Olivia Meisl has enjoyed a very active year as Education Officer at the Students’ Union (SU).
She attended 97% of her scheduled meetings, spent just 3.6% of the Exec’s budget, and successfully helped introduce the new Postgraduate Students’ Officer role for 2019/20.
Meisl’s £298 spend was mainly on travel for the Lessons From Auschwitz programme, which she visited in November.
The remainder of the spend has been on catering for the Education Committee, of which she is Chair. However, the Committee have only met three times this year, with the last one taking place in early January.
Meisl’s manifesto is one of the more comprehensive from Officers. In the ‘Campaigns’ section, she pledged to “fight continued DSA cuts”, “work with University staff against staff cuts and unfair pension changes”, and “call for a lowered interest rate on student loans and stopping retrospective changes to our contracts”.
The first point has been difficult to achieve given the uncertain nature of Higher Education funding across the sector, says Meisl, which has also led to her having to “pause” her work on reducing student loan interest rates. Meisl says she was awaiting for the publication of the Augar report to review her activity in this area, which did indeed recommended a cut in student loan interest rates.
On her second manifesto point, Meisl said in a statement to The Mancunion that “the University has consistently said that I will be a part of the talks, in response to my repeated requests. Although this has not happened so far, I have reviewed a paper on the university response should a strike happen”.
Meisl’s other manifesto points include: “Create online records of student rep and faculty officer activity, build a student rep hub and database to give students greater capacity to push for change on their courses, offer more possibilities for student voice to be heard at a higher level of University leadership, lobby the University to support #LiberateMyDegree, and ensure the University IT system has the capacity to release exam dates earlier.”
Meisl claims she has successfully negotiated an earlier exam release “by a month or so”, and has launched RepHub this year – an online tool students can use to find and discuss issues about their degree with their course reps.
In terms of #LiberateMyDegree, Meisl has admitted “it has been quite difficult to change the curriculum at the University”, and whilst “there has been some progress with inclusive curriculum”, she would like to have improved it further. A similar story can be said for improving the power of student voices at a higher University level, as some tangible change has come about but more might have been expected.
Alongside advocating for Gen Sec Fatima Abid’s Greater Manchester Student Assembly (GMSA), Meisl has said she has “advised on FSE’s (Faculty of Science and Engineering) teaching college on where students should sit on committees” and has “consistently advocated for an extra student to sit on the board of governors at the University senate”.
Meisl listed some of her other successes this year to include the student rep party (effectively a launch event for RepHub), liasing with Stagecoach to improve customer service on the 147, working with AMBS to improve access to the new business school building, and pushing the Register To Vote campaign through official SU social media channels.
In her statement to The Mancunion, she praised the work of the the SU education full-time staff, saying: “A lot of the above work has been done in collaboration and they should be recognised for their achievements and hard work!”