In January a panel of experts from the Students’ Union and the University Senior Management team came together to give you the chance to air your concerns and debate the key higher education issues of the day.
Chaired by Niall Johnson, a third-year PAIS student, the panel featured SU President Luke Pilot, Vice-Chancellor Stuart Croft, Registrar Rachel Sandby-Thomas and SU Societies Officer Marissa Beatty. You submitted your questions via Twitter and the SU website and the most popular were answered on the night. Here are the answers and answers to the questions we couldn’t fit in.
Click each question to reveal the answer.
1. Regarding the HE Bill, will the University make a commitment to current students that our fees won't increase?
Fees won’t increase for current students at Warwick. As a tenet of the Government’s Higher Education reforms, the cap on £9,000 tuition fees increased, in line with inflation. Some institutions have elected to implement an increase to include existing students. Warwick decided not to follow this trend, opting to increase fees for new students only - those who reasonably would expect increased fees in line with inflation.
2. Why is there no actual diversity officer in the Student Union sabbatical staff when Warwick itself is a leading global university with an eclectic mix of ethnicities and sexualities?
Part time Liberation Officers are already part of the Sabbatical team, but the main sabbatical officer roles are reviewed every year by the SU according to demand. It would be difficult for a diversity officer to be able to fill all the liberation categories currently operating, and the associated workload would be too much work for one person. At the same time, Sabbatical officers are all aware of and deal with diversity issues, which does encourage the union to see them as important matters for everyone.
The University is looking at its own diversity through initiatives such as the Race Equality Charter Mark and analysis of existing gender pay disparity.
3. Will there be enough accommodation for the 2017 intake? What plans are in place to ensure shared rooms, hotel costs and commuting to campus isn't repeated for yet another year? Is there any chance of on-campus accommodation for more 2nd and especially 3rd years?
It’s difficult to pre-determine how many students will require or choose to apply for University-managed accommodation each year. Warwick Accommodation is working hard to secure many more rooms on and off campus for our 2017/18 intake. We’re planning for the overall provision to increase by around 1000 bed spaces, with around 750 additional places being created within the University-managed accommodation provision and the remainder from the private sector who are completing schemes in the area.
4. Why is the SU not impartial? The purpose of the SU is to support students, not pursue a political agenda.
The SU both supports students and has a political agenda, since Sabbatical Officers are elected on political mandates. For example, this year there has been a conflation between supporting free education as a principle, and the Warwick For Free Education group on campus. If students feel the Sabbatical Officers don’t represent the student body, it’s so important that they make their voices heard on panels and by engaging with the other opportunities to make change. Student Unions are inherently political and therefore our Student Union will inevitably be a political campaigning force.
5. What have you done this year to tackle sexual violence on campus?
The Students’ Union has achieved a lot in 2016/7 in tackling sexual violence on campus and the feedback has been really positive. One of the biggest things is the Intervention Initiative which the Sabbatical Officers have piloted this year. It’s something the SU and the University have tackled together this year.
Responding to a Universities UK task force established to address sexual violence in universities, key colleagues from Warwick participated in a UUK Conference alongside Chloe Wynne from the Students’ Union. On the back of the conference, Stuart Croft publicly wrote on what HEIs could do post-Zellick. We’re now actively looking at how we most effectively give guidance and support to anyone affected by sexual violence and have committed to reviewing our procedures and practices to ensure best practice is firmly embedded in how we approach this area.
Warwick offers a comprehensive support framework, of which preventing and addressing sexual violence is a cornerstone. We have provided so-called ‘bystander’ training to specifically look at the full spectrum of sexual violence. We have also committed to working with Coventry Rape and Sexual Violence Service to fund an independent Sexual Violence Advisor who will be based with the Students’ Union.
6. Why are is there not more diversity of the nightlife offered at Warwick by the SU?
The SU is currently looking to have more discussion about piloting new social initiatives. Some new nights haven't been a hit, but it’s really important that students tell the Students’ Union what they want to see. The more you tell us what you want, the more chance we'll have to get it right. There is increasing competition from Coventry and Leamington Spa, but the Development Exec is currently working on solutions to this. There is a new partnership with The Assembly in Leamington which means the two venues can promote each other’s events. SU services support students' lives every year and the social events we currently have are really popular and bring in the important funds with which to provide this support.
