Officers Report

General Secretary: Simon Felton

Week Commencing 14th November 2005
Tuesday 15th Rugby Team Meeting evaluating research skills development of Early Career Researchers. Issue of establishing key performance indicators was seen with suspicion, especially difference in measurement for students and institutions. The use of CROS (Careers in Research Online Survey) which is not a student satisfaction survey would allow data to be gathered on skills and training.
Wednesday 16th Birmingham University Graduate School Student Council (GSSC). Attended first one. Noted NPC to representatives. Similar concerns as at national level and particularly what the GSSC would do for student. There was a feeling that highlighting skills development from doing other activities such as representation to develop communication, presentation, speaking and writing skills needed emphasis to encourage involvement.
Thursday 17th QAA Code of Practice Working Group on Assessment. This was a small session of eight people discussing final wording before public consultation. We all agreed that the consideration of research student assessment fits best with the code of practice for research students.
Friday 18th UUK. Met with UUK to present plan of activities for year ahead and discuss collaboration. Also met with Catherine Marston (UUK International Policy Advisor) to discuss Visa appeals and how best to influence MPs and Lords.
Week Commencing 21st November 2005
Tuesday 22nd ISF. Went to Manchester to attend meeting of the International Students Festival Group. The NPC will be supporting the ISF and will have a workshop session.
Wednesday 23rd PG London Network. Attended the PG officers network with officers from Imperial, Queens, LSE and ULU present. There was a brief discussion on OGM ULU rep had attended and a workshop on how each university supports their postgraduates.
Thursday 24th NUS. Met with Kat Fletcher to discuss NUS and NPC. Met with NUS staff and discussed working together.
HEPI Annual Lecture Attended the HEPI Annual Lecture by Alec Broers. Lord Broers discussed Broadening the base of undergraduate degrees with specialism in postgraduate study and the need for further funding through implicit call for removal of the 3k fee cap.
Friday 25th Aldwych. This took place at Birmingham. There were discussions on postgraduates with reps from several unions concerned over their support for postgraduates. Nottingham noted the 4th year writing up and council tax issue which NPC will be working on. A discussion on the impact of fees on postgraduates commissioned BUGS rep and myself to look at providing evidence.
The right of appeal for Visas would have its 2nd reading on 6th December and I wrote to 20 Lords to highlight the impact it would have on students.
Saturday 26th/Sunday 27th MSU Conference. Attended this with Andre Oboler. Margaret (President) launched a Mature Students Information Service which had funding for a pilot. NPC would work with MSU on information leaflets of mutual use such as funding, housing, council tax.

Week Commencing 28th November 2005
Wednesday 30th BUGS. Had regular meeting with President to discuss postgraduate issue and support.
Thursday 1st Staffordshire University. Visited the Education Officer, discussed course reps, council tax exemption for writing up students. Staffs have elected a new PG officer.
THES Spoke with the News Editor regarding joint survey. We had 117 responses and these were favourable towards supervisors and their relationships with students, though 30% supervisors was not good at communicating with students and 25% not taking students concerns seriously

Week Commencing 5th December 2005
Thursday 8th NPC/THES survey results and information published.
Friday 9th BUGS/NPC Aldwych project. Continued work on research and contacted local MP to ask Bill Rammell question and see references in Hansard.
Also work on council tax and writing up students for Nottingham.

Week Commencing 12 December 2005
Tuesday 13th Keele. Visited Keele Postgraduate Association with Marilyn. Saw clubhouse and social space. Attended the Postgraduate Executive Liason Committee, chaired by Dean of Graduate School. The dean was very enthusiastic and welcomed the NPC.
Following meeting attended the KPA AGM. The KPA presented their plan for a sabbatical chair which prompted a debate between the representatives of the union and the KPA.
Wednesday 14th/ Thursday 15th NEC. Attended the NUS NEC meeting at ULU. NUS presented the findings of the MORI research into the perception of NUS. There was support for engaging in legal cases with universities to represent the student movements interests. There was a discussion on creating transparency in financial affairs. Affiliations were considered best way if there was accountability.
Friday 16th Aldwych. This took place at Cardiff. I was able to discuss postgraduate support with the College President of Humanities & Science and President and able to look at the Graduate Centre. There were presentations on the Bologna Process and also NUS Extra and the MORI report.

Week Commencing 3rd January 2006
Thursday 5th THES. A letter I wrote responding the the article The Postgrad Cashpot was published.

There are responsibilities not just riches in seeing postgraduates as the best source for future income (The postgrad cashpot). Postgraduate students are vital for the research development of our universities and carry increased responsibilities and needs. An increase in postgraduate numbers demands greater responsibility in supervision standards, welfare support and representation. The marketisation of higher education and the spillover of increasing undergraduate fees into postgraduate education will decrease the attractiveness of further study, particularly for domicile students, and will increase the burden of debt for those continuing to study. At a time when the European Commission notes that Europe is 700,000 scientists short of reaching the Lisbon goal of a competitive and dynamic set of knowledge driven economies we should be increasing our financial, representational and welfare support and encouraging the development and support of research rather than considering postgraduates as a short term cashpot.

