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Sarah McIntosh

Postgraduate Education
Sarah McIntosh

The Postgraduate Education Officer represents the postgraduate student body in their education needs and progression, supporting academic representatives and acting for improvement with regard to learning and teaching.

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Sarah's manifesto:

Make Things Fairer, Vote Sarah

 

I feel passionately that education is a right not a privilege and should be open and accessible to all. We live in turbulent times and as the crises of our society deepen, we can no longer afford to be grateful for the crumbs from the table. As postgraduate officer I will fight hard to change the things that we cannot accept and help create the conditions that postgraduates deserve.

 

Education should be a right not a privilege and outrageous tuition fees make the choice of further education an impossibility to many people. Capitalism is in crisis and rather than going after those who caused the problems (banks and big business), it is everyone else who foots the bill. The Tory politicians in power are a generation who all received or had the option to receive their education completely free, paid for by the State yet now their children or grandchildren are being put into a debt equivalent to the size of a house mortgage before they’ve even set foot into the wider world. The financial burden entailed in entering into postgraduate education today can lead to a great deal of stress that affects our academic output. I promise to fight and fight hard to continue the pressure on the University to not increase tuition fees and to join together with other student unions nationally to demand the government abolish fees altogether.

The financial burden incurred by increased tuition fees and insufficient financial support from the institution that employs Associate Tutors can affect the amount of time PG students can dedicate to their research. If the quality of research produced is important to the University of Sussex then the university needs to provide both adequate teaching experience opportunities and a living wage to do so. This issue is particularly important to those students who are studying without scholarship funding. They are often forced to either seek outside employment which can cause time conflicts or potentially force them to relinquish their studies completely due to financial pressure. If elected, one of my highest priorities will be to seek a living wage for Associate Tutors and to monitor the conditions of future contracts to make sure that they are something PhD students are happy with.

A very pressing issue for PhD students at Sussex who teach is the recent capping of paid hours that can be worked. Though the university has agreed to remove this cap, it has only been done temporarily. Tutoring is an important part of a PhD as the majority of students will be entering into academia and will need to have adequate teaching skills for their future careers. Capping the hours may potentially limit students abilities to gain adequate experience. I will campaign to make sure the cap on teaching hours remains enforced.

 

Postgraduate students often come to study with many responsibilities that undergraduate students don’t. They often have family commitments and financial obligations such as mortgages. Often they have come back to study after a long period outside of education and the adjustment required can be significant. I would like to work closely with the Union’s Welfare Officer to improve the support offered to postgraduate students as part of the Mental Health Joint Action Plan. It is also important to recognise the large number of international students that make up the postgraduate community and the specialist support that this might require. As a dual nationality individual myself, I have firsthand experience of the challenges that can come with living somewhere new and possibly culturally quite different. I would therefore also like to consult with the International Student Support team to see in which ways the union can help make the transition to life not just in Sussex but in the UK as smooth as possible.

Often the interests of staff, faculty and students intersect and it makes sense that we support each other. This is particularly important to Postgraduate students as the line between student and faculty is much less defined. Some students may go on to be faculty members or become colleagues or co-contributors of faculty. Acknowledging our interconnectivity is important. Supporting other unions (eg. UCU, Unison & Unite but also local issue unions like RMT) and building mutual relationships will not only help make our voice louder and our causes stronger but recognises that our struggle and their struggle are the same thing. We can only win that struggle if we work together and united. I would like to use my potential position as a representative of the postgraduate community to forge stronger bonds between our union and other unions on campus.

With building works for a brand new dedicated Postgraduate common area not likely to be completely until at least 2020, I would like to use my term if elected, to work with the university’s administration and the postgraduate student body to find suitable alternatives in the meantime. There is a severe shortage of space overall at Sussex right now with a student population that has grown to a point where the university as it is cannot properly cope. Whilst this is an issue for all students, it particularly affects Postgraduate students whose research is a full-time job. Many departments just do not have enough desk space to accommodate all of their postgraduate research students. I would like to work with individual schools, with the university’s central administration and with the postgraduate reps to find solutions where possible to this growing crisis that adversely affects the research ability of students and the research output of the university. I would like to assess what storage facilities are available to postgraduate students, what desk and office space is available and whether there are any logistical or organisational adjustments that could be made to improve the existing space until the new building work is complete.

I would like to lend support and participate in efforts to decolonise education at Sussex as begun by Savannah Sevenzo and the I, Too, Am Sussex organisation. Our Postgraduate community is diverse and the curriculum offered should reflect this diversity. Whatever our level of privilege within society, we gain so much when the voices offered to us are numerous and not homogenous. This is work that has already been started but I would very much like to assist and support in any ways that I can.

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