Monday 30th January- NEC meeting. Attended NEC meeting at Birkbeck college London. This was a long meeting which I had to leave shortly before it was due to finish as headed to Manchester for following day. I enclose an amended WMANUS Observer report
NEC members present. Gemma Tumelty, Joe Rukin, Jess Kosmin, Daniel Randall, Dan Chilcott, Pav Akhtar, Derfel Owen, Peter Leary, Kat Fletcher, Jamal El-Shayyal, Dylan Williams, Stephen Brown, Veronica King, James-J Walsh, Mel Ward, Wes Streeting, Jo Salmon, Judith Niven, Julian Nicholds, and Benson Osawe.
The first item of business was the minutes from the last two meetings. The only real matter of any interest was Kat Fletcher's comments about removing Sam Rozati (the former Chair of NUS' Finance Committee, who got in touch with the Guardian to gain publicity of an apparently non-existent financial crisis in NUS)'s right to membership of the National Union. Big thanks to Wes Streeting for plugging the WMANUS PGCE campaign (89 MPs and counting!) in his update on the Education campaign; similarly, Julian Nicholds mentioned that the notes from the 2020 Vision planning meeting.
After the minutes were accepted, the observers were asked to leave so that the minutes of a closed session of the NEC could be discussed. We had to wait outside the meeting for over an hour before being allowed back in.
There was a presentation from the National Director of NUS on the MORI research, similar in format to that which members of NUS Services, Ltd., had received last week. Apparently NUS is approximately £600k better off now than it was this time last year, which is a definite bonus, and has invested £300k in the NUS Extra project to date.
Discussion then turned to the "big move," now delayed until at least 2009/10 (suggestions that we might be better served by investing in property in each Region, rather than one big centre).
Education Campaign. NUS plus five teaching Unions are the core membership of Coalition 2010, there's talk of drafting in a PVC from Warwick Uni so that NUS isn't chairing the Coalition. The British Youth Council have joined up as well, by all accounts.
Next was setting the provisional date for next (academic) year's National Education Demo! The basic decision came down to it being late October/early November and hopefully on a Sunday to facilitate involvement by FE students limited by the EMA.
Estimates for 2006/07. According to Gemma Tumelty, the Estimates are the "most political document" NUS produces, because they "say where the money's going." However, while they were three weeks ahead of the position last year (i.e. they exist!), the Estimates are still by no means complete. This is to be discussed via email and in two separate groups at Regional Conferences, and then emailed out to everyone.
Schools White Paper and Daniel Randall's motion, entitled Defend State Education. It was decided that the reference to religion would have to be removed from Resolves 1 due to Conference policy in favour o faith schools. Wes Streeting then proposed parts to remove Believes 2 (about New Labour going further than the Tories) from the motion in a recorded vote. In favour were Jess Kosmin, Derfel Owen, Pav Akhtar, Stephen Brown, Ellie Russell, Julian Nicholds, Mel Ward, Wes Streeting, Jo Salmon and Judith Niven. Against were Joe Rukin, Daniel Randall, Peter Leary and Veronica King, with Benson Osawe, Dan Chilcott, Jamal El-Shayyal, Dylan Williams and Sian Davies all abstaining (Gemma Tumelty was in the Chair and thus unable to vote).Thus, the part was removed.
Next, Jamal El-Shayyal proposed the removal of Notes 1, as it was not the precise text of the Government's proposals. The four Labour Students present voted alongside Jamal on this one, with everyone else against it. However, Wes Streeting then proposed removing "break...by", "...ing," and "free" from Resolves 1, thus noting "The government's announcement that it intends to hand control of schools to private, religious and 'voluntary' organisations in a market." The Labour Students, alongside Benson Osawe, Jamal El-Shayyal, Derfel Owen, Dan Chilcott, Ellie Russell and Jess Kosmin carried this over everyone else's opposition. Next, Jamal El-Shayyal proposed removin "religious" from Notes 1, but only he voted in favour of that change and so it fell, albeit with Veronica King abstaining.
Julian Nicholds then took parts to remove "'On Course' Priority" from Resolves 4, with the four Labour Students, the proposer, Stephen Brown, Veronica King, Sian Davies, Ellie Russell, Derfel Owen, Pav Akhtar and Peter Leary in support, only Dan Chilcott and Daniel Randall against, and Joe Rukin, Jess Kosmin and Benson Osawe in abstention. Thus, the proposals now fall under the education campaign more generally.
