Minutes of the NPC Ordinary General Meeting held in the Leeds University Union on Saturday 28 February 2004
Prior to the main meeting, from 1:30pm to 3pm, Tim Brown facilitated a networking session.
The OGM started at 3:30pm with Chris Neville-Smith in the Chair. The meeting was declared quorate.
Alex Bazin Southampton University Students Union
Margaret Davine Mature Students Union
Hannah Essex National Union of Students
Amy Lodge University of Bath Students Union
Rainy Mears Leeds University Union
Dries Neirynck University of Bristol Union
Chris Neville-Smith Durham Students Union
Benson Osawe Council for International Students
Neil Rzechorzek York Graduate Students Association
Marilyn Shanks University of Essex Students Union
Tim Brown NPC General Secretary
Jim Ewing NPC Project Officer
Tim Roll-Pickering NPC Treasurer
Harpreet Singh NPC Ordinary Executive Officer
Chris Stuart Chair of NPC Scotland
Honorary Life Members:
Peter Campbell NPC Constitutional Subcommittee
James Groves NPC Minutes Secretary
Kathy Davies University of Wolverhampton Graduate School
Chiu-Yen Han University of Bath Students Union
Jane Leslie Liverpool University Guild of Students
Ian Ludgate Liverpool University Guild of Students
Andre Oboler Lancaster University Students Union
Vicky Philp University of Bath Students Union
Aris Samaras University of Bath Students Union
Rachel Appleyard University of Surrey Students Union
Michael Fennell Institute of Education Students Union
Ali Gornall ULU
Natasha Hirst UCMC
Hemant Mistry University of Bath Students Union
Rachel Mu NPC Project Officer
Susie Riley ULU
Joe Rukin NPC Conference Secretary
Andrew Thompson NPC Financial Subcommittee
Claire Wren UCL Union
Hull PGS had also sent apologies.
The Chair announced there had been one new affiliation since the last OGM, namely Leicester University Students Union. This affiliation was approved. The Chair also proposed that NPC recognise Salford University Graduate Association as the affiliated organisation from the University of Salford this was also approved.
The Chair announced those nominations for delegate membership received since the last OGM:
University of Bath Students Union Amy Lodge
University of Bristol Union Dries Neirynck
These were temporary variations in delegate membership from those organisations. Both were approved nem con.
The Chair announced there were no proxies at the meeting.
The Chair announced that there had been no new nominations for associate membership.
Those present introduced themselves.
2) Minutes of previous meetings
2.1) NPC Ordinary General Meeting, 15/11/03, Southampton
Neil Rzechorzek pointed out that his name had been misspelled and asked that the minutes be altered accordingly. Subject to this change the minutes were approved nem con.
2.2) NPC Management Subcommittee meeting, 16/1/04, Manchester
Tim Brown explained the background to the Management Subcommittees
discussion on widening affiliations and the future of the NPC. Graduate Schools should be encouraged to support the NPC financially in ways other than membership (which they arent eligible for). Chris Neville-Smith highlighted the Management Subcommittees decision to appoint Jen Crowe (Birmingham) to the QAA working group on research degree programmes. The minutes, including the decision to appoint Jen Crowe, were approved nem con.
2.3) NPC Constitutional Subcommittee meeting, 17/1/04, Manchester
These were approved nem con.
2.4) NPC Scotland meeting, 4/10/03, Glasgow
These were approved nem con.
3) Voting rights for CHESS
3.1) By-law change
This was the second reading of a proposed change, to add CHESS (the Coalition of Higher Education Students in Scotland) to the NPCs list of recognised bodies, that had received its first reading at the Southampton OGM.
Chris Stuart proposed the motion CHESS do address UK-wide issues, so would like a voice at UK level. Harpreet Singh opposed if CHESS want a voice, then they get a vote at NPC Scotland, and NPC Scotland sends its minutes to NPC meetings for ratification. Benson Osawe agreed with Harpreet.