Week Commencing 9th January 2006.
Wednesday 11th/ Thursday 12th Rugby Team Worshop. Attended this workshop at Aston University where the Rugby Team presented their report and seek sector approval. I was able to meet up with people I had met previously from Keele, Cardiff and meet new people from Exeter and Northumbria. I am hoping to further this relationship with Exeter and encourage them to reaffiliate.
There were a series of facilitated workshops. I helped lead one on KPIs for Roberts Funding to RCUK with Jon Turner from Edinburgh University

The following day there was an exploration of the themes from the first day and sharing experience. These workshops followed a discussion on early stage researchers and postdocs. One session focussed on early stage researchers and then people applied that session to postdocs and vice versa to a number of different questions

The conclusion of the two days was the need to go back to the Rugby Team report and to consider a concern over some KPIs and some of the issues and student engagement in the process but the mood of those present was it should be adopted sectorally.
Thursday 12th UCL. Due to my commitment with the Rugby Team Dries and Duncan were able to deliver a discussion on the NPC to UCL.
Weeklong I was able to respond to the HEFCE 2006-11 Consultation and the EPSRC Training Consultation. EPSRC briefly responded to the NPC response below:

Thank you for taking the time to provide input to our draft strategy, which will be reviewed alongside all the other responses received.
In response to your point on the UK GRAD Programme, I agree that this is a very important activity and EPSRC continues to work very closely with CRAC (the current provider of the UK GRAD programme) on both postgraduate and post doctoral training issues.

I have also referred the PREQ HEA researcher experience to the NPC and passed on comments to UK GRAD for collation.

Week Commencing 16th January 2006.
Tuesday 17th NUS. I attended the NUS Annual Reception at the House of Commons. I was able to discuss postgraduates briefly with Kat and Julian together with Ian Gibson MP. This was the launch of Coalition 2010.
Wednesday 18th NUS Open Education Taskforce. This is a group seeking to develop a strategy for 2005/2006 but aiming for a two year strategy to work out education campaigning outside of the Education Priority Campaign. Strategy has five activities: Student Feedback and Quality, Admissions and Fair Access, Equality and Fairness for Students, Partnerships, Europe. The discussion of the meeting which covered nus officers, staff, and FE representatives and myself moved to establishing firmer ideas and differentiating between a set of ideas and to more focused aims
Saturday 21st/Sunday 22nd MSC/CSC. These took place at BUGS in Birmingham. The MSC saw the reports of officers and a discussion on the forthcoming OGM together with a discussion on the conference. We are working on themes of Funding Representation.
The CSC discussed issues including a Chairs ruling, minutes and the OSCR Consultation on changes to recognising Charities in Scotland.

Week Commencing 23rd January 2006.
Tuesday 24th EthOS. Meeting with one of Birmingham University Library staff involved in the EthOS project. Ran through and discussed set of questions to evaluate the project for students which the NPC would help to distribute and highlight.
Thursday 26th Aldwych. This took place in Leeds. There were discussions on NSS meetings. Unite was discussed with the use of Unite a problem for several unions and students, there was a question over whether comparatively they are not as bad as private housing.
PGCE Fees. The lobby day would be the same as the FE lobby with the national lobby on 1st March. Unions were asked to ask their students to make appointments with their MPs for the 1st March and get them to sign up to the EDM.
Saturday 28th ISF. Currently 26 institutions are taking part. Institutions participating would have 50 tickets to sell at 10 with non-participating and the public paying 20 plus booking fee. There are approx 2000 places overall with 1000 coming from the participating ticket allocation.
There will be seminars during the Saturday with the NPC allocated an hour slot to discuss The UK Postgraduate Experience A world Experience.


Activities

ALDWYCH GROUP I have attended four meetings so far. These have been good to ensure postgraduate representation and to meet officers from unions.
Ongoing research related to the cap on undergraduate fees will also consider the impact of fees on students continuing to study research. Early parliamentary question responses indicate year on year fall in Science and Technology subjects.
Other issues discussed have included the NSS, graduate employment and debt and wider reforms regarding the Russell Group and UUK.

KCL 3rd November 2005
BUGS 25th November 2005
Cardiff 16th December 2005
Leeds 26th January 2006

LETTERS I have been able to write letters in a campaigning and support capacity.
I have written to 20 Lords regarding the second reading of the Immigration Bill. The letter is currently online under the campaigns section.
Letter to Boris Johnson highlighting the NPC views on postgraduate issues as part of his engagement with students. Boris is currently seeking student feedback and has responded that he would welcome
Letter in support of Keele Postgraduate Associations plan for a full time sabbatical chair. I received a letter in reply thanking for our helpful views on this matter.

AFFILIATES
We are currently on target to exceed last years affiliates. We have had successful meetings with UCL to highlight our ongoing development and a rapprochement with Imperial is aiming to gain their reaffiliation.

We have had a number of new affiliates
Paisley
UHI
Keele
Brunel

I am in discussions with Manchester and have presented information for their executive committee to consider affiliation. Exeter have been in discussions and I have liaised with a member of their university staff with the hope of encouraging reaffiliation.