Finally, Mel Ward proposed the removal of "of privatisation" from Believes 1. After a rather sarcastic and impassioned rebuttal from Daniel Randall, the Labour Students, Derfel Owen and Dan Chilcott voted in favour, with Daniel Randall, Joe Rukin, Julian Nicholds, Peter Leary, Pav Akhtar, Dylan Williams and others successfully voting to keep the text where it was. In the end, the vote in favour of the (somewhat shorter!) motion was unanimous.
The next item was from Benson Osawe on the International Students' Campaign budget, requesting funding to travel to Joint Education Taskforce meetings and also an extra £1000 for the campaign, as the bulk of the budget has already been spent and the budget code frozen by order of Finance Committee. Mr. Osawe had been supposed to communicate the nature and purpose of JET so a London-based officer could fill in for him, rather than the NUS having to pay for his car journeys to and from Manchester. Pav Akhtar was supportive of the necessity of Benson, as International Students' Officer, attending the JET meetings, and so the compromise was reached for Messrs. Osawe and Rukin to discuss ways around the current situation.
Next was an extremely brief item from Jamal El-Shayyal on statements & accuracy, relating to the way something he said about other people passing comment on matters religious had been reported, after which he had to leave, meaning that Wes Streeting took over his item on NEC seating about whether the NEC sat at ground level or on the stage at Conference. As the decision being made now would not affect Conference 06, no real conclusion was reached The final item was a formality brought by Pav Akhtar, approving £2000 for the Islamophobia campaign.
Tuesday 31st January. I was due to present an NPC presentation to Manchester. Unfortunately was unable to deliver presentation but was able to leave David the Academic officer with the slides and handout to which he promised to pass on to the rest of the exec.
Friday 3rd February. Met with Quad Research at Birmingham regarding the Market Failure survey. This was planned for end of February. The draft is an early version showing questions for an online survey.
Saturday 4th/Sunday 5th February. OGM at Cranfield University. This was opened with an interactive discussion on problems and solutions led by Dries, Project officer. The formal meeting then followed with delegates from Nottingham, York, Sussex, ULU, MSU, Glasgow, Strathclyde, Cranfield, Bristol and Essex. We also welcomed Peter Norrington from Luton University. The Gen Sec proposed the Psychological Postgraduate Public Affairs Group become an associate member which was unanimously agreed. The motions section led to a response to the Oxford Contract issue being proposed by General Sec. A motion was also proposed to investigate collaboration with the Guuerrand-Hermes foundation for peace. These were both passed. Ismail Malik was elected as UKCGE Winter Conference delegate and HEA Research and Teaching forum representative.
Alex Higgins was elected to the vacant position of Project Officer.
Following the OGM there was a session led by Martin Gough and Duncan on plans for the new Pn and Journal of Graduate Education and a 'Cranfield Experience' on how Cranfield supports its students in a PG only institution.
The following day saw a discussion on the planned PG handbook and how to complement existing information but aim for information to act as a guide to a students rights as a postgrad. Tim Roll-Pickering led a session on department closures and how to move forward before a session on the Market Failure draft survey. This gathered information and ideas for the survey and a discussion on explicit outcomes.
Week Commencing 6th February 2006
Thursday morning met with Steve at Aston University to discuss issues regarding the conference. Thursday afternoon met with Richard Angell, BUGS president for regular meeting. A personal situation also occurred on Thursday which has limited my response to emails and to activities.
Week Commencing 13th February 2006
Tuesday 14th Attended UKCGE Winter Conference. Following the conference introduction the keynote speech was "The Case for Centralised Postgraduate Admissions Services" from Anthony McClaran, Chief Executive of UCAS. In this he highlighted project and the request for such provision from several universities. In the ensuing debate he noted and clarified that this would be for PG Taught but with option of those requesting it of research level. I was able to chat with Anthony briefly and have discussed NPC involvement in the project.
There were then three workshops: Herding Cats: Recruitment Marketing in the Postgraduate Arena; Ethics and Governance in Organisations; and Implications of concentration trends of Postgraduate Research? I attended the Implications of concentration trends of postgraduate research which discussed the threat to institutions of funding being channelled into 4 and subsequently 5 and above departments. It was considered the need to respond with national and regional initiatives such as in Finland with universities working in collaboration in areas where a critical mass is difficult for one university.
Following the AGM and Lunch there were three workshops: Admission procedures for PGR and PGT the case for review; Linking Governance and Ethics in Health and Social Care Research; and a continuation of the Implication of Concentration trends of Postgraduate Research. I attended the First workshop on Admission procedures which noted legal protection for universities in how students can sue against published facts such as 'research environment'.
