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Strategy & Vision
The Association President is responsible for leading the Students’ Association’s (SA) strategic direction. I have a vision for the SA which is ambitious as well as informed by experience. If re-elected, I will review the ?SA’s strategic plan? and, through consultations, improve it’s scope. There are three areas in particular that I wish to expand:
1) leading by example in the local community and forging positive relationships with the town that benefit students
2) being a leader when it comes to national representation of St Andrews students; and
3) helping to make our community more accessible and responsible.
I also believe that the Union should strive to be as environmentally conscious and sustainably managed as the University is. ?Sustainability should be a guiding principle of the Union? and that is why I have taken the lead in completely overhauling the Union’s Sustainability Policy. My revised policy will need to be passed by the new Student Council, as well as the Board, but I am confident that, after months of consultation, that this will be a popular document. It will fall to the next President to lead its implementation.
My vision is for the new strategic plan to establish the SA as a leader both locally and nationally.
We need a President who will fight for our? ?student community? ?in the face of uncertainty and change.
In sitting on University working groups which will determine how its own Strategic Plan is to be implemented, I have been adamant that ?we must not lose? nor undermine? the qualities which make our university unique?.
Representing students’ views honestly and relentlessly to locals, Fife Councillors, MPs & MSPs, and world-wide press has been one of my key strategic focuses over the past year and would continue to be.
Yet, as important as making the student viewpoint known is, it is also imperative that the SA supports students in becoming informed and active as well. ?Transparency, as well as accessible answers, are key to achieving this. Indeed, when it comes the the SA’s external relations, it has been through ?open and honest dialogue?, crucial ingredients to a healthy working relationship, and a strengthened mutual trust that I have made many achievements.
Our global alumni networks are as important to past students as they are to current ones. In a time of uncertainty surrounding Brexit, it is important that ?connections with Europe? are maintained. This year I worked with colleagues in the University and Union to bring societies and their events together under one roof for ?Alumni Festival Weekend ?and to make sure the events are truly focused on welcoming Alumni back into the student community. Looking ahead, I want to reach out to alumni from around the world to help grow the number of ?merit-based? and c? orporate scholarships? offered to our students.
National & Local Representation
National representation of St Andrews students is an incredibly important aspect of the President’s remit. This year, I have worked hard to elevate students’ voices regarding issues such as Universal Credit and Brexit.
St Andrews is not a member of NUS, something voted on by St Andrews students, but this hinders my ability to communicate to my counterparts across the country. It is simply more effective to garner support for national campaigns that need to go to parliamentary level if there are clear lines of communication that cannot be lost after a given election round. That is why I will re-establish the Scottish Presidents’ Forum?. We can learn from other Students’ Associations; we can share best practice, stories, experiences. We can also better collaborate on issues which affect us all.
Town and gown relations have historically been tensive, particularly when it comes to HMOs and demand for resources. There are two things that can change this:
The first is the President’s presence in the local community and at local events;? visibly making an effort to understand the town has made serious discussions and negotiations smoother. I have kept up to date with public consultations on local planning, accommodation projects, and health provisions so that I can contribute the student perspective. I am changing how local leaders view students by joining the local discussions proactively and constructively, as the face of the Students’ Association.
The second is the political power the student body can wield by itself. ? This year I managed to get the Community Council elections postponed so that students had a fair chance to take part. Now there are three new student members. This has almost doubled student representation on the Council. Following that postponement, I made a proposal to the University: that they ?add to online matriculation the option to register to vote?. This is all but secured for 2019 intake, but in a second year I can ensure that this is followed through. The impact of thousands of students registering to vote in St Andrews will not only give them a direct say in elections but it also means that ?local politicians will have a duty to listen to student concerns? - what a change!
Throughout this year ?I have brought your local politicians into the Union? itself, so that students have an easy opportunity to voice their concerns and questions to their representatives. I also worked with the Rector’s Assessor to formalise Polis, a forum for political societies, and I will continue to support politically-minded students.
There need to be realistic expectations of any accommodation policy and acknowledgement that the President will have more meaningful influence on University accommodation through discussions and collaboration, rather than trying to act unilaterally.
I always advocate in the best interest of all students, not in the interest of business; but I also understand, through experience, how the University operates which makes it easier for me to present ideas in such a way that they are taken seriously. I am confident that the projects I list below (and throughout my manifesto) are not only realistic, but they will have a direct impact on students for years to come.
- I will increase the number of Accommodation Bursary recipients by growing funding for the Bursary.
- I will work to improve summer employment opportunities so that students can earn extra money without sacrificing precious time during the semester.
- I will advocate for the University to be more ambitious in the proportion of its accommodation which is fully covered by SAAS/maintenance loans.
- I will advocate for a commitment from the University such that a percentage of its accommodation fees sit within ?the most affordable price range offered here?.
Looking ahead, especially as plans for Albany Park continue to develop, there must be a? variety and balance of accommodation options ?which provide ?value-for-money ?to students. There must also be consistency of resources, ?such that whether you live in a hall of residence, a university-managed property or a private flat you should expect and receive the same quality of living experience, which leads me to my private accommodation policy:
Supporting students living in private accommodation is one of the most important parts of the Students’ Association’s work. ?That is why? I saved the Union's? ?accommodation advice services ?(Property Checklist, Property Viewing Service, and Lease Checking Service) from being scrapped. It is why I am compiling dependable and straightforward contact information for Fife Council staff who can help students living in HMOs and other private accommodation.
The HMO debate is finally coming to a close in April. I have been doing everything in my power to prevent a ‘0% cap on the number of HMOs in town with no room for growth’. But the truth is that once the HMO policy is decided, whatever the decision may be, we can finally start talking about other ?policies that will help students ?and the town as a whole, soothing the wounds from the HMO moratorium.
With a second year I will be able to work towards solutions that offer ?more choice, better quality and lower rents in the housing market? and continue to ?call for new, private, purpose-built student accommodation which addresses the demand for ?affordable ?student accommodation?.
Widening Access and Participation
There are various perceptions of St Andrews, some of which do not reflect the student community accurately. On a personal level, I see a diverse, welcoming, and accessible (relative to many Universities of a comparable stature) community. But that is not the image I hear described to me by many current students. Nor is it the image presumed by many living outside the bubble, including prospective students. Perception and a feeling of belonging are crucial to the student experience - from application to participation to reflection.
This year I safeguarded against removing the position of ?SRC Member for Widening Access & Participation? from our student council. I believe the member’s voice is invaluable to debate and discussion on the Council. Next year, ?I would continue work within the Students’ Association to maintain representation of the rich diversity among students and the breadth of opportunities available to them.
Brexit is a puzzle at the moment, but one thing is for sure - that, should European students start being subject to international tuition fees, then the University needs to? increase the financial support available to international students ?so that competition for such resources does not mean our student body becomes less accessible and less culturally diverse.
More work can be done to make St Andrews inviting to students who do not drink alcohol, to students from low-income backgrounds, and to students who feel they do not fit into the stereotypical “St Andrews image”. Let’s change that image. Let’s make it more accurate - but let’s also make it even better!
Let’s make sure the town and the world know what St Andrews students are really about.
Full members of the local community. Politically active and represented. Part of an accessible student community.