Former President Sofia gives us an insight into what a day as the GU (postgraduate) President is like:
Working at the Graduate Union was exciting, interesting and often quite stressful, but I always felt supported by our lovely CUSU/GU sabbatical team and staff. My role mostly involved committee-work, which I came to appreciate and enjoy. After you read the papers for your meeting, committee-work is all about listening and developing relationships with people (as well as contributing when it’s relevant), which is always interesting. I was a member of broad, strategic committees including University Council, the executive body of the University, but I was also part of committees with specific remits – for example, I worked on redesigning feedback processes for Master’s students. I mostly focused on postgraduate access work and mental health during my sabbatical year: I surveyed 1800 postgraduate students on mental health, and wrote a report, and I introduced a postgraduate application fee waiver for prospective students on low incomes, and funding for a University member of staff to work on postgraduate access. I also spent a lot of time on proposals for a new student union with other CUSU and GU officers and staff. I’ve chosen a day from my diary from March 2019.
8:45 – Cycle along the river to work and head to the Pitt Building, in front of the Student Union offices. Normally forget to have breakfast and then I’m super hungry in my first meeting.
9:00 – I’m excited about today’s conference on widening postgraduate access, and I’m opening the day with Graham Virgo, the Senior Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education. Also exciting – the conference has breakfast pastries. I give a short talk on postgraduate access work, and the need for more specific data, as well as the need to assign responsibility for PG access work.
10:00 – I head over to University Council with Evie, the CUSU President, and we normally chat about the papers and the day’s agenda. We talk about the Student Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy at Council, and about building plans for North West Cambridge. After University Council, we all stand around and eat sandwiches and chat (so many meals are committee-based in this job), and Evie and I get a chance to meet different members of Council and share our ideas.
12:00 – I head back to the PG widening access conference and hear a talk from Rochelle Rowe at UCL about their new master’s scholarships for Black students. Leading Routes, a new initiative to support Black students into academia, recently published a report which showed that between 2016 and 2019, of 19,868 PhD funded studentships awarded by UK research councils, only 1.2% went to Black students, and only 30 went to students from Black Caribbean backgrounds. This is really important work.
15:00 – I head to an EU working group, which discusses planning for no-deal Brexit. Ensuring postgraduate students are adequately accounted for in no-deal planning is crucial.
16:00 – I meet with Paul Wakeling, a professor at York who works on postgraduate access. We chat about his work, and how we can help each other. He’s already been so helpful and sent me data which supported my case for putting a postgraduate application fee waiver in place.
17:00 – I answer some emails and then cycle home.