Interview with VP Academic Affairs; Oliver Bills

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VP Academic Affairs is being contested by Oliver Bills, a Software engineer and currently a student representative. We asked him some questions about his feelings toward the role and on his manifesto to find out some more about him.

How do you plan on keeping students updated?

Using media outlets and putting more information online so everyone can know what is going on.

What do you believe the role of VP Academic Affairs to be?

Its listening to the student voice and hearing all the concerns and feedback that students have and make sure that gets heard by everyone else. A lot of people’s opinions gets lost and is not used effectively. Giving people more opportunities to say/explain their grievances and then take these further. It’s about not letting issues drop out of the picture and staying dedicated. For every issue make sure everyone gets a fair say.

How do you plan on representing students and keeping a good relationship with the university?

I think I’m lucky because I’ve been on both sides. As well as being a student I’ve also had the opportunity to set coursework as well so have been able to see both sides. I know what its like, and it’s an interesting position as you can see the issues on both side and you can bring the issues together. You know what the students want but you know your limits – you might not be able to do everything but you can build a bridge of communication. Talking to my lecturers I found they didn’t know what the students wanted or what they were thinking.

How do you plan on ensuring you manifesto can be fulfilled?

I hope that people see that I’ve tried to keep things as realistic as possible. Even without the position some of the ideas could be implemented as student run. The position would help get these ideas completed fast but they are all things I think with some work and time can come to fruition. One thing I mentioned was peer reviewing, which is something that happened and worked well within groups in my own department. Putting a bit of incentivisation in there can actually happen and become true.

What is your unique selling point that makes you the best candidate for VP Academic Affairs?

You’d be hard pressed to find someone like me; every day I’ve had discussions with people and its something I really want to do. I really care about the learning side, the academic side of university and I’ve spent time running study groups and helping people in labs. I’ve also seen issues develop year on year and it makes you want to do something about it – I’ve tried to put a lot of time and tried to put a lot of thought into the issues and I’ve made a lot of connections and I’m at the point now where I’m ready to go with this. I’m not your typical candidate but its something I really want to do and there is nothing that matters to me more than this.

One of the policies you mention is voluntary peer review cant this work for all faculties?

Yes, you’ve got a point in that it might be less valuable in some areas but a peer review can be valuable. Another concern is how do you get this going – you have to use the people who are interested along with using incentives, a £20 Amazon voucher for people who take part the most for example. It can take up the gaps that academics can’t fill, but any piece of work can have other people’s views help you and is how academia works anyway.

You say people aren’t aware of course reps, and see an overhaul as the solution, why?

The general idea and theory is good but the implementation leaves a lot to be desired. My course this year has people coming from many different faculties and a common problem such as not knowing who the course reps were, in my case finding my rep was problematic as I found online my course doesn’t exist. Beyond that if you try to have a look at reports online it says there will be some put up on 9th February and (at the time of the interview) nothing is up. I suggest a drop in session, as opposed to the current system of hoping course reps are getting the grievances of students through. Putting a lot of time and effort into training and formalising students getting involved is really important to do.

 

That, then, is a quick look at Oliver Bills, for more information on him and any of the other candidates check susu.org/elections.

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Writer who loves covering all kinds of news, mainly so I can have an opinion on it!

Discussion1 Comment

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    Perhaps a relatively ipmsle “fix” would be to add a range of ex science graduates from the University who are successful in a non-academic career to the list of speakers to students. That should not be difficult to accomplish.I agree. It feels as if I’ve been singing a similar song for a while now; I’ve mentioned it on this blog before and in a few other settings. It is possibly a tall order (even unfair?) to ask academics to wholeheartedly and sincerely validate alternative career paths they have had no experience of whatsoever.My thoughts too. It’s hard to imagine it’s realistic (or at least the best option) to ask people to give career advice on areas that they don’t have first-hand experience of. You’d think it’d end up being generic and without the little elements of nuance that experience in an area brings; not such good value for the students.Perhaps in the past most students completing a Ph.D. ended up in academic or institutional research (which might not have the same titles—professor, etc.—but still be recognisable to those at universities), whereas today so many end up outside of either that universities owe it to the students to bear that in mind. (?) Looking over the whole class, so to speak, they’re no longer training the students to be only themselves (lecturers, researchers), but to face a wider range of options.One thought I mentioned in passing in on student advice I wrote late 2009 was to consider working for a year. That applies better to before undergraduate studies or, perhaps, before a Ph.D. (as I did). It might head a few off that once they’ve experienced being in the work force are happy there. (And vice versa. For what it’s worth I did enjoy the job I was, but it was an unusual setting in some respects, having a strong R&D element to it and other benefits.) Similarly, working in a research setting might help students decide what to aim for. But this is before starting a Ph.D., not for those that have already started on a Ph.D.

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