At 2pm, Surge will be grilling the University of Southampton Vice-Chancellor with questions submitted by the student body. Keep up with the interview and read what Christopher Snowden has to say on the NSS, tuition fees and more right here.
— Surge Radio (@SurgeRadio) January 31, 2017
It’s 2pm, so is time for the Vice Chancellor to face the music and answer Surge and the student body’s questions. I will be blogging for the next hour the questions and answers so don’t go anywhere else.
The first question relates to the topic of engagement with the student body. The VC believes that the student forum is an extremely positive measure and has taken away and acted on most of the ideas from the last one already.
The VC believes that Southampton University is going places and is a really exciting University and going places.
A popular question: “What does the VC do?”
“I’m literally responsible for everything that happens here. We are involved in research, in enterprise and have a huge engagement internationally. I have to make sure we have enough money to pay the bills. Today less than 30% of money in the university comes from the government.”
Toby: Is it Monday- Friday 9-5?
Christopher: “It’s 24/7. Yesterday was 5:30am – 00:30am”
Diversity has been a high priority for the VC. There has been significant progress in making the university as inclusive as possible. With diversity week coming up, it will be a true showcase of how far we’ve come.
“We have staff members that fly out to the Malaysia campus regularly to check on students… the first set of graduates graduated last year and many of them had 1st of 2:1 classification”
“How is the university supporting international graduates with getting into the job
“We recognise it is more challenging for international students returning home to get a job… there are many careers based tools we run, such as the CV workshops and careers fairs. The careers service offers a lifelong service to help graduates.”
After a brief musical interlude, we are back with more questions, focussing on finance.
“Several students unions are asking students to boycott the NSS so universities don’t increase their fees based on their rankings and scores on this…”
“We share the concerns about student fees and student debts… the NSS doesn’t have any impact on the first two years of the teaching in excellence framework.. its purpose is for finalists to provide some real feedback… Student fee of £9000 has remained the same for five years now… universities have to be sensitive to the fact that students have to be able to afford it”
VC isn’t a huge fan of the fee system but is keen to provide the best possible value for the degree and so the use of bursaries and scholarships is to promote as many students as possible to still come to university.
Toby “Is the university sustainable with the constant increase in students?”
Christopher: “The university has opened three new halls over the last two years. I completely share the view that resources have to be managed. This year we are putting more effort into new library facilities.”
“How is the university using the increase in fees to benefit students?”
New students will be paying £9250 per year but existing students will be paying £9000 still.
Equality across the university as a whole relating to pay has been looked into. In certain fields, the average is affected based on the subject and age/seniority of professors. The university is keen to narrow the gap in pay and provide equality in opportunity.
“How do you assess the performance of teaching staff?”
“We look at every module, and every aspect of the module to assess it.”
The recognition of staff that do well is important to the VC and so the staff based awards that are put on are a great source for this.
Research is extremely important for the university. Southampton is one of the pioneers in immunology for cancer. Not only this, but the work the university carries out is important on a global level in other departments too.
“How can the £250,000 given to the old VC on his departure be justified?”
“It is set by a body not attached to the university… it was a purely contractual arrangement. The university takes this thing contractually very seriously. We all have different contracts.”
“What are the reasons behind the high costs of hiring venues such as Nuffield theatre for putting on shows, performances etc?”
“I’m keen to help performing art societies… the groups get 20% discounted rates… for groups such as the Nuffield they are running a business. There is a need to make these accessible, so we do this by making other venues on campus cheaper. Nuffield are a private, separate body.”
Satellite campuses such as the medical school at SGH belong to the trust domain rather than the university. There are plans to refresh the facilities such as coffee bars there as the year continues.
An update on sports and wellbeing: trying to get the best deal across the board, from sports teams to casual swimmers. Consultations have been carried out by both the university and the union on the matter.
“Do you have any plans to increase the profile of sports across the university?”
“At the moment, the university funds all the works at the sports pitches, but we need to look at matching all the teams needs with the users.”
A potential break between Semester 1 and 2 has been a popular topic currently. The VC is keen to look into it but the process will be complicated if it is to happen.
Module selection isn’t always the easiest task. There are plans to improve students selection of modules to make the process easier. The VC reaffirms that students should read around before they pick them, paying attention to how the choices will affect the next year or so for your degree.
“What do you think the impact of Brexit will be on higher education in the UK?”
“At Southampton, we are doing our best to minimise the impact of it… the government need to help us with funding.. we need to protect the £18 million we get a year for research… we are looking at how to remain attractive to students. I’m working with bodies to improve connections around the world, working directly with university in Singapore”
“What do think the future of higher education in the UK looks like?”
“The higher education bill has the highest amounts of amendments in the government”
The VC thinks a degree still has a value but in the changing environment, one which is becoming more competitive, universities need to offer degrees that offer the best possible job prospects.
That brings an end to the interview with the university Vice-Chancellor, Sir Christopher Snowden. Lots of great answers to think about to all the issues that concern students at Southampton University.