Postgraduate EO Candidates’ Bubble Debate; a comment piece from Label Editor Katie Wilson. The views presented are those of the writer and not those of Label, LSU Media or Loughborough Students’ Union. Comments are shown in italics.
Monday 16th May saw the beginning of the campaigning period for our two Postgraduate EO candidates, George Hones and Cathy Sun; as well as the Bubble Debate in which they aired their views on key topics relative to LSU, Postgraduates and the new executive role.
The show opened with each candidate giving their opening statements and covering their manifestos.
The debate began with George mentioning his idea to go out and individually talk to 5000 PG students whilst Cathy said there should be two stages, with the first stage being emails, and the second stage face to face as some students don’t necessarily engage with social media. Both candidates seem to recognise that engagement with Postgraduate students here is important, and not just through social media as many students appreciate a more personal level of engagement. The debate begins fairly slowly, but important questions and ideas are raised all the same.
A question from Twitter asked how the candidates would access PGR Students.
Cathy responded with the fact that she didn’t know too much about them and their research before considering the role, but has gone on to do some since. She appreciates that they’re an isolated body. George agreed and said that the research is of paramount importance to their studies. A “pivotal” point for George would be to work in collaboration with Reps for the PGR population. Both candidates are willing to learn in terms of PGR students as they may be unaware of their actual needs. This seems a fair point when considering that both candidates are PGT students, for one year only, meaning that research is of high importance when working to gain an understanding of the needs of Postgraduate Research students who have a far different academic experience to PGT students. Here, George seems to have done more research into the area, but still, neither candidate claims to be completely clued up on all things Postgrad Research. Fellow students on Twitter are keen to raise this point further.
Current Postgraduate DO, Leo Rekiaro, asked:
As two PGT students, do you have any specific plans for the PGRs who may not feel you represent them? #PGEO
— Lt. Leo (@RookieLeo) May 16, 2016
George discusses knowing a lot more about LSU due to his undergraduate degree and appreciates the need to access new international students and students from other universities joining for Postgrad to enhance their experience. He considers working with education campaigns to enable further engagement and campaigns for them and ensuring that they’re always well informed.
Cathy believes in treating all Postgraduate students as one bracketed group- including PGT and PGR students as one group. Max Crawford noted that this could be controversial but it appears Cathy believes that they can all be engaged with as new coming students, or those with some similar needs. George knows that there are differences between the ways in which the two groups of students learn, and would be treating the groups differently.
It is clear that differences between the two groups of students need to be noted by whoever takes this role, whether they are aware of these differences yet is not of sole importance, so long as the interests of all students are shown through strong engagement with everyone to promote unification, opportunities and a sense of belonging in the UK’s “Best Students’ Union”.
Neither candidate seemed to have any solid ideas as of yet; however George notes that there are things he needs to learn and is aware of the need for different events for PGR and PGT. Cathy is asked for her opinion on this. She believes that socials would bring these groups of students together. Educational events could be separate due to their differences in academic learning, whilst keeping socials the same. Max questions the age differences here in terms of socials- but Cathy believes that this is acceptable and that PGT students could learn more about PGR students as a way of planning their own futures and finding out more from PGRs.
The age range of PGT students may be a lot smaller than that of PGR students- some have families and other commitments and would not necessarily wish to be socialising with 22 year old students at socials. Whether these would evolve into workshops or other kinds of non-alcoholic socials is yet to be discussed, but is an interesting topic to consider. Ali Thornton on Twitter thought so too…
Max going in! I'm sure all PGRs would love a punch party social before Stuesday though after a full working day… #PGEO
— Ali Thornton (@Ali_Thornton1) May 16, 2016
VP: Union Affairs, Max Crawford asked another question of the candidates: “Do you see it as part of your responsibility to get more undergrads studying here for postgrad? Is that part of your role to ensure that students who wish to do PG to stay here?”
Cathy stated that it depends on individuals wanting to extend studies as some wish to work. She believes that teachers and equipment will ensure that students wish to stay here if furthering their studies. Academic and student experiences can work hand in hand.
George believes that this would be part of the role following his experience on a masters course here. He noted the “best” university and union statuses and that in encouraging additional students to Loughborough would be beneficial to all.
Kushal Shah also took to Twitter to ask a question:
How would you encourage more Lboro undergrads to stay on for PG study in depts other than sports & engineering? #PGEO
— Kushal Shah (@KushalShah93) May 16, 2016
George believes that this needs to be encouraged early on through Personal Tutors and advertising opportunities early on; ensuring that PGT and PGR experiences and opportunities are well advertised to promote a strong awareness.
Cathy said that advertising is important and the fact that we’re a top ten university is key- teachers and adverts can point this out, as well as how the PG experience is shown alongside the best student experience and strong academic studies.