The plenary session allowed people to reflect on the day but most of the comments were concerned with the UCAS presentation on postgraduate admissions.
I was able to discuss the NPC with David Watson, Senior Research Degrees Administrator for Northampton University who has suggested if the NPCs worth can be proven the Graduate School will pay for the students union to affiliate.
The evening of Tuesday 14th February I went to Sheffield University to meet with the Education Officer and was planning to explain the NPC to postgraduate students. Unfortunately I was only able to discuss the NPC with George and a member of the Postgraduate Committee. We were able to discuss mutual concerns, specific Sheffield problems and involvement in national projects. Among the problems highlighted was the lack of a 'student supervisor contract' and the benefit that this would bring.
Thursday 16th February I attended the Student Retention and Progression in Higher Education: Creating a Supportive Learning Environment Conference at the Barbican in London. This was well attended by VCs and registrars. I ran a workshop in the afternoon on Supporting PhD students which was well attended and chaired a useful discussion on external examiners, the student-supervisor contract and chairing o recording the viva.
Friday 17th February was the QAA Roundtable on Securing and Maintaining Academic Standards: Benchmarking M level Awards. This was well attended with VCs and Pro-VCs. Following a presentation by David Eastwood (new head of Hefce) on benchmarking people divided into groups to discuss four questions. The conclusion reached in the group and the workshops overall was that subject benchmarking should be voluntary but that the benchmarking should be to establishing 'm-levelness'. This was felt to be an appropriate response to Bologna and protecting our M level in comparison to other European countries. There was also a discussion regarding the learning outcome rather than credit outcome and the value of M-levelness in PG Diploma, PG Certificate etc and ensuring that although they are considered differently they all reflect M-level ness.
Week commencing 20th Feb
This has been a long and busy week. I did not attend any meetings this week and was limited by a couple of personal situations. I have however been in discussion with Liverpool over reaffiliating and am currently this week negotiating our value and for affiliation.
I have also been in discussion with UCAS over the Taught Postgraduate Admissions and am arranging a meeting to discuss student involvement in the project planning.
The Market Failure survey is progressing with a launch planned in the coming weeks.
Week Commencing 27th February
27th Feb With three other members of Aldwych group, had dinner with Bill Rammell MP. We discussed a number of issues, HE funding, bursaries, anonymous marking, charities bill and postgraduates.
- Labour are not coming forward with any position on the cap on fees until after the 2008 review.
- Bill disputed debt figures and we corrected him. He estimated that student debt (with £3000 fees) will be £15,000. We told him that our debt had reached around £15,000! We made clear the real debt situation.
- Labours tax policy; Bill said that Labour had increased tax and that HE will NOT be the priority for public funding in the foreseeable future. Labour will continue to seek to alleviate financial burden for the poorest students.
- Richard explained in detail the situation with bursaries, OFFA agreements, and that government shifting home income threshold boundaries. Bill seemed to be extremely interested in how the bursary scheme was working on the ground and pledged to look into it further; with Richard providing him with more information.
- We all expressed our desire for OFFA to have more power; it was suggested that OFA make universities consult with SUs on changes to OFFA agreements.
- We expressed our difficulty in getting involved with the process of deciding on bursary levels. We described how bursary and scholarship arrangements were often pushed through on the nod at University Council (and bodies like that), with little discussion or scrutiny.
- Katie brought up the issue of anonymous marking and asked if the DfES were getting involved in HE at all? Bill said no; we remain sceptical.
- We let Bill know about the situation at Essex where lecturers are lobbying students to keep marking non-anonymous.
- Generally positive. We welcomed being regulated by the Charities Commission; Universities are using it as an opportunity to incorporate SUs into their institutions. We expressed that we are fighting to keep our autonomy.
- Bill asked us about our own student governing bodies and we expressed that:
1. students have literally built their Unions from the ground
2. student exec members are more responsible the more responsibility they are given
3. Bill recognised the expertise that students have in running services for students
- We highlighted some of the more concerning financial troubles facing PGs. Most notably we pointed out the problems of the writing up period of the PHD, where often funding has dried up, and students are suddenly expected to pay council tax etc.
- We talked about the possibility of deferring PG fees.
- Bill hinted that he thought that the financial burden on students studying things like Law, PGCEs, Medicine needed looking at. But he didnt budge on giving away what he thought about PGCE fees
1st March attended the QAA Annual Reception launching the annual report. Met members of the board and discussed issues with Peter Williams (meeting arranged to discuss issues subsequently) and discussed briefly union relationship with Paul Mackney (NATFHE General Sec).
