NUS, Aldwych, Constitutions and servers....


When Scott said that this job was varied, he really wasn’t kidding. There is certainly no average day. Sometimes it can be back-to-back meetings, sometimes days in the office on my own, programming our new website, or programming a temporary website when our old server crashes. The meetings themselves can be incredibly varied: from discussing an extension to Sherfield Walkway (and possible new building over Ayrton Road – watch this space!) to setting out aims for negotiation in the next round of OFFA Agreements. Without spending the entire day writing an article telling you what I’ve been up to (potentially two days – it’s been busy), I’ll try and give you an overview…

I started July at an NUS run conference where they were discussing all the political aspects of Higher and Further Education. This lead into an Aldwych group meeting (a meeting of the Russell Group Universities’ Students’ Unions). The discussions had though – over UKBA and International Student Visas; Widening Participation and OFFA (Office for Fair Access) arrangements, the ‘creation of a Market’ in the HE sector – were all things that I wanted to bring back to ICU and discuss as a Union. As such, I’ve been busy writing lots of papers that will bring a more political discussion to our Union Council – not just a ‘I think the apostrophe in your report is mis-used’ discussion.

Plans for changes to the structure of the Union are also in consultation mode. I spent a while discussing with Scott, the Union’s Senior Managers, Sabbaticals at other Unions, and the rest of the new Sabb team what we wanted to change about our Union: how governance works and runs most effectively; where we need to grow, where we need to improve. This again will be taken to the Union Council fairly early on in the year.

Filming and photoshoots will never exactly be my thing (as can be seen by the picture to the left…), but the Sabb welcome videos took a day to film and will be up shortly.

I’ve started working on some of my campaigns for the year; particularly making some noise about the ‘Value Added Score’ that I believe (and everyone sensible I’ve spoken to agrees) is a wholly nonsensical way of ranking a University. It takes your A-Level grades (so, for Imperial, very very good grades), and compares them to your degree classification (so, like every other University, a mix of 1sts, 2:1, 2:2, etc). The inventors of the ‘Value Added Score’ claim this measures the quality of teaching – but it doesn’t! It doesn’t take into account the difficulty of the course studied, the academic expectation of the University for instance: both of which, for Imperial are incredibly high!

When I’m not ranting about the VAS, I’m quite often working on our new website (not the temporary one, but the proper, swishy one). An excellent group of students (plus myself – I cause more problems than I solve) are coding away and getting read for a September launch. Watch this space!




Paul Beaumont


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