PROJECTS
International Students Festival. This will be taking place later this year on the 8th/9th April in Manchester. I have attended meetings with Benson and we have agreed to a stall and presentation from the NPC to international students under the working title The UK Postgraduate Experience The World Experience
Updating the website. This has been an ongoing project and I have been attempting to tweak areas until we are able to relaunch in the coming year. I have tidied up the consultations to sub-divide them into years to avoid a long list of responses. I have also introduced a Database of Practice and What is, Where can I find, How do I. Sections.
Within the reforms I am making the minutes of meetings more available and intend to also provide affiliation figures to make a more discernable link between what affiliates spend and what they get.
Market Failure of Postgraduate Education. This work has been commissioned and I will be meeting with Quad Research to discuss the emphasis of the project. Failing to secure the remaining funding the projects depth will be limited but not width.
Little Postgraduate Handbook, and Information Leaflets. These are part of a wider move to explain items on the website under the Where can I find, How do I.section. I have examined a series of such leaflets and intend to work on establishing the series.
League Tables/Best Practice Awards. I have initially started off the Database of Practice on the website to encourage dialogue and ideas sharing in a similar idea to the UKGRAD database. This should act as a precursor to highlighting good practice.
Writing Up Guidelines. Im hoping to produce with Tim RP some guidelines we can launch on writing up students. I would also like to produce and launch some specific guidelines on Complaints and Appeals, and Supervision alongside. Supervision is a topic that is becoming increasingly significant.

International
CAPA. I have been in contact with the Australian Council of Postgraduate Association. They are facing difficult times as their Federal government passed legislation in Dec 2005 that will prevent universities from charging a compulsory student fee which funded student organisations.
Eurodoc unfortunately has been hit by funding difficulties to the 2006 event alongside an early bid date that has prevented the NPC from making representations for the 2007 event. The delegates attending the Eurodoc 2006 Conference in Bologna will be Katerina Tsoukala from Sussex and Simon Felton, General Secretary.

NUS

I have met with Kat Fletcher and discussed ongoing collaboration. This is to be followed by a meeting between the NUS and NPC on greater partnership in March.

I have attended NEC meetings which was a good opportunity to meet with executive members and network with other observers.

I attended the Open Education Taskforce that provided an insight into short term (two year) planning on education and the link between FE and HE and postgraduate study.

MEDIA

We have been successful in being sourced in both the Independent and Times Higher regarding issues on supervisors, and research funding. We have also responded to a question submitted to Ask the Panel in the THES.

CASEFILES

I continue to set aside times to work on casefiles with a number in different stages and different progressions. I have also undertaken to assist in a number of new cases, one involving supervisor-student relations.

One case that has been in existence for over two years is in the process of being successfully resolved and the NPC has been able to highlight its practicality and arbitration skills to the parties involved.

Consultations

I have responded to two consultations, the HEFCE Strategic Plan 2006-11 Consultation and the EPSCRC Postgraduate Training Strategy Consultation. We have received an interim comment on the EPSRC consultation:

Thank you for taking the time to provide input to our draft strategy, which will be reviewed alongside all the other responses received.
In response to your point on the UK GRAD Programme, I agree that this is a very important activity and EPSRC continues to work very closely with CRAC (the current provider of the UK GRAD programme) on both postgraduate and post doctoral training issues.

Associate Bodies

I have been approached by the Psychology Postgraduate Affairs Group who wish to become affiliate members. Following their attendance at the November OGM they have through unanimous agreement from the committee at the weekend of 28th and 29th January agreed to go ahead with proposing to become an associate body.
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Communications: Duncan Connors

Conference: Steven Abbots


Equal Opportunities: Lade Robinson


Treasurer: Tim Roll-Pickering

Project Officers


David Bean

As you will be aware, the project I have been elected to fulfil, which was approved by the NPC at the previous OGM, was to undertake a survey into the provision of student activities at Unions, Associations and Guilds across the UK, which would then allow the drafting of a report and recommendations to be made as to best practice.

Thus far, the survey has been composed, and is on the point of being sent out. According to the timetable I established in the previous (accepted) document tabled at the Essex OGM, I am slightly behind schedule as I was hoping to be in the position of collecting and compiling responses, but I do not anticipate that this current delay should jeopardise the successful completion as the project in time as I designed the schedule with plenty of lag. By the next OGM I am hoping that, depending on how long it takes people to respond, I should be at the stage of writing up the report.

I should like to thank those on the NPC who have assisted me in gaining contact information for the relevant officers; in some cases I was forced to contact undergraduate sabbaticals rather than postgraduate officers, but already some of these have offered to forward the survey to these officers, as I had requested in the accompanying text. Whilst I apologise for my absence at this meeting, I shall be happy to take questions by email.


Ismail Malik


Dries Neirynick

I have:

  • visited Sussex to conduct a training session for their postgraduate association and sabbaticals
  • visited UCL for a meeting with their postgraduate committee.
  • Interestingly, someone suggested we organise a conference for prospective postgraduates to meet current ones and institutions.
  • Attended the MSC in Birmingham