2nd March Some handover training and postgraduate issues work with Postgraduate officer at BUGS.
Week Commencing 6th March
6th March Completing the Eurodoc Questionnaire.
7th March Regular meeting NUS at NUS HQ. Marilyn in attendance. Discussed various issues including Quad Survey and AUT/NATFHE issues.
Discussed Council Tax exemption and establishing precedent from QM UL tribunal. Subsequently another tribunal has ruled against a student so the exemption is still subject to university and local authority.
NPC is able to put mailings into the NUS fortnightly mailing which is extremely useful. Likewise we can send information via The Brief email list.
Discussed a joint NUS / NPC document on Complaints and Appeals.
9th 12th March Eurodoc Annual Conference: Bologna, Italy. The Conference was organised by the Italian member of Eurodoc, ADI (Associazione Dottorandi e Dottori di Ricerca Italiani). The theme of the conference was "From research training to innovation in Europe".
The welcome was given by Prof Luigi Busetto, VC of Bologna University, Sergio Cofferati, Mayor of Bologna, Dr Francis Vella, President of Eurodoc and Francesco Maurillo, President of ADI-Bologna.
The keynote address was by D O Quintin (Directorate Education and Culture, EU) and was titled Education as the Asset to Knowledge Based Economy. In this he talked about the state of education in Europe in comparison to the USA. He noted that only 2 universities in Europe fall in top 20 in the world and that 2/3 of Professors will retire in next 2-6 years. This was coupled with a brain drain to the USA due to better research opportunities which overall was a worrying situation for Europe. Other issues raised were leadership universities, high unemployment levels amongst PhD graduates and the large number of doctorates employed on contract basis.
The Bologna and Lisbon process was a good road map for improvement. Key aims and importance was breaking down barries by 2010 to allow students to spend one term or semester in another university abroad and spending a minimum of 2% of national GDP in education and research. Universities should be encouraged to provide more marketable skills but should be careful not to become a market place. There should be a fair access regardless of social and economic background and an effort to integrate doctoral research into the work environment.
Questions posed by the speech were about obstacles posed to mobility and exchange by UK fee paying system with the response that there should be a way of combining both systems.
Round tables and workshops:
1) The demand of industries, the offer of universities and the key role of Young researchers in transferring knowledge.
The session was chaired by Prof. F. Trifiro, Dean of the Faculty of Industrial Chemistry, Bologna. Paulo Annunciato of Confindustria, Italy, stated that funding from industry to university research was related to number of patents and publications produced by a university and the utility of these to industry. The need for unconstrained research by universities is responsible for low funding by industry. He criticised universities for not caring about the applicability of their research and for not marketing themselves. Paulo proposed a 50% tax rebate for products that are outcomes of university and industry collaborated research.
Dr. Raffaele Liberali (Director of human factor, mobility and Marie Curie activities, EC, DG Research) stated that although there is a high level and number of research in Europe, there is an inability to transfer these to growth compared to other emerging economies and the USA. Intersectoral mobility is limited by industrial researchers being considered second best to academic researchers. Most PhDs too trained for academia and division between industry and academic no meaning. PhDs should be able to transfer between industry and academia more easily like in Scandinavian countries.
Dr. Carlo Ottaviani (Corporate Vice President Communication STMicroelectronics) threw light on the activities of his company in the areas of research. The company spends 18% of its sales on R&D. According to him, it is common culture in most organizations to reduce R&D if there is a crisis and a need for job cuts but this is opposite in their company. He complained about ivory tower research in the universities which failed to meet demand.
Dr. Alberto Sarti (FINMECCANICA) stated that his company tends to cooperate more with US universities than European ones. One of the reasons cited for this was the absence of clear leadership and departmental autonomy which creates bureaucratic barriers for industries in an attempt to cooperate.
2) The Charter for Researchers and Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers. Good practices, monitoring implementation and the way forward.
This session was chaired by Sieglinde Gruber (EC, DG research and development). Prof. Jean-Patrick Connerade (chair of Euroscience) emphasised the need to treat scientists and researchers properly in order to create more wealth in Europe. He said the aim of the charter was to ensure that Europe can retain its scientists and attract more talents from different continents. Critical consideration was needed for minimum dignity and social security for people doing research. The wide acceptance of the charter and the upcoming conference on the charter in 2007, in London, is an encouraging news.