Tim Brown noted that the motion would expand the types of organisation granted recognised body status. Currently the three recognised bodies are
UK-wide bodies; this motion would add a Scottish-specific body.
Jane Leslie asked what happened regarding Northern Ireland; Tim Brown and James Groves replied that there was an intention to set up a Northern Ireland Subcommittee as soon as possible, with the consent of the student
Andre Oboler suggested the possibility of having different classes of delegate members. Tim Roll-Pickering suggested maybe amending the definition
of quoracy, so that a quorate meeting must have a certain proportion of non-recognised body delegates present. Andre felt this was worth considering.
Hannah Essex felt that, if this passed, NUS Scotland, UCMC and NUS-USI would then have a case to ask for recognised body status. Alex Bazin was worried the motion might set such a precedent. Jim Ewing felt there was a political dimension here.
Following summations in favour and against, the meeting voted: for 0, against 1, abstentions 8. The motion fell.
Following a suggestion by Chris Stuart, Chris Neville-Smith agreed to refer this matter to the Constitutional Subcommittee.
3.2) New delegate member from CHESS
This was no longer relevant as the by-law change had not been passed.
4) Higher Education Bill
Tim Brown introduced this topic. The Higher Education Bill was difficult for the NPC as it had three parts:
The Arts and Humanities Research Council, which the NPC has campaigned in favour of for ages;
The abolition of the Visitorial jurisdiction for student complaints and the creation of the Office of the Independent Adjudicator, which the NPC strongly supported;
Student funding and support, the proposals for which were opposed by the NPC due to the potential effects of debt.
Margaret Davine noted that the MSU would still oppose the Bill if variability was removed but the level of fee was increased.
Tim Brown introduced his motion on the Higher Education Bill. Prior to discussion on points of principle, several drafting amendments were proposed by Alex Bazin, James Groves, Dries Neirynck, Benson Osawe and Tim Roll-Pickering, as follows:
Notes 1: replace "tuition" with "top-up".
Notes 3: replace "tuition" with "top-up".
Notes 6: delete.
Add notes 10: "NPC's existing policy opposing concentration of research funding."
Add notes 11: "It is expected that, if the Bill is passed, the measures will be introduced in Northern Ireland by Order in Council."
Believes 1: before "top-up" insert "variable and".
Believes 5: replace "tuition" with "top-up".
Believes 7: insert "further" at beginning.
Add believes 12: If the Bill fails there is the likelihood that international students' tuition fees will increase to cover the shortfall in
Resolves 1: replace "introduce" with "increase home undergraduate".
Resolves 2: before "tuition" insert "home undergraduate".
Resolves 3: after "Lifelong Learning" insert "and the Minister for the Department for Employment and Learning in Northern Ireland".
Resolves 6: delete "when the higher education standing committee has completed its work".
Add resolves 7: "to include our position on concentration of research funding when responding to the HE Bill."
Add resolves 8: "highlight and campaign with CIS against any negative effect this Bill may have on international students."
All were written up on a whiteboard; all were accepted by Tim Brown.
Tim Brown formally proposed the main motion.
In the absence of anyone willing to propose amendment 1 (to support passing the Bill, if the increase in tuition fees is not removed, in reference to the Bill being voted down), James Groves proposed it, acting as devils advocate. He was opposed by Alex Bazin who pointed out that most of the good parts of the Bill do not require primary legislation. The meeting voted on
amendment 1: for 0, against 9, abstentions 0. Amendment 1 fell.
Alex Bazin proposed amendment 2 (to oppose the Bill, if the increase in tuition fees is not removed, in spite of the positive measures in the Bill). Benson Osawe expressed concern would passing the motion be within the NPC s charitable objects? James Groves replied that it would, as long as it was explicitly interpreted in terms of the impact on postgraduate education.
Hannah Essex agreed. The meeting voted on amendment 2: for 9, against 0,
abstentions 0. Amendment 2 passed.
