There is a growing interest in the introduction of a postgraduate sabbatical officer within a student representative body or even within a separate postgraduate representative body. Although the National Postgraduate Committee recognises reasons for and against the introduction of a postgraduate sabbatical officer , the following guidelines for their remit, should the post be created, are outlined. These guidelines are presented both in terms of the role as well as important conditions of the post to make it suitably representative of postgraduates. As well as the specific role, details of necessary administrative support and support from a postgraduate executive committee are outlined.
2. Postgraduate Sabbatical Remit
There are a number of roles that will fit into the remit of a postgraduate sabbatical, which will include the following tasks that can be constituted as appropriate to the structures within a higher education institution:
Coordinate all postgraduate welcome activities, forums and other social activity for the postgraduate agenda. It is particularly important to note in this instance that postgraduates do not normally arrive in the undergraduate introduction week. In any instance, such activities are not normally timetabled into their agenda. Therefore it is important for the postgraduate sabbatical to ensure a different welcome programme and social programme that fits more suitably within the postgraduate agenda is organised within the student representative body.
To work with other staff in an institution on postgraduate matters. The presence of someone full time will give them the availability to meet with appropriate staff in an institution who need to engage with postgraduates on appropriate developments.
To work with other sabbatical officers on areas of common interest. There will be instances where a postgraduate sabbatical needs to work with other sabbatical officers, and so their remit should clearly state the relationship that they have with other sabbatical officers in a student representative body.
Convene a postgraduate executive committee. This committee will take on specific roles in other relevant areas including academic affairs, welfare, communications and social activity. They will communicate activities within the executive committee and support other officers where necessary. The postgraduate sabbatical may be required to chair this committee.
To facilitate the work of postgraduate academic representation.
To be the primary representative of postgraduates to committees within a higher education institution and also the National Postgraduate Committee. Where they are not able to be the representative, they should hold responsibility for ensuring a delegate is sent to meetings, which may involve elections. They should communicate the interests of postgraduates at the same level as other sabbatical officers would do for undergraduates.
To formulate policy relating to postgraduates. This should be done in conjunction with the democratic sovereign body for which they are held accountable to. In conjunction with the executive committee they will have responsibility for implementing policy.
Undertake casework on issues of importance to postgraduates in their institution. This may involve research, surveys or campaigns where evidence can be used to influence policy in the interests of postgraduates.
To have responsibility on constitutional matters particularly where postgraduates are concerned. This may be for the constitution of a student representative body or a postgraduate representative body where appropriate.
Be the editor in chief of publications written for postgraduates. They should also ensure they are compiled, printed and distributed effectively to all postgraduates, who will often be reached in different locations to undergraduates. This can be achieved effectively via departmental mailings, email lists, posters and a well structured website.
Facilitate communication of all activities available to postgraduates. This will ensure that postgraduates are aware of all that is available to them and help enable them to use such facilities as appropriate.
To be responsible for the budget allocated to postgraduates.
To maintain continuity by conducting a structured handover programme.
There are also important conditions for which a postgraduate sabbatical post should exist to ensure their role is suited to postgraduates:
A term of office suited to postgraduates. This will normally be different to undergraduates since many postgraduates end their programmes around September/October rather than July/August. As other sabbatical posts take place in the summer time, they are rarely filled by postgraduates. These factors should be considered when deciding a term of office.
Election by postgraduates. This will ensure they are elected by the students they are actually representing.
Be a registered postgraduate at the time of election. The election should take place at an appropriate time earlier in the year so that it will not disrupt graduate job seeking plans should they not get elected.
To be directed by postgraduates. It should be ensured that postgraduates are involved in directing the work of their sabbatical officer to ensure fairness. There is no general means by which this can be implemented due to the differences in constitutional structures as well as limitations set out by Education Act 1994 .
3. Supporting Administrator
It is also of benefit that there is some administrative support in place to allow the postgraduate sabbatical to work effectively. The roles of the administrator (which may be part time or full time depending on the demands necessary) would include:
- Maintaining the day to day administration to prevent the sabbatical from being over-burdened by mundane work.
- Assist with publicity and communications.
- Refer any matters regarding postgraduates to appropriate officers.
- Be the first point of contact for any enquiries.
- Assist with handover period and beyond to maintain continuity.
4. Part Time Officers
One of the problems that can be created with a full time officer is that other part time officers on the executive may not fulfil their responsibilities as much and push their responsibilities onto the sabbatical. It is important to note when introducing a postgraduate sabbatical that the running and management of postgraduate activities are not by any means their sole responsibility.
An important point to stress about a postgraduate sabbatical would be that they have a facilitating role, to ensure that they carry out only the tasks that are necessary, which will ensure diversity and full support is maintained within the executive.
- T. Brown, "Providing for the Postgraduate Market", May 2003, National Postgraduate Committee, ISBN 1-899997-09-1, pp14-15.
- "Education Act 1994", HMSO Publication, ISBN 01-054309-43, Part II Student Unions.