7. Why is it that students in some faculties get free printer credits, equipment and books, but then students in other faculties have to pay for all of this?
Warwick operates a devolved model in its organisational structure – this allows our academic departments the freedom to select areas they wish to prioritise. It would be against the “culture” of Warwick to take away Faculty autonomy over how they allocate money, but that there is potential for this to be raised with the Heads of the Departments, and for best practice to be shared across the disciplines.
8. Can designated smoking areas with shelter from the rain be provided to move smokers away from entrances and walkways?
We have a smoking policy which encourages all members of our community to stop smoking. Aside from the immediate health disadvantages, smoking is a symptom of broader health inequalities and something we have sought to redress over the years at Warwick. We also continue to work with our Occupational Health Team and Public Health England to support members of our community who wish to stop smoking.
Our smoking policy actively discourages the creation of smoking shelters but locally designated smoking areas can be identified. These should be a suitable distance away from buildings to avoid smoke drifting through open doors or windows or people having to pass through a smoking area to access a building. Cigarette waste should be disposed of properly and considerately in a safe manner.
9. Why do you think only 9% of students voted in the autumn elections and how will you increase this figure?
The SU is working on ways of engaging its 24,000 student members, to work out which groups we aren't engaging with, not just with democracy but in all aspects of union activity. It's important to look at all the students we're representing, including those that are actually not on campus. Elections are not the only time students can get involved in democracy, but we’re looking at how to have a greater range of and more diversity in our candidates this year.
It’s really important that students get involved in democracy – here on campus and in the local and national elections. We are putting in place a new way to make voting in elections easier for students following changes to the electoral register in 2015 when an estimated 800,000 students were removed across England and Wales. Working with Coventry and Warwickshire District Council, the Students’ Union, and the Electoral Commission, the University has sought to address students who may be potentially disenfranchised. To date, our programme will target students at registration, seeking to capture data not previously held.
10. What action will you take regarding Stagecoach's recent refusal to issue replacement bus passes? They have recently refused to replace any lost or stolen bus passes, demanding students purchase an entirely new bus pass.
The University became aware of the change in Stagecoach’s national policy through student media. We understand that Stagecoach’s national approach is a response to perceived issues of fraud within the system – and does not relate to any specific incident at Warwick. Our Estates team continues to work with Stagecoach, and other transport providers, to identify and grow the flexibility of the transport offer. We meet with Stagecoach approximately every two months; although it is to be noted that this is a national issue directed by Stagecoach.
11. Is there anywhere we can get access to Microwaves to heat our own food?
Microwaves, and hot water dispensers in some cases, can be found in eight locations, right across our campuses – including Gibbet Hill and Westwood. A list of these can be found here. We are also actively considering how we can provide enhanced catering facilities in the new 24/7 library.
12. Why do international students pay a lot more in fees?
International students are an essential part of our campus and, in the context of global political developments, it is worth re-affirming the importance of international students to Warwick. International student fees are not regulated, as is the case with home fees. Warwick competes in a global market for international students, and their tuition fees, in part, reflect this.
International students come here to study because of our reputation for having a quality higher education system and degrees that are recognised around the world for their rigour. We have taken steps, through our International Foundation Programme, our induction programme and residential life to ensure that the fee charged to students ensures they receive the very best of what we have to offer. International students report high levels of satisfaction with their academic and pastoral experiences.
13. Are there plans for an integrated health centre on campus? It feels like an external health centre that just happens to be located on campus instead of a campus health centre built around the needs of the community.
The Health Centre is by definition a medical practice, and on campus there are a lot of other services that complement the services which the Health Centre provides. The SU bring in other services, for example Mindbus and the Gum Clinics, and we also have a pharmacy on campus. Our Wellbeing Support Services provide lots of other support and is tailored specifically to address the needs of students and staff.
14. Does the university plan on increasing funding for its mental health services? What training do personal tutors get for mental health?
