In a number of circumstances, this restriction of freedom on Wednesday afternoons is unnecessary and we would wish to seek your action to ensure that such problems are overcome. The key problems we have discovered through surveys and other evidence gathering are as follows:
- Scheduled lectures during Wednesday afternoons where there is time in the week to hold such lectures on other days. We believe this is not an issue regarding availability of teaching rooms and we request that timetabling is appropriately re-arranged to ensure Wednesday afternoons are kept available.
- Research students can be enforced by their supervisors to be in their office during "core hours" between the hours of around 10am and 4pm. This is highly unnecessary and places restrictions on the scope of personal development and career planning for research students.
- Postgraduates who teach should not be enforced to give classes during Wednesday afternoons, further to which we would also encourage undergraduate students to have Wednesday afternoons free. This is a helpful time of consolidation in the week for both postgraduates who teach.
We are calling upon you in light of these issues to consider how the institution can improve these conditions given that some circumstances are not necessary. We hope that the matter will be taken into consideration for the benefit of all postgraduates in the wider community.
National Postgraduate Committee launches a Keep Wednesday Afternoons Free Campaign
All students should be actively involved in extra curricular activity either outside or inside their institution as appropriate. What they get involved in will depend on whether they are part time/full time, what they are involved in and where they live relative to their institution. What they are involved in is not so relevant, the point is that they have the opportunity to do so. Within higher education institutions, Wednesday afternoons have been traditionally kept free to enable time in the week for students to either use for extra curricular activity or as a period of consolidation to catch up on work and allow them to be involved in activity at other times such as at weekends. NPC believes that this is also beneficial to academic staff and postgraduates who teach, where they know a point in the week will be reserved for them to allocate to themselves as they so desire. The campaign has the support of the National Union of Students (NUS), the Association of University Teachers (AUT), the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education (NATFHE), the British Universities Sports Association (BUSA) and the Coalition for Higher Education Students in Scotland (CHESS). All of these institutions have had a great deal of involvement in keeping Wednesday afternoons free in the past.
Including postgraduates in the keep Wednesday afternoons free campaign matters in different ways to that of undergraduates. Many taught postgraduate courses are intensive and not provided with this opportunity where undergraduate courses may be. There is every reason to include the opportunity for postgraduates to get involved in whatever they wish as they are students aiming to build their personal development and enhance their lifestyle.
Your student body is supporting this campaign to ensure your postgraduates do not have lectures or other timetabled events on a Wednesday afternoon so that it is available for optional activity. Not only this, your research postgraduates need to be given the right to be out of the office if they are normally required to be on Wednesday afternoons as well as having their class teaching hours not scheduled then.
So what can you do? You could sign the petition either online or at any of the following locations. Have your say, make a difference to this institution as the more cases we get, the stronger our case. We hope you will join us and get your Wednesday afternoons to yourself in return.
<places for signing petition + weblinks>