Posted by: sarahwakefield | July 22, 2010

Week Six: Being Student Led

Last week I wrote about the idea of a culture change, this week I want to expand a bit further on what I think that needs to look like. The luxury of having time to think about what change should look like and how we can best affect it is one of the benefits of working during the summer. This week our Communications Officer, Jeremy, has been putting the final touches to our Welcome Handbook with the help of exec and this allowed me to go back to my manifesto and consider why I was so passionate about standing for this position in the first place and why I think it is brilliant for other students to get involved.

A student union provides you with a really unique opportunity, the chance to display leadership and initiative in your activities with a freedom that few schools allow while giving you a safety net to sample a wide variety of activities and even fail which no job with profit margins to hit could sustain.  There is the chance to learn and bounce off the ideas and skills of your peers, something I personally experienced through the Mancunion, our student paper, and the campaigning collective, but can be found through any of our 200+ societies, RAG, Student Action, Fuse FM, the course rep system and more!

Our independence from the University allows us to do this in a manner which is truly student led and ensures that we don’t have to worry about ‘being down with the kids’, as , if our representation is working well, we know that ‘we are the kids’. Though admittedly the exec may have a few more features of political hacks than your average student, but that makes us good at working the University politics to make sure the student voice is heard. (or so we like to think!).

It is only through our independence that we can ensure that the University listens to us and we can be critical without fear that they will fire us – only the student body can do that!

In this period of cuts and changes to higher education where the goverment is proposing that 2 years degrees and degrees spread over 5-6 years should become the norm it is difficult to know where our individual Union’s voice can fit into the discussion. I had a long coffee with Kate, our Academic Affairs officer about how we can impact the Univerisity and also the government in the appropriate manner with a well thought through foundation to build from. Ultimately our concern is that Manchester provides its students with the best possible academic experience which allows them to leave fulfilled in terms of knowledge, but also with excellent job prospects,  with appropriate levels of welfare support and a strong CV where they’ve been able to learn skills past their degree programme(what in jargon the Uni calls ‘the student experience’). UMSU has a role in safeguarding and lobbying the Univeristy over the first two concerns and having a very active role in the thrid and forth.

UMSU has a great opportunity to find it’s direction and working out what we’re good at and how that fits into our role certainly seems like a good start.

I’m off on holiday now, it’s been a great 6 weeks, but I’m certainly ready for a break and I’m looking forward to coming back energised, tanned (sort of) and ready to give you guys an awesome year and make sure your voice is being heard right at the top of the University!

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