I am sitting here writing this the day after the Shadowing Scheme day has finished! I feel accomplished. Deciding how to present a ‘day in the life’ is really tricky because, as with all of the sabb roles, what I get up to every day varies enormously depending on which projects I am working on at that point in the year. The variety is especially true with my role because whilst I can spend a good portion of a week working on drafting a paper for a committee behind my computer, I can spend another few days talking to teenagers during a hands-on access initiative.
As I said, the Shadowing Scheme has just finished. Since this was a very big project, I paused a lot of the other things I was working on whilst running it. The Shadowing Scheme was a project I pulled off with the help of the rest of the team at CUSU especially Denicia, our Student Rep Coordinator, who I can’t thank enough for their hard work. Half of the Shadowing Scheme was very logistic-organising and administrative focused, and the other half focused on the actual delivery – interacting with Shadows and Mentors. Whilst this was a really exciting project to deliver, I do not think that if I recalled a day of the Shadowing Scheme that this would be particularly representative of what my role entails during the rest of the year since the project delivery time spans three weeks. Also, the Shadowing Scheme is something everyone knows comes with this role therefore I thought it would be more interesting if I took you through a different day, prior to the Shadowing Scheme, that I’ve chosen from my calendar.
I usually wake up fairly early, because I insist on not cycling despite being a 40-minute walk from town. After eating breakfast and getting ready, I head in and kid myself that actually, I relish the walk, by listening to a podcast.
I head straight to the Student Services Centre because I have a committee meeting – the Transition Year Project Board. This committee is responsible for the overall design of the Transition Year model. The Transition Year is a Widening Participation initiative the University announced they were working on in 2018. This initiative will be a year-long residential academic programme, taking place the year before an undergraduate degree specifically for those who have suffered an educational disruption or disadvantage. I usually speak a lot in this committee – by the way some committees are less engaging than others. When I think about useful feedback for this committee, I often have in mind the people I personally know who could have benefited from a programme like this. In this meeting we focused on the language the University would use when advertising and communicating the Transition Year to eligible prospective students. After discussing a few different models, we decided we wanted to consult current school students on them. We actioned ourselves to go away and make a list of schools we could ask to consult, with the intention to create a list with a wide variety of different schools.
After the committee meeting, I head to the CUSU Office. Whilst I have it on my mind, I email a useful contact from the Hackney Virtual School for Looked After Children to let him know about the Transition Year consultation and inquire as to whether he’d be interested in being involved. Then I respond to my inbox. I send out an email to Year 12 students who attended Camspire (an access initiative for Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Arab students my predecessor started up) informing them that the Cambridge University Islamic Society will be running an Interview Preparation workshop day. I enjoy working with student groups and societies who run existing access initiatives and hope to do more of this in the future.
I take my lunch. I feel smug because I’ve brought in a nice butterbean stew I made at home and receive two inquiries on what is in it.
After lunch, and coffee (!), I head to Old Schools for a meeting with somebody from the University’s Public Affairs Team. Jess Lister from the Public Affairs team has something exciting to update me on and lots of questions. She tells me that the Cambridge Admissions Office are hoping to meet with some civil servants to discuss how we can match up the Children in Need Database held by the Department of Education (this database contains information on children and young people at risk of going into care, becoming estranged and those in care) with the UCAS application system. She also says that the hope is to pursue a similar approach with the National Pupil Database – this contains information on who is a Free School Meal recipient. Matching this data would transform the admissions process for these students by making this data automatically flagged at point of application rather than the self declaration process. Jess questions me on my experience and knowledge of others’ experience of the current process and how I think this data could be used to improve the admissions process with a focus on Widening Participation. She promises to keep me updated on further progress. I know that access work is inherently political, so I like seeing how it fits into the wider landscape of education policy.
I head back to CUSU to meet with a current student. She contacted me about a concern related to the Cambridge Bursary Scheme. She tells me that a bracket ofScottish students at Cambridge are not always flagged as eligible for the bursary(despite being so) due to a mistranslation of assessment – the Student Awards Agency For Scotland assesses students differently compared to Student Finance England. She outlines exactly why this is the case and we discuss what I can do to tackle the concern. We decide to design and run a survey to gather evidence on the issue. And I say I will contact the relevant individual within the University structure to ascertain how aware they are of the problem.
I spend the rest of the day reading and annotating papers for a committee I have in a few days. I make some notes on admission concerns related to international students and send Edward an email about them as I know this is something he is also keen to work on.
I begin my 40 minute walk home.