The meeting moved on to the substantive and moved to a vote: for 9, against 0, abstentions 0. The motion passed as amended.
The meeting adjourned at 4:55pm.
The meeting reconvened at 5:10pm.
5) Motion on tuition fees from students from the new EU countries
Neil Rzechorzek proposed this on behalf of York GSA. The accession countries join the EU on 1 May, but fees will only be reduced to home/EU level for students from these countries from the start of the new academic year. The NPC should try to secure a rebate for these students.
Andre Oboler noted that, at Lancaster, students from Cyprus and Malta were charged international fees for the year whereas students from the other
accession countries were charged home/EU fees.
Hannah Essex reported that she and Chris Weavers at NUS had been working on this matter, trying to secure DfES backing.
It was suggested that the matter be raised at Eurodoc this was agreed, though it was noted that, as most European PhD students were employees on training contracts, the issue might not be as relevant in many countries.
Dries noted that a student starting his/her course after 1 May (e.g. a PhD student starting in June) would pay home/EU fees from the start.
It was suggested that the issue be raised with the funding councils, UUK and organisations representing groups of universities such as the Russell Group, the 94 Group and the CMU.
Hannah Essex suggested a joint letter from NUS and the NPC. NUS probably did not have policy on the matter, but National Council is on Tuesday, so shed encourage an emergency motion.
The meeting voted and the motion was passed unanimously.
6.1) General Secretary Tim Brown
Tim had submitted a written report. He added that hed been working on an annual report and hed recently met Chris Grayling MP, shadow spokesperson on higher education.
6.2) Chairperson Chris Neville-Smith
Chris had submitted a written report.
6.3) Treasurer Tim Roll-Pickering
Tim had submitted a written report.
6.4) Chair of NPC Scotland Christopher Stuart
Chris had submitted a written report.
6.5) Chair of NPC Wales
This position was vacant.
6.6) Conference Secretary Joe Rukin
Joe was not present but would be present for tomorrows informal workshops.
It was agreed to defer discussion on Conference 2004 to tomorrow.
6.7) Communications Officer Hemant Mistry
Midge was not present as he was very busy in Bath.
6.8) Equal Opportunities Officer Habiba Hamid
Habiba had been expected to arrive that day at some point; if shed arrived she would have brought her report. People were unsure why she was not present.
6.9) Project Officer Jim Ewing
Jim verbally reported that hed be working on writing-up students eligibility for benefits.
6.10) Project Officer Rachel Mu
Rachel was not present but had submitted a written report.
6.11) Project Officer Dries Neirynck
Dries reported that hed sent a written report; he was unsure why it wasnt at the meeting. In any case, he verbally reported that hed been unable to do much work; he intended to sit down and restructure his project into something more manageable.
6.12) Project Officer Marilyn Shanks
Marilyn had tabled a written report. Again, she needed to sit down with Tim Brown and think about how to restructure her project into something
6.13) Representatives to external organisations
Tim Brown had submitted a written report on UKCGE Winter Conference.
All reports were accepted nem con.
Rainy Mears left (5:30pm).
7.1) Affiliations update
Tim Roll-Pickering introduced this report. Tim Brown went through the outstanding non-payers for the year. Imperial had disaffiliated.
Harpreet Singh reported that Aston had been through financial difficulties,
escaping bankruptcy by £74 last year. He was hopeful that the Postgraduate
Director within the University may pay up in order to support postgraduates at Aston.
Kent and Oxford had voted to affiliate. Wolverhampton will pay up if they can get money from their students union (next year is fine, but the union hadnt budgeted to pay up this year).
7.2) Financial report
7.3) Accounts and budgets
Tim Roll-Pickering went through his report. The Journal of Graduate Education has been restated within the income and expenditure statement. A
budget to date and a variance from budget to date column had been added, following suggestions at the last meeting.
It was noted that NPC Scotland had underspent to date, because some one-off items had not yet happened. It was further noted that office expenditure was low this year.
The financial report was approved nem con.