Dr. Anna Maria Eleutri (Head of Charter for Researchers in Europe Office, University of Camerino) gave a snapshot of practical application of the charter in her university. A fair research environment is provided for all researchers and a copy of the charter is included in the welcome pack for new researchers. All researchers also have access to the UNICAM mobility scheme and efforts are made to encourage inter departmental cooperation. In line with treating researchers as professionals, starting grants are provided and funds are allocated for staff training. There is also an attractive salary condition, defined duties for all researchers, and involvement of new researchers in decisional organs. Gender balance is taking care of through a gender balanced composition of the selection panel during recruitment. UNICAM also promotes the charter through the association of Italian rectors and has developed a website to monitor the implementation of the charter.
3) Ensuring the quality and attractiveness of supervision and training.
This session was led by Gill Clarke from the QAA with a focus led on the experience of the UK. The contrasts with other countries was explored with Jean Chambaz of the European University Association also contributing.
4) Geographic Mobility: Can a researchers career be built across Europe?
This was chaired by Magda Lola (Marie Currie Fellowship Association) had Marssimo Serpieri (EC, DG R&D) and Jan Taplik (EMBO) as guest speakers. It was noted that there are different forms of mobility in academia of which geographic mobility is one. Other problems such as funding, social security, visas and diploma recognition are still issues to be considered. Steps being taken at EU level to improve geographic mobility include the introduction of the scientific visa directive in 2005 which is linked to work permit. This is to enhance the movement of scientists in Europe and should take less than 30 days to grant from day of application. It is expected that the directive will be translated into member law by 2007. Other resources such as the Researchers mobility portal (http://europa.eu.int/eracareers and ERAMORE are aimed at increasing mobility.
Jan Taplik gave insight into the EMBO program which is aimed at increasing mobility of those involved in molecular biology research. He advised that researchers should seek feedback on unsuccessful applications as this can be very useful for improving subsequent applications.
Private Eurodoc Meetings
The Friday meeting was on the presentation of the yearly report by the board and new members/enlargement. The general assembly accepted the yearly report of the board as satisfactory. The second part of the meeting focused on enlargement and new members. In all 6 new countries (Austria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Latvia, Switzerland and Macedonia) applied to become members with Turkey asking to be an observer. All the countries except Macedonia were accepted. This brings to 26 the total number of countries that are members of EURODOC.
The Saturday meetings considered policy decisions and elections. The draft internal regulations were presented by the president for discussion and review. It was suggested and agreed that, different parts of the regulation will be discussed every 2 weeks online and suggestions incorporated into the final report. The final report will then be put to a vote and subsequent adoption by the general assembly. The assembly elected Raffaella Ockinger, current Chair of the Swedish doctoral students' association SDok, as new President of EURODOC. Raffaella, who is Italian but married to a Swedish, is a doctoral candidate at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. The composition of the newly elected Board is as follows:
President: Raffaella Ockinger, Sweden
Vicepresident: Tine Ejdrup, Denmark
Treasurer: Harpreet Singh, UK
Secretary: Dunja Potocnik, Croatia
Member: Dejan Caglic, Slovenia
Member: Ingrid Chanefo, France
Member: Raquel Santos, Portugal
Week Commencing 13th March.
Tuesday 4th Meeting with BUGS Advice and Representation Centre (ARC) Welfare advisor on Birmingham issues and presentation to welfare tutors at Birmingham.
Preparation for 4th Annual Postgraduate Conference.
Launch of NPC Prospects Survey on the Market Failure of Postgraduate Education.
Week Commencing 20th March.
Monday 20th Welfare Tutor Presentation Birmingham University. Helped deliver presentation on issues affecting postgraduate students with case study examples with Welfare Advisor from ARC. Was well received and discussed issues with Director of Student Life. Issues raised found useful and met up with academic Toni Wright who has written academic papers on some issues such as student supervisor contract.
Wednesday 22nd AUT / NATFHE meeting at AUT offices London. This was to discuss mutual relations and to raise issues such as action short of strike. AUT would draft with NATFHE a statement for postgraduate students. I expressed the feeling that idea behind action short of strike valid but major split in NPC and noted the opposition stance from Dries.
Discussed the Postgraduates that Teach Charter and agreed that would be relaunched Sept/Oct time with new Union UCU. As it is standing policy from both unions this would be reworded and relaunched.
Also discussed working closer as issues similar, concern on RAE funding concentrated and issue of opportunity for research, pension contributions as part of stipends and Sussex. Agreed on regularish meetings.
There was also a need to highlight the new Union but also the introduction of a student fee.
