The role of Vice President Education is pretty much self-explanatory, though often misunderstood. This person, if elected, would represent students on matters such as teaching quality, library provision, and coursework feedback. They would be expected to liaise with the Faculty Reps and Course Reps, in order to improve the overall general education experience.
However, many have been led to believe the VP Education has some sort of definitive say over things such as Library opening hours, and QReview. The smaller policies tend to be achievable, while the more extravagant policies would rely on the heavy lobbying of academic departments. The best person for the job would have to be a pragmatist; somebody who can make the most from limited resources.
It should be noted to all readers, voters, and candidates – that Principal Simon Gaskell announced at the State of the Union address there is no money available to permanently extend library hours. In addition, QReview is something which has been debated for years. Many lecture halls are not fitted, and it is up to individual departments to ensure this is utilised where available.
All information has been sourced from manifestos, videos, and (a sneak peak at) QMessenger’s candidates’ questionnaire.
Previous Experience: QMessenger Editor 2012/13; Hockey Mixed Captain 2012/13; QMessenger Sub-editor 2011/12.
Flagship Policy: Addressing disengagement among Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths (STEM) students will be accomplished by by hosting more relevant union events, ensuring fewer modules are taught by PhD students, increasing the presence of teaching assistants in labs, and better utilising lecture capture where available. Sarah also highlights the need to target the rate of drop outs, by running a fact-finding survey, with hope the results would shed light on key reasons behind student disengagement.
Libraries: Changes lie with boosting resources available to students; including textbooks. Again, there is a focus on STEM, as Sarah plans to increase the number of science textbooks, which she highlights as being more expensive. She also touches on using the results of the current VP Education’s extensive study space audit (the only candidate to have done so), in a bid to advocate alternatives to the library. These are practical solutions, although sourcing funding to increase resources and textbooks would be a challenge.
Departmental Disparity: Sarah wants to lobby departments to comply with their “turnaround period” for feedback, while ensuring examination feedback is available in a computerised form via QMPlus, not handwritten. Again, Sarah focuses on ‘STEM’ which would presumably factor into reducing inequality between Arts and Sciences departments. These two policies are achievable, but the individual academic departments would need a great deal of convincing.
Strongest Policy: Sarah’s policy on libraries is solid. She plans to solve the congestion issue by building on VP Education Gaby Dale Leal’s study space audit, while an increase in library resources presents itself as something eventually achievable. And, most importantly, she doesn’t dick about with false promises to permanently extend the opening hours.
Weakest Policy: It’s difficult to pick a single ‘weakest policy’ mainly because there are few gaping holes to exploit if any. If I were to be pedantic, Sarah would need to suggest how she would go about changing the way individual academic departments work in terms of student relations with a bit more detail.
In one word: Powerful.
Previous Experience: New Turn Chair; Employee, Village Shop; Member, Boat Club.
Flagship Policy: Greater library provisions and extending library opening hours on weekends would arguably be Carolina’s priorities (analysis in the upcoming paragraph) but her unique draw is the proposal to bring forward reading list and timetable announcements, as well as lobbying for academic societies to forge ties with, and support, relevant societies.
Libraries: Yes, Carolina hopes to increase library resources, in order to supply more provisions for some students, along with extending the opening hours on weekends to cater for students with different study habits. While increasing library provisions and resources is relatively practical, extending opening hours would simply not be feasible, as Principal Simon Gaskell confirmed unequivocally at the State of the Union address.
Departmental Disparity: The decision to tackle the different policies on late submissions between departments is an excellent ideal. Carolina plans to convince departments to introduce a uniform penalty across the board for late submissions. However, she does not really explain how exactly she wishes to carry carry this out. Arguably, this would be a case of communicate, lobby and hope.
Strongest Policy: Lobbying departments to release timetables and reading lists earlier, without cocking up, is promising. But this would need to come into effect pretty much straight away. Carolina identifies the huge timetabling problems that arose this year, and advocates the use of better software as well as training (probably more of a long term thing).
Weakest Policy: QReview. Many great course reps, part-time officers, and sabbatical officers before her failed to standardise the system. Carolina does, to her credit, offer a vague plan – for instance lobbying departments to install the correct technologies – but money is not freely available. Departments will also have to be stringently convinced this is a good idea – especially that it will not just lead to lower attendances in lectures.
In one word: Potential.
Previous Experience: Course Rep (two terms); PASS mentor; Student Ambassador; NGO participant.
Flagship Policy: Saiam plans to reinvigorate the Course Rep system, by allowing students to select a Departmental Rep – a sort of middle man between the Course Rep and the Faculty Rep. This has the potential to better communication – but I have my doubts. The courses offered by my department, SBCS, vary greatly, for instance in the ways they are taught and scheduling. Selecting one person to deal with an entire department may overcomplicate things.
Libraries: Saiam falls into the trap of promising to “extend Library opening hours during weekends,” which is (I’m getting tired of writing this) not feasible. That seems to be it in terms of library policy.
Departmental Disparity: Change would partially arise with Saiam’s Course Rep revamp, and partially in the form of informal drop-in sessions, or as he insists upon calling them – ‘Chai with Sai‘ – a gimmicky sort of face-to-face meet-up extravaganza. This could help by offering a more personal touch, though it by no means original. His stronger ideas would arguably lie with using technology and social media to increase communication.
Strongest Policy: His strongest idea is that of using social media to increase communication between department and students. This already works well with the Department of English and Drama’s Twitter account, for instance. The message delivery services (via text or social media) would be a much-welcomed policy, given the current College e-mail system shovels obscene amounts of spam, clouding all the important messages.
Weakest Policy: All those which involve finance – these are not practical, and largely populist. For instance, eliminating exam re-sit fees will form a hole in the university’s funding. This money would then have to be cut from another area, where it would be arguably more useful. Saiam also wants to work with the university to reduce fees for postgraduate students, which is a good thing, but, again, not realistic or feasible.
In one word: Flashy.
Previous Experience: None.
Flagship Policy: Say hello to Hassan. It’s easy to scoff and say “Oh him… he’s the joke candidate” – but that’s because he is. Hassan hopes to introduce a number of internships and job opportunities to first and second year students (admirably), as well as entry jobs exclusive to Queen Mary graduates. He hopes to achieve this by, erm, oh yeah he decided to leave that part out…
Libraries: Hassan will campaign with the President to open the library for 24 hours (which head-bangingly impossible) while committing to cut the costs of printing in half (for black & white prints). The promise on printing is not without reach – but he has not suggested which channels he would go through to make this happen.
Departmental Disparity: The candidate comes from a scientific background, so would presumably understand how to increase the engagement among students from scientific departments. Presumably. Hassan’s plans to standardise marking across the board are similar to Carolina’s, but he does not go into very much detail as to how he will achieve this beside promising to speak with course reps.
Strongest Policy: I’ll have to get back to you on that one…
Weakest Policy: Hassan has not thought his library policy through at all. For starers, permanently extending opening hours beyond their current time fame will not happen, let alone opening up the library for 24 hours on a full-time basis. In order to achieve this, the university would need to allocate an extraordinary amount of funding which doesn’t exist. But Hassan also advocates to cut the cost of printing from 4p to 2p per black & white sheet, which would reduce the library’s income.
In one word: Inept.
Again, if you are a candidate and you have been offended by any of what you have just read, just give up. For your sake more than ours. Though if I have written anything factually incorrect, tweet me @Keumars. Voters, if you don’t like any of these twollops, then just vote RON.
Imminently arriving, a full review of our heavyweight presidential candidates – ahead of the opening polls tomorrow.