Another question from Twitter asked:
How do you create a world class PGT experience when students are only here for a year and are less invested in the Lboro experience ?#PGEO
— Laura Crawford (@L_E_Crawford) May 16, 2016
Cathy would plan to capture short term studying students only studying for one year by providing “special expiry dates” to get involved in the union. George believes in ensuring that before arrival students are aware of what’s available. He notes how things such as freshers bazaars don’t exist for PGs. He says how he was lucky to know about everything already having studied undergrad here; and how things such as Rag and Action are “wildly different” from other students’ unions and that this should be taken into account. Although Cathy’s ideas to extend the periods in which PG students can get involved with union activities is notable, George’s ideas seem much more focussed and considered here, tailoring to the needs of all PGs in an accessible and speedy manner.
Loughborough Grad School staff asked:
What are the key differences between a PGT and a PGR? What's the difference between PhD and EngD? What does the Graduate School Do? #PGEO
— LboroGradSchool (@LboroGradSchool) May 16, 2016
Cathy states that she knows that there are different start and end dates as well as the lengths of courses for PGs. George notes how he knows that the whole academic experience differs and how PGT is a lot more inclusive than a PGR experience in terms of learning.
Cathy also noted how PGR students are often treated more as staff. All students are mature, but PGTs are more similar to undergrads. Cathy knows that the Grad School exists, but notes that the Grad School is not well known to PGs and isn’t well advertised.
George notes that the Grad School is the support association and the Grad House is the building, he notes how he has experienced the place and knows the support system available and in supplying workshops and networking.
A question from Yik Yak asked: Is it right that every student gets to vote? Should this be restricted?
Cathy believes that it should be PGs to vote primarily, but as this is the first year it is good to open up. The vote should also be opened for final year students as it’s important to include them in case of going on to PG study.
George says that it is difficult as it is the first year of running the position and that the PGs are the most important here, but in terms of the all the elections it would be wrong to say that certain people couldn’t vote, especially as some people may stay for further study, this opportunity shouldn’t be taken away.
It is clear that neither candidate wishes to limit the voting population for the PG role too much, if at all. This seems a fair statement, as voting is not limited for the College position at this point either. Maybe as the role develops this could be considered further in the future.
George notes that it is difficult to incorporate the two campuses. They are two different entities, but “recreating the experience in London based on Loughborough isn’t the right way to go about it” and that “we need to work with the London committee”. “The amount of students is much smaller and so it’s more realistic to organise bigger collaborative events, less often and more well advertised in order to plan accordingly”. George talked about how working solely with London to ensure a good PG experience is essential.
Cathy considers working with the London campus committee and says that there is a union there simply for PGs. She suggested running the same events at both campuses on two different days for big events. Max questions how she would manage her time between the two; Cathy said that she would research the London Campus and work with the committee for this year and next year and talk to them to create special events for London, as there are big differences and that “events and sports are possible there”.
What would be the biggest change to make in terms of London?
George notes that the London students shouldn’t feel like an afterthought for LSU activities and that they’ve had a great first year as shown in the DO awards at the weekend. The needs are different for the two campuses and that LSU must ensure advertising and therefore engagement as much as possible. He also mentioned visiting students and their union to show that there is someone who has their interests taken on board.
Cathy says that transport between the campuses would enable lLondon students to get involved and people could apply to take part in this way. Max questions affordability, and Cathy agrees that it is an idea and would be worked out from the PG EO budget.
Union President, Jess Excell asked:
In the 1st few weeks at LDN, before committees & programme reps are elected, how would you ensure students are represented properly? #PGEO
— Jess Excell (@President_LSU) May 16, 2016
Cathy considers peer to peer work. Leaving memos for new students to get involved so that when the committee is selected would be a way of passing on messages from previous to new students.
Geroge notes that the gap between elections and arriving is there and so the PG EO should attend inductions for new students in London as much as possible. Ensuring that although reps aren’t there yet, the advertising is sufficient and therefore awareness would be raised and it would convey that best interests of students are at heart.
Max asked: How do you feel about being part of an exec team? What can you bring to it?
Cathy says that bringing PG events, experiences as well as more international things through experience to the team would be beneficial.
George notes that providing info to exec and showing what is needed for these students on how to run projects in order to engage with students on a better level would be of importance. Informing and improving understanding will help the exec to provide better for the PGs. Increasing awareness and inclusivity.
Both seem plausible reasons and would provide a good quality addition to the executive team. George’s additional insight into the running of the union seems valuable, whilst Cathy’s international experiences would bring something fresh and unseen on the current and future execs.
Max: Finally, why are you the best person for the job?
Cathy: “I have been programme rep and PG student for one year.” She says that the rep experience has helped her understanding and in knowing what students want. There are quite a lot of international PG students, and so her understanding is key.
George: States that for the past four years he has been heavily involved in the union, action, committees, halls and Union Affairs Committee, providing an all-round experience of the students’ unions, Exec Elections and hall life.
It seems that both candidates would have different things to bring to the role, but with only one year as a PG student each, do either of them have enough engagement with the PG population? Will research into this be enough? That’s for you to decide!
The debate ended with a few additional comments from Twitter and Yik Yak, namely pointing out the fact that under the Education Act, all members must be allowed a vote; undergraduates always have the potential to become postgraduates and that students can get reduced fees for further study should they stay in Loughborough!
What do you think? Use #PGEO on Twitter to get involved.
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