Thursday 23rd AUT/NATFHE Brain Drain Conference at NATFHE conference centre London. Attended and met up with AUT representatives from meeting on 22nd. Topic was discussion of whether there is brain drain, issue of brain drain and affect on opportunities, students, employment. DfID and Commonwealth Secretariat had charter for UK institutions for recruiting overseas.
Friday 24th Met with David Mills from CSAP ESRC project in Birmingham. He noted the NPC work previously with CSAP and the research bid for project looking at 1 + 3 funding. Would note our collaboration previously and if bid successful work with NPC on project.
Met with President of BUGS to look at NPC, developments, policies and postgraduate issues in Birmingham.
Week Commencing 27th March
Monday 27th Met with suspended supervisor from Cardiff University in Birmingham. She has asked for support as appeal relates to improper relations with student. Has important implications for student-supervisor relationship. Excessive proscription at Cardiff. Subsequently will be appearing as witness for defence at employment tribunal in Cardiff in June.
Tuesday 28th 30th NUS Annual Conference. Stall holder meeting several NPC delegates and contacts and highlighting our issues. James Groves and Andre Oboler helped man stall and met up with Margret Davine from MSU.
Noticeable comments were over time in getting Conference Floor Observer. Despite allowance in Constitution and possibility to address conference this took over a day to organise.
Controversial elements included the election of President, with Gemma Tumelty winning. Wes Streeting was elected to VP Education.
Motions included the approval of NUS Xtra for nationwide launch this September.
Sadly the one motion with postgraduates noted was missed due to limit on time for section. Coventry President Ama elected to NEC with mention of postgraduates and working with NPC. Also several friends of BUGS and NPC elected with George Woods from Sheffield elected, Richard Angell (current president of BUGS), Joe Rooney (formerly of BUGS and current WMANUS co-convenor) and Joe Rukin as Treasurer again.
A meeting with Ama from Coventry scheduled to discuss closer relationship and working.
Friday 31st Academic Registrars Council Postgraduate Committee Was invited to present a discussion on best practice and issues for postgraduate students to ARC. This was well received and led onto discussions on assessment, writing up students, PGT and PGR division, inductions. Other presenters were Janet Bohrer from QAA.
Some institutions considering or have considered a PGT Faculty.
On issue of supervisor contract, Manchester piloting a supervisor agreement. They dont state contract for reasons of litigation, appeals and it being non contractual. Newcastle have a learning agreement which is considered part of a checklist and about realising expectations.
Induction in Liverpool was compulsory. Another institution did not make induction compulsory but if you wanted to attend social event in evening you had to attend induction.
Swansea presented on a Research Student Progress Monitoring electronic system. They also noted that student contract would eventually become the norm as Europeans talk about early career stage researchers.
They explained the reasoning for their postgraduate faculty which was to allow monitoring of students.
With regard to writing up students, Swansea considers them students with full access to facilities.
The Swansea electronic system system allowed all departments to access records and student to access own record to see what supervisors have written about them. They are able to comment on supervisors interpretation and can challenge it if necessary. The online system can also monitor the Viva and ensure that it takes place within 3 6 months.
The reporting route for students goes from student supervisor to school research committee where student staff consultative forum feeds in. Student involvement into the faculty, which feeds into senate, is through a student-staff assembly.
On issues such as continuation stage, university has tightened up to prevent student drifting. Swansea does not charge for that but has a sanction that it can. They divide completion into expectation date for submission and a maximum date which covers a writing up period.
Birmingham has a period of grace for 6 months with a fee.
There was a feeling that the research councils should look at completion rates rather than submission.
Sheffield had a situation which had been agreed with students union for exponential fees where it was £5 for 3 months to £300 for 1 year later to encourage students to write up.
On issues of council tax, Reading the 4th year was council tax exempt, this was due to support of unitary authority. Swansea however was just 4th year international students.
There was also a discussion from Sheffield on how to support students with a central graduate room. The use of this was encouraged through delivering useful lectures and information from this room.
There was also a presentation from UCAS on the PG Applications service.
The system is optional to institutions. It would be white labelled so that applications look like institution applying to. It would be on-line only with course information supplied through prospects. It would have a maximum of 10 application choices with choices over extended period of time (e.g. in process 1 2 years). Decisions notified through service.
Week Commencing 3rd April
3rd April BUGS Campus Life Committee preparation. Attended this to support guild submission with notice of issues to consider for postgraduates. Issues raised were surprising to some members of the meeting and postgraduate issues would be raised prominently in the submission.
