Open University Students Association Conference 2016
From Friday 17th to Sunday 19th June, two members of the OULS committee attended the Students Association conference at the OU campus in Milton Keynes. Every two years, the OUSA conference attracts students from all over the world who attend in force, to vote on key issues that affect all OU students, and also to meet, socialise and drink! What makes Students Association Conferences even better is that they provide an opportunity for students to have an all-expenses paid weekend away! This year was the largest ever, and students had to be quick to secure a place. To entice you to register for the next conference in 2018, the weekend can be summarised by my arrival on the first night.
After traveling for 4 hours to arrive at 1am on Friday evening/Saturday morning, I found OULS systems administrator Sarah Couling in a hidden room within the depths of the Hilton hotel with about 10 others, drinking wine out of the bottle…. A precursor of the weekend to come! Whilst socialising was a key element of the conference, serious matters were on the schedule for Saturday morning; reports, talks by the OU’s vice chancellor Peter Horrocks, voting on business resolutions and bye-laws, and the new leaderships election results to name a few events on the schedule.
One of the most heart-warming talks was led by British badminton silver medallist Gail Emms. During the talk, she was kind enough to pass around her Olympic medals for the crowd to try on…. Legendary!
OU Vice Chancellor Peter Horrocks provided an excellent talk concluding with an interesting Q&A session. Peter provided some insightful information about improvements to student support services over the coming year (in response to wide criticism from OU students) including the introduction of the ‘student first’ strategy, aiming to place student welfare and needs at the heart of all decisions. Another criticism from many students (especially relating to law modules) was addressed, regarding tutorage and module content. Module material will soon be able to be improved and adapted by individual tutors, based on the needs of their own tutor group rather than following the standard ‘universal PowerPoint tutorial’ style teaching.
During the Q&A, Peter addressed some key questions, providing fantastic content regarding further education for mature students. Thanks to the OU, the Government is starting to look into, and focus on, the provision of further education for us oldies, rather than fresh-faced A-level graduates, as mature students impact the workforce through the integration of further education and work, much more than the younger generation. A key piece of information that Peter provided was that ‘MOOCS’ (Massive Open Online Course) will be gradually introduced that will provide a cheaper way of taking small 30 point modules that can count toward your overall degree. Currently no MOOC’s have been created by the OU that can count toward law degrees, however the provision of MOOC’s that count toward law degrees in the future will provide huge benefits.
The weekends main event was undoubtedly the result of the proceeding few month’s election campaign. The announcement of the most coveted position of Students Association President saw one rival candidate storm out of the hall in a tantrum (we are all glad that he did not become our elected representative)! We say farewell to Ruth Tudor, a key fixture for the past 2 years, and welcome our new President Chris Pane and Deputy President Nicci Simpson.
This election has affected the OULS more than any year before, as 2 members of the OULS Committee proved their worth and beat other nominees to their chosen positions. OULS’s Sarah Couling was nominated Area Association Representative for England, and Peter Bell was elected as a Student Trustee. Both hope to use their new powers to help boost the OULS’s position within the Students Association and OU. Another key election was that of Jamie Slater, nominated as Faculty Association Representative of Business & Law.Sarah Couling had this to say:
“I would like to thank everyone who voted for electing me to be part of the OU Students Association Central Executive Committee, as one of three Area Association Representatives for England. The new CEC are a strong team and hope to all work together, as well as individually, to not only be the voice of the students, but to also support and encourage all OU students.
As a member of the Open University Law Society, with my new role in the OU Students Association I hope to benefit members of the OULS, by working with the newly elected Jamie Slater (Faculty Association Representative of Business and Law) to open a dialogue and create a stronger relationship between the two committees, working to get the wishes of OU students studying law heard, and working on better ways to achieve a greater community of students. With our handover weekend fast approaching I am looking forward to getting stuck in.”
After the handover weekend in a couple of weeks, Jamie will be in the OULS’s firing line as a direct link to the law faculty. Any OULS matters can now be fielded directly to the OU through him!
OUSA Societies Committees AGM
Just before we put our dancing shoes on, and prepped our karaoke voices, OULS’s Sarah Couling and James Sudworth attended the OUSA societies committee AGM. In attendance were representatives from most societies to address such matters as upcoming society dates, society needs and discussions about how the societies committee and OUSA can continue to facilitate links with the relevant OU faculties. The OULS wishes a hearty welcome to the newly nominated chair Cath Brown. She is a considerable force to be reckoned with, and will help the promotion of all OU societies over the coming year.
Among the various issues that were addressed, key is the upcoming upgrade of the societies page online. Hopefully this will see greater OULS promotion and integration within the OU’s website, and raise awareness of the benefits that the OULS can provide law students.
I’ve skipped over the Saturday night conference antics, instead uploading some videos to the OULS YouTube page (here, and here) of the evening’s geeky debauchery. Hopefully you are able to use your imaginations as to how the ‘social’ side of the weekend went.
A Final Word
The OUSA is a crucial facility for students to utilise, and I highly recommend getting involved as a Central Representative volunteer. You can find more information about this role here. Meet new people, effect changes within the OU, and test the waters in advance of future nominations within the OUSA, or indeed the OULS! Check out the OULS here, and I do advise browsing around other societies, from Balet to Engineering there are societies for all interests!
Written by James Sudworth – OULS News Editor