AUSA Executive Committee Conference/Event Report NUS Annual Conference 2009 Name & Exec Position: Joy Elliott, Vice President Education and Employability Reason for attending: This is the representative body for NUS. I was elected as one of the 9 voting delegates by AUSA Council. Did anyone else attend this conference/event: If so who?: Yes – Duncan Mckay, Nick Edwards, Sandy McKinnon, Johnny Keating, Amanda Friend, Jill Bennett, Lorna Copeland, Petra Procter, Christina Allnutt, Kristian Chapman and Anna Mathers. Please give an overview of the content of the conference/event attended NUS Annual Conference 2009 NUS Annual Conference was held over 3 days in the Winter Gardens Blackpool. During that time there were several “fringe” events, also organized by NUS. I attended all of conference and two fringe events – A meeting between International Students and the UK Border Agency to discuss the new Tier 4 Immigration system and a meeting between NUS and the National Postgraduate Committee to discuss a merger. The main conference was focused around a report from each of the sections of NUS UK, questions for the elected officers running the sections, and motions submitted by unions organized by section. Each section was allotted a certain period of time, as were elections and presentations. Conference ran approximately 2 hours behind time for most of the event. This resulted in a significant number of motions not being discussed. I spoke on one of the motions regarding postgraduate issues: (See below) Motion: 604 Heading: Postgraduate Study Submitted by: Kent Union, Liverpool Guild, University of Bristol Speech For: Liverpool Guild (2 mins) Speech Against: Free (2 mins) Summation: University of Bristol (1 min) Conference Believes: 1. That the postgraduate student experience is too often ignored by NUS. 2. That according to research published by NUS, only 27% of final year undergraduates intend to proceed to further study. 3. That the home student postgraduate population is shrinking and institutions are becoming more heavily dependent on international students to fill places. Conference Further Believes: 1. That opportunities for PG students to seek funding for arts and humanities subjects are scarce and forcing students into either greater debt or out of studying altogether. 2. That PhD students regularly take longer than the expected 3 years to complete, causing greater financial uncertainty and in many cases visa complications for international students. 3. That PG's are regularly relied upon for undergraduate teaching; while this is not necessarily bad, in too many cases PG's do not receive the training and remuneration they deserve and an over- reliance on PG teaching causes difficulties for undergraduates. 4. The postgraduate admissions system is too complex and is in need of professionalisation. Conference Resolves: 1. To call for a full review of postgraduate fees, funding and student support by government. 2. To call on HEI's to more transparently advertise the expected length of their PhD's. 3. To press for a review of postgraduate admissions and for institutions to sign up to UKPASS, the PG admissions service provided by UCAS. 4. To research the experience of PG's who teach and to publicise the 'Postgraduates that Teach' charter published by NUS, UCU and NPC. Motion 604: Postgraduate Study Speech for: Liz Williams, Liverpool Guild Speech against: none Procedural motion 405i: parts to delete “conference further believes 4” and “conference resolves 3”. Speech for: Daniel Carr, University of York Speech against: Aaron Porter, NEC Vote: defeated (parts become policy of NUS). Procedural motion 405i: parts to delete “conference resolves 2” Speech for: Christina Yan Zhang, Loughborough University Speech against: Joy Elliott, Aberdeen University Vote: defeated (parts become policy of NUS). Summation: Tobin Webb, University of Bristol Vote: passed. See also the creation of the postgraduate committee and positions for 1 Postgraduate taught and one Postgraduate Research Student for the National Council to be found in the minutes. It was stated that these would be elected at a National Postgraduate Confenence. I would encourage anyone wanting to attend this conference please let me know. Elections were held for several committees. The Winners of these can be seen in the minutes of the meeting also posted here on the website. UK Borders Agency Fringe Event At the UK Borders Agency event we heard a short presentation on the introduction of the Tier based immigration system and it’s impact on international students. We were also given the opportunity to ask the representatives of the agency questions. This section was limited and only a few people got to ask questions. Below is a synopsis: The UK currently has over 80 ways to immigrate or study in the UK. This system was deemed cumbersome and difficult to manage. They have now introduced a similar system to Australia and New Zealand, creating only 6 ways to enter the UK, all of which are “sponsored” options. The system will be based on points, which each person intending to enter the UK will have to achieve. These points will be in direct relation to the regulations assigned to that Tier. If a person achieves these points they can enter. This is a significant improvement over the last system for entry in that it removes the element of discretion that UKBA individual agents in individual countries had in decided who got a VISA and who didn’t. Now, the guidelines are more clear. It has however, introduced several mechanisms that will cause difficulty for international students and most certainly reduce the number of those applying. The mechanisms include the requirement for students to select only 1 institution before entering the UK, higher VISA costs, and the introduction of a biometric card for international students. National Postgraduate Committee Fringe Event Affiliates to the National Postgraduate Committee (NPC) and postgraduate students met with National executive members from both NPC and NUS. A discussion was held about the future of NPC and the plans NUS has made to represent postgraduate students better. I spoke about the unique situation of NPC Scotland as the secretary of NPC Scotland. NPC felt that while they had not had a vote, a general consensus was reached at previous meetings to proceed further with a merger with NUS. NUS stated that they have now passed policy so even if NPC voted and decided not to merge, they would still go ahead with the enhanced postgraduate representation. NUS also pledged £60,000 to Support the postgraduate campaign. The meeting ended with no decisions being made. Several postgraduates then went out for a social/networking session after which was very productive. I was able to make contacts that have since fed into the Scottish Postgraduate Committee. Please outline using the bullet points below up to 5 outcomes from this conference/event: More information on the Tier 4 immigration system from UKBA Giving policy direction on representation for postgraduates Clear campaign direction for a NUS campaign to make sure students get ALL the information and that it is true and accurate when they are deciding which university or college to attend There will now be a campaign to ensure that students who work are not getting less of a wage than others doing the same job A new NUS campaign to ensure that students with disabilities don’t lose funding when they start university or college Was there anything that came out of this conference that you felt AUSA should consider implementing? If so, what, by when and who should lead on it? AUSA should aim to get more students to attend the new conferences that will be set up for each policy zone. AUSA should try to write policy or at least amendments to policy for NUS Annual Conference AUSA should look carefully at how other institutions elect their representatives to NUS Annual Conference to ensure the group is representative, committed and will make an impact at conference.
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