4th April 4th Annual Postgraduate Conference. Attended this conference to deliver presentation. I was first speaker and the presentation was well received sparking off discussion.
Deian Hopkin, VC of South Bank University, outlined the developments in PG education with a 3 fold rise in mitigations investigated by OIA. There was also a quantum leap in indebtedness. The postgraduate level may not be sustainable with changes in population. There needs to be proper pricing and costing.
Met up with Shell Morgan and Paul Wakeling regarding research being conducted in Manchester and also HEA project considering widening participation at postgraduate level and background of postgraduate students.
Offered NPC support to these research proposals and involvement where feasible.
In evening attended the official opening of the NUS HQ with Tony Benn and Bill Rammell in attendance. Discussed NPC rep from NEC with Joe Rukin.
5th April HEA Literature Review on the Doctoral Experience advisory group meeting. Attended this at IoE to look at progress and discuss ideas. This review using EPPI centre.
Noted the research NPC done but cannot cite as not focussed purely on PhD students.
The EPPI software would allow crosstabs and interrogation of results.
Following discussion of findings it was agreed to focus report on Assessment of PhD.
6th April UCAS Project Director Paul McClure came to BUGS to discuss UCAS PG Applications Service. Ran through presentation and discussed student involvement in project. Would subsequently speak to NPC Conference on project to get student feedback.
Noted concerns raised in discussion on Management Sub-Committee List.
7th April Went to Aston University to discuss conference preparation. Speakers ongoing but looked like a wide diversity.
8th April International Students Festival in Manchester. Attended with Marilyn. We ran a stall and attracted a number of interested students and student union officers. Met with newly elected Middlesex President who was aware of NPC through previous treasurer Christabel and would raised affiliation with Middlesex. Also met with Brian Duggan from Warwick, newly elected President.
Helped assist Andre in afternoon workshop on International Postgraduates. Presentation was interesting and had been well received during preparation by QAA.
Week Commencing 10th April
12th April QAA Code of Practice on Assessment working group. Attended this with other members of group and discussed further amendments to document and wording.
16th April Official deadline for NPC Prospects Survey.
Week Commencing 17th April
University closed from 17th 19th with remainder of week taken off for holiday days.
Week Commencing 24th April
26th April European Code and Charter Researchers Working Group. This meeting started with a presentation by a doctoral student on her research into Searching for Synergy: Policies on Research Careers.
The charter was a co-ordination to develop soft law. The discussion of an ombudsman was not clear as to a national or European wide.
The remainder of the meeting was taken with discussing the Code and Charter going through each section and discussing how the UK meets the obligations and where its interpretation can be made clearer.
On the position as PhD researchers as students or staff it was decided to make students as students and state explicitly that employees excluded students.
There was a heated discussion on the consideration of university studied in judging merit. Janet from UKGRAD, the NATFHE Union rep alongside myself argued that opportunity and potential should be prioritised over where studied. There were cases with specialist subjects where institution studied at would affect the potential further research opportunities but opportunities through potential should be considered above this.
RCUK would be considering a Funders Foum with a researchers concordat developed.
This would develop a code of practice for the management of researchers. This would be created with the European Code and a mapping exercise of funders expectations.
Janet Metcalfe had attended a European Workshop on implementing the European Code. The European implementation is currently divided into three approaches.
Mediterranean Approach Sign charter and use as a lever for more funding.
Nordic Approach Analyse each word and define how to fit in structure.
Governmental Approach Currently East Europe where they dont have legislation.
There are problems:
No benefits been seen by senior researchers
Seen as a top down document
No interest from industry
Far too much emphasis on mobility.
EU have embedded Charter in FP 7. Impression that is not a condition of funding.
Issues for UK:
International presence of selection panels
Student Issues pensions.
Week Commencing 1st May
No meetings but preparation and invitations for conference.
Week Commencing 8th May
8th May NUS NEC Meeting Camden Town Hall. This meeting was the last of the current NEC with NEC elect in attendance.
Management update 160k deficit by the end of June. Mainly due to cost of moving from Holloway Road.
Affiliations have increased.
NUS is strongly reliant on affiliation fees. If 5 to 10 big institutions said would not pay then there would be big problems.
Expect August to go into negative cashflow.
Prediction of 500,000 Xtra Cards generating £2m but factoring in costs would expect to generate £1m next year.
TU Parnership Update Draft strategy. No joined up thinking between NEC and Tus.
1) Working students joining Tus
2) Nurses, Teachers into Tus
3) Joint campaign work
4) Developing student community and TU development.
