Quite honestly, no two days are the same in this job. Especially in the role of Access and Funding, the scope of the job is hugely varied. One day I could be writing a funding bid for tens of thousands of pounds, another I may spend hours looking at a screen and selecting students for the Shadowing Scheme. There is so much variation in the work I do, and this boils down completely to the individual. This short blog should tell you a bit about what I do, but more importantly the different directions you (yes you!) could take in the role, in order to make it your own. So I guess the title is a bit misleading...
Instead of going through a single day, I’m going to highlight various things I do throughout a normal week, and how a future Access Officer might do things very similar or completely different. This should give you an idea of structure, without defining the job entirely.
We all love the CUSU Shadowing Scheme (which just finished!), and it’s down to me and the CUSU Campaigns and Representations Co-ordinator to oversee the entire project. This means a lot of my time in Michaelmas was spent organising logistics; recruiting prospective students and volunteers, selecting students and allocating mentors, organising activities, catering and accommodation with the help of college Schools’ Liaisons Officers (SLOs) and Access Officers. This is heavy on the logistics side and every CUSU Access and Funding Officer has to do this as part of their role, however, with a thorough handover to be created, this shouldn’t be too much to deal with, as you’ll have a handy step-by-step guide of what to do.
This is just one part of the job however, and the rest of the role comes entirely down to what the person in the role would like to do. This can range from outreach talks and school visits, to high level government level political lobbying.
During my time in office, I have done few school visits and talks. This is not to say this is not important work, but for me personally, it came lower on the priorities as it costs a lot of money to travel with little impact. Instead I would arrange skype calls with classes, more commonly those who were worried about fitting in as a working class or BME student, as opposed to going through the admissions process, although this also happened. You may find you really enjoy this ground work with schools, so this could be something you develop in the role. We have the targetschools website which aims to send current students to their old schools or ones in the local area. This means you can get this lower level work done without doing it yourself, collective action and collaboration is always the way forward! This also helps projects like the Alternative Prospectus to stay running.
The other extreme is to be involved in national politics. Now is an especially turbulent time in the Higher Education landscape, with the Office for Students (OfS) growing, the impending Augar Review and of course, Brexit. All of these together may significantly disrupt outreach and access, in an extremely damaging way. The CUSU Access Officer may want to lobby the government to forge good policy, or the university to create policy that mitigates damage. It is important to keep the broader national picture in mind, thus, we as CUSU write consultation responses to the government. During the start of my tenure, Matt and I also went to parliament to feed into the independent review on Post-18 funding.
Finally, something between the two. This year, I created a new outreach initiative called CamSpire. This for me, was a way to remember a forgotten group, as well as create a larger scale structure for an outreach initiative that I believe will have high levels of impact. This involved conducting a survey and then writing a proposal and a funding bid, as well as working with various student groups and access officers.
Hopefully this gives you a brief idea about the variation in things you can do in the life as CUSU Access and Funding Officer. If you have any questions about anything I have written, or would like to run for the role, please get in touch in any way you want! I’d be more than happy to help.