SU Elections: VP Education

Thinking of running for one of the four full-time Sabbatical Officer roles in this year's SU Elections?

To give you a flavour of what being a Sabb entails, we've enlisted the help of our current Officers who took time to answer questions including what their roles entail, what they've achieved so far, what they've gained from the role, and what their experience of running in an election was like.

Next up is VP Education Alissa Chohan, who will be sharing her experience in the role as she looks back to some of the most important moments.

What do you do on an average day?

The role of the VP Education is to represent students’ academic interests and this can take many forms. It includes running the Academic Rep System, working on campaigns to improve students’ academic experience and sitting on high-level college committees with Schools and members of senior management of the University to lobby for change and to work together to make student life better.

So what do I get up to on an average day being VP Education? Naturally, the landscape of the role has been slightly different this year due to the pandemic, which has caused a lot of reactive work, such as being involved in Rapid Response meetings with the University every morning to discuss major matters relating to student life and academic matters that need resolving. Nevertheless, a huge positive that has come out of this is the strong working relationship we have developed with the University, meaning we are able to input the Student Voice in key discussions, which has a real impact on students’ university life.

Aside from these regular meetings, I am involved in various working groups, such as working on plans and improvements to the Flexible Education model, developing the Access and Participation levels and attainment rates for underrepresented students. I also sit on top education committees such as Academic Board and Quality Assurance and Standards Committee, as well as being a Trustee of the Students’ Union.

I also play a key part in the Academic Rep system, holding regular meetings with the School Reps in particular and hosting Q&A sessions for key pieces of communication that is released to students and hosting development sessions. A key event that is run each year by the VP Education is the Academic Rep Conference, where a range of exciting events and workshops take place that build upon skills, facilitate discussions on key topics such as inclusive education and often involve a keynote external speaker. This is a great way of engaging reps and adding to the skills they gain from university.

One of the key uses of my time is working on manifesto projects – work that I got voted into the role on the premise of. This includes developing Student Insight Reports such as the Digital Education Experience 2.0 report, the upcoming Joint Honours Student Insight report and working to provide a more accessible careers service.

What have you done so far?

As mentioned above, I delivered the Digital Education Experience 2.0 report last term. This report involved the results of a survey completed by over a thousand students detailing their experience of Digital education so far this year, along with the various services the college provides. From the responses gathered, we collated a series of twenty recommendations that were presented to the University at various levels. They then collated a series of responses and changes that are to be implemented to improve your student experience.

I have also worked very closely with the University around the dynamics of exams and assessments this year and regulations to be put in place to ensure that students are not academically disadvantaged as a result of the pandemic. This includes working with them to extend the specifications for the extensions policy and putting policies in place to support students – more information on this to follow.

And, I’ve also been working hard with the team at the SU to produce a plan for the upcoming Joint Honours Student Voice Report that aims to gain some detailed findings over how Joint Honours students can be supported further, for example, with clashing assessment deadlines, communication and tutors. You’ll hear more about this soon!

What have you gained?

Where to start?! I have gained so much from being in this role despite being only a few weeks into Term Two. I think above everything else, I have learnt how to react quickly and adapt to new scenarios and deal with issues quickly, seeing as the landscape of the pandemic and the challenges that the pandemic poses is constantly changing. It has certainly been a big lesson in crisis management!

Aside from that, I have learnt key skills, developing time-management and organisation which is key as it is such a busy role. Although it was difficult coming into the role and working with new people in a virtual environment, I have had the pleasure of working with some amazing and supportive people which is one of the reasons I love the job so much; you are constantly challenged to better yourself and the work that you do, all for the benefit of students. It’s also lovely when that hard work pays off and you get good feedback from students.

What has been your biggest challenge?

My biggest challenge has to be trying to achieve everything I set out before the pandemic hit. When I ran for the role I had my manifesto set out with everything I wanted to achieve and then so much reactive work was thrown into the mix (and continues to be), that it is extremely hard to dedicate time to still achieving these goals. Although this can be frustrating, the role is to represent students’ academic interests and this reactive work sometimes does have to take priority. Nevertheless, with the support of the teams around me, I am well on the way to turning some of my manifesto aims into reality!

Your Election Experience

Running in the election was such a last-minute decision for me…but it was 100% the right one. Even with the challenges, this role has given, I would not have changed my decision. I have learnt so much and what’s the point in things being easy all the time!

It was an amazing feeling when I actually won, knowing I had the support of everyone around me. The unique thing about this role and being voted in is although it is nerve-wracking putting yourself out there, it pays off if you win and you have the confidence that you were voted in for a reason. Support and advice are readily available throughout the election process and you don’t have to do it alone! You can have your own campaign team around you to pick you up and give you the confidence you need! Even if you don’t feel you have a strong team around you, all you need are some good ideas for a manifesto, a strong campaign, a bit of confidence and see what happens! At the end of the day you have nothing to lose, but so much to gain from the experience!

If you have any questions or just want to chat to me about the VP Education role, please drop me a message on Facebook or an email at vpeducation@su.rhul.ac.uk.

Stand for election

Like the sound of what you've read? Nominations in the SU Elections are now open – get more info and nominate yourself below, or drop an email to natalie.bates@su.rhul.ac.uk.

Read the Job Description

Stand for election

Nominations close at 4pm on Friday 12 February.