AUT/NATFHE In response to 21 unions opposed to strike, 32 unions wrote to Sally Hunt in support of strike.
Both unions have compromised so UCEA has got the two unions round the discussions table.
I noted the NPC stance and there were a few questions on effects for postgraduate students.
Directory Noted that NPC was not referred to last year, needs to be added alongside Office of Independent Adjudicator and Scottish Ombudsman.
Mature Students Campaign From next year there would be standing orders in place.
Ran through what have achieved and projects.
Mature Students Charter
Survey of childcare and mature students officers in student unions.
Trying to create a definition of Mature student.
National Demo Would most likely occur end of October.
Hunger Strikes Passed
Campaigning for Free Education Passed
2 Year Degrees Passed
For Human Rights in China Passed
Working with UKCOSA Passed
NUS in Unity with NATFHE and AUT Passed
Support AUT Pay claim and ongoing action Passed.
11th May Rugby Team 06.
This meeting discussed the outcomes of the Rugby Team meeting in Aston and the recommendation of attendees that the Rugby Team continue in some form. Each of the groups that received recommendations discussed their outcomes in implementing recommendations.
UKGRAD Database of Practice Over 300 submissions. There was a need to consider how to monitor developments and structure.
HEA PREQ. Voluntary survey. Results would be confidential to institution.
Janet noted that the three surveys, CROS, PREQ and PI should be linked together.
HESA. The OECD and EU Commission would be shortly conducting a Careers of Doctoral Holders Survey. This would be similar to the USA Cradle to Grave survey on all doctoral holders.
The question of research students overall or subset of research council funded noted.
HEA. Happy to set up a project to look at debate on the assessment of the PhD.
The discussion on the Rugby Team considered what it was there for. Should it be thinktank, advice and guidance or co-ordinating. Following on from the outcomes of the Rugby Team, the Rugby Team 06 would push recommendations of the Strategy paper. The Rugby Team 06 would look at changing its name so people are aware of its title and would look at:
What is a PhD
UK Code of Practice for Researchers
What is a Postdoc
All of these through the lens of skills training.
Rugby Team 05 Evaluating Skills Development
Rugby Team 06 Moving the Skills Agenda Forward
Week Commencing 15th May
18th May Aldwych Meeting Oxford University.
Report - Kat (Chair) noted she had sent report of Aldwych activities to Russell Group.
Mature Students - Drew (Cambs) undated that Russell Group Admissions Group are getting their own legal advice on the issue.
Letter to Tony.
Campaign to get the PM to listen to students not just VCs, see http://www.lettertotony.com.
Kat updated, will be in Edinburgh, accommodation should be book, get in touch ASAP if not. Gemma Tumelty, National President is coming to dinner. Wes Streeting. VP (Education) is running a session of HE Funding. Other sessions and actions:
- National Student Survey: organised by Drew (Cambs)/Katy (Notts)
- Governance: A.P. Kat Stark (Chair/Warwick) to ask Seb Ellis, Leeds
- Postgraduates: Simon Felton (NPC)
- Whistle stop tours of govt paper: organised by Richard (Bham)
- Handing university management: organised by Mike (Notts) & Natalie (LSE)
- International students: organised by Drew (Cambs) maybe ask Wes (NUS)
Make sure people know who the event is for, ask for other dealing with HE policy.
Offer to run management sessions.
(August or September potentially)
Discussion on unions contributing money to allow staff member and greater lobbying.
WP in PG
Papers distributed, pls read. Contact Simon Felton (NPC) for copies.
Part time PO Sabbs discussed
- Oxford VPC (Graduates)
-Cambridge- President of Graduate Union
Women as Governing Bodies
Recommendations need clarifying. Deadline next meeting 16th June
Website -Natalie to update website with successes and history page, including:
- Pictures (WMANUS Demo, Letter to Tony & International Students Demo)
Open letter to editor Adam Johnson MP - A.P. Richard (Bham) To write an open letter to the new Secretary of State for Education & Skills refuting his learn to love comments. That students would learn to love top up fees.
Evening Attended the HEPI Annual Lecture by HRH Prince El Hassan bin Talal of Jordan on Mono and Multi Culture: the role of universities in learning from each other in todays world.
This was a really interesting lecture and gave me the opportunity to network after. Lord Dearing was in attendance as well as Peter Williams of QAA and other prominent figures in HE.
Donald MacLeod of Guardian was invited but not able to make it; subsequently arranged lunch to discuss issues and Guardian working with NPC more.