Over the last month I have had the chance to discuss many different topics with staff and students across the University.
Many good stories to tell of course, but also some concerns, reinforced by reports to the University Court, and in the Annual Report.
Difficulties with securing appropriate affordable accommodation, and accessing childcare and finding difficulty in getting places for children at the local oversubscribed Council schools, have been highlighted by Postgraduates.
Making a home in the city matters, and must be affordable.
Knowing your costs when embarking on Postgraduate study and research is crucial too.
Unexpected increase in fees makes budgeting impossible, and the disproportionate increases for different groups of students seems inexplicable.
Whilst the University website indicates that for overseas fees for postgrad students are typically increased by average of 5% each year (which is more than the rate of inflation), an analysis of the actual fee increases shows that some 19% of overseas course fees will increase by 23+% in the next academic year.
This cannot be the fairest or best way to organise our postgrad teaching and research education.
Other concerns have been raised with regard to teaching time, unpaid hours, and contractual arrangements, which, when analysed further, show disproportionate numbers of women and BME postgraduates on fixed term contracts, for example.
Knowledge of employment rights is important for postgrads too, ensuring parity of treatment with full time staff with regard to holiday and sick pay, access to the pension scheme, and access to the facilities needed to ensure a good learning and teaching environment.
When considering the ‘student experience’ within the University Court business agenda, I will be keen to ensure the interests and experience of postgraduates, in studying, teaching and in research, are brought to the table too.