In October 2015 University Council, the University’s senior operational governing committee, announced an intention to review the structure of representation for Graduate students across the Collegiate institution. CUSU understands the review originated from concerns, communicated to the Council by the supervision committee of students’ unions, that consistent issues concerning the GU’s organisation may have distracted the GU from its primary function, to represent graduate students.
This article is provided for students who may be concerned about any forthcoming developments concerning student representation at Cambridge. CUSU and the GU have discussed different approaches to graduate representation. Whatever the outcome of the review, both unions are united in the aim to ensure that Graduate interests are safeguarded and advanced at the institution; both unions have consulted members widely and shared perspectives; and both unions are committed to working together be that more closely or as independent student-led bodies.
Both central students’ unions, CUSU and the GU, were invited to input into the review, and the unions were informed that MCR committees and representatives across Cambridge would be consulted as part of the review. A survey sent by the University to Graduate members suggested that, included in the review, the review panel would question the validity of two central students’ unions representing the same membership and sought students’ views on how satisfied they were that their views were being represented.
Graduate representation is a core part of what CUSU does, and the existence of high quality, well-supported representation of Graduates by Graduates is important to CUSU’s values. CUSU is therefore supportive of the GU’s new President, Chad Allen, who ran on a remit to reform and improve the GU’s governance, and the CUSU Team look forward to working closely with Chad on a number of central Graduate concerns in the coming year that CUSU knows are important, from better pay terms and support for PGR teaching responsibilities, to consistency in PGT teaching and contact time; from providing better handover support to MCR committees, who we understand many graduates feel closer to, to better understanding the funding concerns of mature students. CUSU’s annual Big Cambridge Survey will be released later in the Term, which attracted 4,000 responses last year and of which 38% were Graduates, alongside consultation and feedback with and from Graduates and their elected representatives, will continue to inform CUSU’s work with and for Graduate students, often in partnership with the GU President and shared CUSU-GU Welfare and Rights Officer.
In recent years CUSU has agreed improvements to graduate reporting system, clarified the role of graduate tutors, distributed more accurate information about taught MAs to students and reviewed taught MA value proposition to students. More recently it has worked independently and with the University on consultation responses to the Nurse review of Higher Education funding and the Teaching Excellence Framework, including recognising the role of graduate teachers in the latter (e.g. grad students formed a significant proportion of the 265 nominations to CUSU’s Student Led Teaching Awards in 2015).
In CUSU’s 2014-17 Strategic Plan, CUSU established a long-term goal to be closer to the Graduate Union, and in particular, to seek a model of sharing resources and reducing administration of the organisational aspects of the unions. CUSU’s argument for this is primarily based upon efficacy and economies of scale, and CUSU sees no reason Graduates cannot continue to represent Graduate students should spaces, services (e.g. shops) and staff support be shared. This closeness also need not infer an abolition of the GU, however CUSU does consider that Cambridge students can often be unaware of how and which representatives represent them across their University experience.
CUSU is reluctant to speak further about the University’s consultation on graduate representation before the University provides its decisions/recommendations in full. At current, CUSU and the GU both represent graduate students; this right now is a shared priority until we know more of the University’s recommendations.
In any situation, CUSU and the GU continue to get on well, share a sabbatical officer and run shared services. The unions are also now co-located at 17 Mill Lane and are looking forward to more collaborative approaches to service-delivery, more joint work in representing students interests, and in developing the student spaces at the unions’ building.