It being 5:45pm, Hannah Essex proposed that item 10 be taken next, as she had to leave in 45 minutes and wished to make a point on item 10.1. This was agreed.
Following discussion of item 10, Hannah Essex left (6:15pm) and the meeting returned to the original order paper.
8) Policy responses
8.1) Document to North West RDA
8.2) DTI academic fellowships review
8.3) DfES review of university title
Tim Brown introduced his recent responses. In response to a question from Andre Oboler, Tim replied that all the no comments in response 8.2 were because the questions werent relevant.
All three responses were approved nem con. Tim expressed pleasure that he could now send the RDA document to Martin Harris, and thence to the North
West RDA. It could lead to more money for postgraduates!
9.1) One representative to the ILT Board
The ILT is soon to dissolve and the Teaching Academy will start from April. The next two meetings of the ILT Board were set for 2 March and 20 May in London.
The meeting agreed to appoint Habiba Hamid, if she was willing and available, since the meetings are in London. If Habiba was not free, Andre
Oboler stated that he was willing to be a reserve appointee; he was due to teach on 2 March, but could try to move his teaching if need be. This was agreed unanimously.
9.2) One representative to the UKCOSA Policy and Resources Subcommittee
Tim Brown explained the role; Jim Ewing and Andre Oboler were appointed as tellers. There were three candidates: Benson Osawe, Tejas Parikh (Oxford Brookes, formerly Sheffield) and Harpreet Singh. Tejas was not present. Harpreet and Benson husted; Tejas had not submitted a supporting statement.
7 papers, all valid quota is 3.5
Benson Osawe 4
Tejas Parikh 1
Harpreet Singh 2
Benson Osawe was declared elected.
9.3) One representative to the LTSN working group on the development of graduate teaching assistants
Tim Brown explained the role. There was one candidate: Andre Oboler. Andre husted this was the reason hed come along that day. It was unanimously agreed to proceed via card vote. The meeting voted unanimously in favour of Andre and against RON. Andre was elected.
9.4) One representative to research and teaching conference on 18/19 March
Tim Brown explained that he couldnt attend this event as hed be speaking at a Neil Stewart Associates conference that day. The conference was to take place in Marwell Zoo, near Winchester. The NPC had received generous funding
to enable us to send someone.
There was one candidate: Michael Fennell (Institute of Education). Hed emailed Tim Brown to express interest; he was very experienced and very interested. It was agreed to proceed via a card vote. The meeting voted unanimously (barring one abstention) in favour of Michael and against RON.
Michael was elected.
10) By-law changes
[This item was in fact taken just after item 7.]
10.1) Grievance procedure
Chris Neville-Smith passed the chair to Jim Ewing and introduced this proposed by-law.
Hannah Essex congratulated those whod worked on the by-law; it was greatly improved. She would query item 5 of the code of conduct, however. She felt that all physical hearings should keep parties in separate rooms. Benson Osawe disagreed it was important to give people the right to hear what is being said against them. We were all adults.
Chris Stuart noted that, in a court of law, the judge sees the parties separately and then (if the judge agrees) together. Neil Rzechorzek
suggested giving parties the choice ask if they were happy to be in the same room as each other. Harpreet Singh commented that, in sexual harassment cases, it would be traumatic to make the complainant be in the same room as the person complained against. Andre Oboler felt that if a policy is wrong, it wont be used.
Hannah Essex supported Neil and Harpreet; there could be a charge of racism, for example. In response to Benson, she noted that people making grievances may not feel very bold. Benson felt that, at the very least, all hearings should be recorded so that people could check what is said. Chris Neville-Smith noted that the current guidelines require recordings to be made.
Tim Roll-Pickering noted that this was only the first reading and, maybe, an amendment could be proposed, to state that the default was separate rooms, unless both parties agreed to be in the same room.
Jim Ewing summarised the consensus arising from the debate so far: parties should not be in the same room if anyone objected, and the default option should be separate rooms.
