- VP Education Candidate Interview with Samuel Dedman
- VP Education Candidate Interview with Alexandra Turda
Wessex Scene interviews VP Education candidate, Samuel Dedman, to find out what he’d do as VP Education in the next year.
Why have you decided to run again for VP Education?
It feels like the right thing to do at this point. I know where my strengths lie, and I like to think that I’m pretty good at the Education stuff. I’ve worked hard to get here, and I still think there’s a lot to give back to the students of Southampton.
What has been your greatest achievement as VP Education over the last year?
It may sound like a really silly one, but the changes to the hot water prices have been really, really interesting. The fact that we are now at a point where hot water is free for every single student at every single Union outlet, regardless of whether you’re a Winchester student, Highfield student, NOC student is fantastic. It’s not something people typically associate with the VP Education role, but it’s all to do with study spaces. It’s making the environment in which you learn as relaxed and enjoyable as possible.
That’s probably been my most rewarding achievement, and this was all off the back of student feedback, which is even better!
You’ve mentioned your achievements as VP Education. Do you think you could have done anything better?
Part of the reason I want to run again is because there is some unfinished business at this point. A lot of the points in my manifesto last year to do with printing, for example, rely on the University doing some work too; they can be slow to respond sometimes and it’s frustrating for me as much as it is for the rest of the student body. This is something I’m going to keep pushing, and it is a large part of my campaign this time. I still believe that the printing offer at Southampton can be more student-friendly – it shouldn’t be there to exploit students, and certainly not to make money out of them and I’d love to see my plans finally come to fruition.
What insight have you gained from last year?
You learn a lot about resilience and how to bounce back from things. In Education, there are a lot of ‘big-picture’ projects and things that VP Educations will be working on for a couple of years. It’s good to be able to pick those up and bring a slightly different angle to them, and finding out that even when the University or anyone else says no to you, you think what can I do better? How can I convince them to do something which is in the students’ interests at the end of the day. Bouncing back is very important.
It’s an experience thing, you learn this role, and I’ve had a really productive year.
If you are re-elected, what would be your three main focal points?
People should vote for me if they would like to see the University start taking students seriously. We’ve seen in a number of things; the All Student vote is a perfect example showing that the students have had really loud, significant voices on key issues. I don’t think any of us can confidently say the University is 100% listening to them, and so advocating the student cause, being a voice for them in the University is really important.
There’s also a lot we can be doing to improve study experience at Southampton be it physical spaces, digital resources, printing, access to microwaves, hot water, the whole lot, and also making sure the Union brings its study spaces up to speed, to make sure we can offer things to students too.
Finally, I think representation could be better. I think we have let post-grads down in terms of representing them, and whilst we have made great steps in the right direction this year, we are at a junction now with the changes going on at the University. They make up a considerable portion of the students at University, and I think that they’ve been let down so far, so I’d like to see that change.
The cost of printing is an issue for many students. You’ve mentioned, as in your personal statement, that this is something you’d very much like to change. Do you think this is a feasible policy, and how would it be implemented?
I think there are two parts to this. The first is the University printers, like those in the libraries for example. They have to go out to contract fairly regularly as with any business operations so we should be looking for value for money. We should be looking at the cost of these, and the University certainly shouldn’t be profiting from it.
There are other things you can do to improve the experience; for example, bringing your own device in! We all know how painful it is to print from a laptop at the moment let alone a mobile device or tablet yet these are the things students are bringing to campus. We should make sure students could do this whilst also bringing the cost of printing down.
The second element is the Union-sponsored stuff, with the free printing programme that I’ve mentioned this year and last year. This is one that the company relaunched over the summer and therefore have been a little difficult to get in contact with. I don’t want to spoil too much, but over the coming months, should I get this role, I’ll have some really positive news about some sustainable long-term printing solutions for students.
You mentioned that you’d like to increase the amount of quality study spaces available. How can this practically be achieved?
One of the things that Saabs do when they first take up the role is they go and do a tour of a number of other different unions. I was fortunate to go around and see some really good unions from across the country, and one thing that they all had bar one was some sort of union-run study chillout space. This is something we lack in the Union at the moment, and with conversations about building refurbishment happening at the moment, it seems like a good time for the VP Education, and the Education Zone as a whole, to really start pushing for new study spaces. We’ve already seen part of the cafe now being set aside for a study space, and also Bar 2, which has been really well-received. I think there is more that we could be doing, especially in terms of facilities; plug sockets, tables, chairs and whatnot, to actually make it a space students want to use and know is there to be used.
You announced that you’d like to create a ‘digital campus’ in your personal statement. In order to do this, you’d like to increase the use of recorded lectures and specialist software. With many lecturers reluctant to use recording equipment, how would you achieve this?
This is partly a facilities problem, and partly a changing a mindset problem. In terms of facilities, every common learning space gets refreshed every couple of years, and there are some really good conversations happening at the moment discussing equipment being installed by default, so that every single CLS room, give it 5 years or so, will be capable of recording lectures.
The second point is the problem of changing mindsets, and it’s tricky because enacting a single policy across the university is very, very hard to do. What I will say is that momentum is in our favour at the moment. There are more and more students asking their academic reps, their lecturers for recorded lectures, and more and more are doing it, so it should only be a matter of time in my opinion until it starts being adopted more commonly and frequently. At that point, a policy should be fairly easy to implement because everybody’s doing it anyway.
What kind of specialist software would you like to increase?
It can be anything from the graphic design packages which we have on some computers, which you can get on University ones but they are in a very limited supply, to some very specific software. I was talking to a load of Geology and Geography students who use a piece of software called ArcGIS, which is only available in very limited licenses in the University. These resources are there to be used, but we need to be expanding them and making them better.
The same actually applies to making sure the library software is up to date as well. We’ve all had to wrangle with WebCat at one time or another. It’s just making sure that things like that work and are easy to use. If you want to look at the library on your phone, see if a book’s there – you should be able to in theory. I don’t think it’s anything groundbreaking in theory, but it’s consolidating and developing what we’re already doing.
With the likelihood of UCU strikes in the coming weeks, what are you doing to voice student representation? Is this something you will continue to do if re-elected?
We’ve already been really heavily involved alongside the VP Democracy and Creative Industries with the All Student Vote, we in fact met with the students who originally submitted the petition yesterday to have a chat with them about it. We’ve got a number of responses we’d like to go back to the University with. Equally, the Education Zone, in a meeting I chair, will be sitting down tomorrow to go through our response to the announcement of industrial action. We see what staff are doing; we want to help protect them really, help them protect their pensions. This is balanced that with the fact that we are a students’ union, and so we do need to make sure we are representing the students. I’m about doing very quick action, making sure that students are being listened to. In fact, most Union meetings are entirely public; students should be attending, should be engaging, should be participating. By that way, we’ll make sure we are accurately capturing and putting into play the views of students across the University.
To find out more about Samuel Dedman’s plans as VP Education, read his personal statement here.