James Groves noted that the law would be relevant here. Hannah Essex felt that the law was not always perfect; the point was that we cannot adopt
procedures contrary to law. Chris Stuart and Jim Ewing reminded delegates that, for NPC, the relevant law is the Law of Scotland.
Jim Ewing made a comment, as an aside the debate on CHESS earlier had highlighted the obligation on NPC delegate members to take decisive choices when this was necessary. This was one of the duties of delegate members under charity law; delegates cannot just sit on the fence.
The proposed by-law was granted a first reading.
10.2) Standing orders for the conduct of meetings
Tim Roll-Pickering introduced the proposed Standing Orders. He explained the background. Once upon a time many years ago a skeleton set had been passed in order to fill the gap until a full set was written. Time had passed and other matters occupied attention, such as representing postgraduates. He had realised the need for some whilst waiting for the Number 25 bus home and
drafted a skeleton, over a decade later. The Constitutional Subcommittee had worked on them further.
Andre Oboler expressed surprise that a wait for a bus took over ten years. Tim Roll-Pickering replied that delays are not unknown on London buses.
It was noted that procedures were needed to govern challenges to the budget, recalling events at the 2003 AGM.
It was asked why procedural motions (a), (b), (j) and (n) required a two-thirds majority. Chris Neville-Smith replied that: (b) is in the constitution; (a) is implicitly a form of (b); and both (j) and (n) were very important decisions which merited a two-thirds majority.
Benson Osawe disagreed with procedural motion (n), feeling it had been abused at NUS Conference. It was felt that we are not NUS, and should adopt whatever is appropriate to us.
Alex Bazin suggested that an additional clause be added, requiring that each debate be balanced.
The proposed standing orders were granted a first reading.
10.3) Interpretation of the constitution and by-laws
Chris Neville-Smith introduced this. The matter had arisen originally at an NPC Scotland meeting; it had been noted that nowhere in the constitution or by-laws does it specify who is to interpret the by-laws.
The proposed by-law was granted a first reading.
Chris Neville-Smith retook the chair.
11) Future priorities for the NPCs work
This paper by Tim Brown had been withdrawn.
12) Date and venue of next meeting
This would take place in May or June. London (ULU), Liverpool and York were suggested. Tim Brown had suggested London to enable their small and specialist colleges, who hed been working with, to see what NPC was like. Chris Stuart and Benson Osawe proposed Liverpool. Neil Rzechorzek proposed York this OGM was originally to have taken place in York, but it had clashed with the Viking Festival. There was an indicative vote in favour of London.
13) Any other business
13.1) Advance notice of AGM elections
Tim Brown publicised the AGM elections and, in particular, the fact that the NPC needs a new General Secretary. James Groves publicised the volunteer posts on the Management Subcommittee we needed people in this room, and people who people in this room know, to stand.
Andre Oboler asked how a postgraduate becoming a sabbatical fitted in with the academic timetable. Tim Roll-Pickering replied that the postgraduate
sabbatical term of office was usually from September/October onwards. For non-postgraduate specific posts, there could be problems for example Chris Piper at ULU had needed to rush to complete his dissertation.
13.2) Any more other business
Neil Rzechorzek gave advance apologies for the next OGM he would be in another country. Jane Leslie suggested Liverpool for the November OGM.
Benson Osawe publicised the visa extension charges campaign. Tim Brown outlined that evenings activities.
The meeting closed at 6:50pm.
The minutes were taken by James Groves.
NPC Policy Workshops 29/2/04
A series of NPC policy workshops took place in the Irene Manton Building, University of Leeds on Sunday 29 February 2004, starting at 10:30am.
Present were two people not present at the OGM, namely Ben Bird (Leeds) and Joe Rukin (NPC Conference Secretary), plus: Alex Bazin, Tim Brown, Kathy Davies, Jim Ewing, James Groves, Jane Leslie, Ian Ludgate, Rainy Mears,
Dries Neirynck, Chris Neville-Smith, Andre Oboler, Tim Roll-Pickering, Marilyn Shanks, Harpreet Singh and Chris Stuart.
Brief summaries of the workshops follow.
Plans for a satellite conference The Future of Postgraduate Education
Tim Brown outlined plans for a satellite one-day conference in Manchester. It was intended as an opportunity to bring together representatives from
student representative organisations and graduate schools, to share best practice from institutions which take postgraduate representation seriously,
like Leeds. It was hoped that the fees could be less than £100, with a further reduction for student bodies. It was noted that the title should
really be changed to The Future of Postgraduate Representation. It could be aimed at education sabbaticals as well as postgraduate representatives.
It was agreed to seek support from NUS, NUS Scotland, UCMC and NUS-USI, with a letter in an NUS mailing. The cost of an insert in an NUS mailing was only £20 to £30 and mailings were fortnightly. Support from UKCGE and AMSU would
also be critical.
Speakers could include Martin Harris, Tim Brown, maybe NUS on commercial and membership services, speakers from organisations like York GSA and other Manchester speakers.
It was noted that NUS subsidises its conferences so that, for example, NUS Mature Students Conference was only £55 for two days whilst things like NUS Black Students Conference can be even less.
It was agreed that:
The conference should definitely be promoted wholly by the NPC, but with supported by NUS, UKCGE, CHESS (etc) at the bottom of all promotional material.
There needed to be a mix of postgraduate and non-postgraduate students attending.
There should not be explicit training sessions, though there would be breakout sessions and attendees would learn from their experiences.
November was the best month to hold the event; Summer would clash with NUS training and our own conference, while October was too close to Freshersweeks.
Jim Ewing and Chris Stuart left (11am).
Ideas for Conference 2004
Joe Rukin introduced this workshop. Rooms were booked. He was undecided as to where to hold the Annual Dinner but it could be in the place he held his wedding reception, which was a bargain the Council dont seem to realise they have a mediaeval Guildhall on their doorstep.
Other points made were:
There was progress with seconding or employing someone to assist with Conference Coventry SU may supply someone.
Sponsorship was confirmed with CSU/Prospects.
Unions needed to be targeted early.
Following much discussion, the conference theme was agreed as a PG triangle (done in the style of a BBFC classification, with the letters NPC
as background in the triangle rather than BBFC), with Suitable for all?
underneath. Copyright may need clearing with BBFC.
Many speakers were suggested; it was agreed the line-up needed finalising as soon as possible.
Conference needed marketing to the media, e.g. the Guardian, the Independent, the THES and the BBC (Harpreet has good connections with the
BBC Asian Network!).
Reforming the QAA code of practice for research degree programmes
Tim Brown introduced this workshop; it was 11:50am. The QAA code of practice had always had a heavy input from the NPC; it was now being revamped in esponse to the HEFCE project on improving standards in research degree programmes and the Better Regulation Review Group.
The big issues were: training older supervisors; critical mass; supervisory load; whether a student should have two supervisors with different research interests; the minimum number of supervisory meetings; and induction.
Amongst the points made were:
Supervisory meetings should normally be at least monthly.
Bench fees should be abolished NPC could run an Axe the Bench Fee! campaign.
The guidelines needed to cover the situation where research is undertaken on behalf of a third party or within a third partys building. Who is
responsible for providing each service? Intellectual property is an important issue here.
For complaints and appeals, students need the right to be accompanied by a person of their choice at both formal and informal hearings.
There must be the opportunity to make comments, formally and informally, in the absence of ones supervisor.
There should be a code of practice for Postgraduate taught students also (this prompted much debate on the levels of taught/research integration).
The code must include part-time and distance-learning students.
The NPC could use its expertise to offer a service to Graduate Schools.
Tim Brown had been assisting with drafting the clauses on induction, which he would be sending to Alex Lewis for comment.
The workshops ended at 12:55pm.
The workshop minutes were taken by James Groves.