Our Wellbeing Support Services team has recently expanded, with a number of new staff. We are also increasing our spend on mental health support by over £500,000 over the next three years, recognising the imperative of supporting this critical aspect of the student experience. In particular we have recognised the role of mental health support with the creation of a number of dedicated mental health specialists.
15. Can the environmental impact of the library cafe be reduced? In the café, paper plates and bendy plastic cutlery are used once and thrown away.
The bulk of waste from Café Library waste, along with most University waste, does not go to landfill but creating heat and power produced through our sustainable waste sites.
Our catering teams are working closely with Warwick’s sustainability team to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our campus outlets and are currently helping to develop a policy around sustainability that we can realistically achieve. Many different models have been trialled in Library Café, which is one of the busiest outlets on campus, to enable us to efficiently serve the volumes of people using our facilities whilst also seeking to be as sustainable as possible; we have considered whether a system of hand washing cutlery and plates using large volumes of water and detergent, of using a dishwasher that uses electricity and detergent or using recyclable materials is best – we haven’t yet achieved all we want to but we are working on it.
We always encourage all customers to bring their own cup or bottle and offer a 10p discount per drink for those who use their own cup in order to save on washing up and waste and we do have a recycling bin located immediately outside the Café Library doors – however, articles that have had food on are considered contaminated and therefore not recyclable at this point. We are working hard and will continue to do so, in partnership with the University’s sustainability teams.
16. Why is everything so expensive? The Gym, the Society Federation fee, the Sports federation fee, vending machines, Rootes Grocery Store and food on campus are a few examples. It's hard to get a meal on campus for under a fiver.
We annually benchmark food and drink prices and our promotional offers against the high street, as well as other Russell Group universities and we believe that our prices are competitive in comparison; however, we do understand there is a perception that prices are high. In food and drink we are committed to ensuring that there is a broad range of provision spread across the whole of the Warwick campus and open a range of outlets at all times of day and all times of year, even during vacation when most people have left campus. Throughout the year, we need to cater for a large range of budgets, tastes and dietary requirements on campus; we pay the living wage to all of Warwick Retail staff; we maintain the highest standards of hygiene and consistently achieve the FSA’s 5* rating; we do not cut corners in our supply chain and ensure that all of our procurement meets rigorous and ethical standards set out by the University. There are details of offers in individual outlets and also online.
In sport, we know one type of membership or class doesn’t suit everyone so we’re testing and offering a broader variety of ways to keep active, including many that are free to participate in. In terms of membership options for students, we are currently trialling an alternative ‘gym and swim pass’ that requires no annual commitment, we offer three and six month Warwick Sport memberships, we run ‘rock up and play’ sessions where you pay as you go and we organise many free activities each week including wellbeing events, running clubs and walking groups. There are so many opportunities to participate in sport or just keep active but it all depends on what you want to do. We believe we need to raise awareness of the options and are working to do so. In terms of working with Warwick SU, Warwick Sport and Warwick SU established the Sports Partnership Group in order to develop collaborative solutions for our students who engage in club activity and we are seeing some very positive developments as a result.
17. What are your plans for new buildings on campus?
18. Where is the Vice-Chancellor's promised public response outlining his misgivings about to the Higher Education and Research Bill, as promised at the end of the December occupation?
Here is the blog in which Stuart gives a statement on the occupation and details of his concerns with the Higher Education and Research Bill.
19. When does the VC plan on releasing his statement on the TEF, which was part of the agreement reached with the occupation?
Here is the blog in which Stuart gives details of his concerns with the Teaching Excellence Framework. It can also be found in the Times Higher Education.
20. What's the progress on the Arts Faculty building?
The Faculty of Arts building is progressing well and an architectural competition was launched for the design of the new building. An announcement on which architect we will be working with on the building can be found here.
21. Could the free space on the back of future student cards contain important information such as Wellbeing Services helplines, Security information or other key contacts?
HR and the Registrar are now looking into this idea, proposed at the Any Questions event.
22. Can we have an update on the conditions for part time and hourly paid staff?
The Sessional Teaching Payroll (STP) forms part of an ongoing project to deliver a fair, transparent and consistent approach to the recruitment and remuneration of our hourly paid and sessional teaching staff. This operated as a pilot during the academic year 2015/16 in some departments and during this first year of operation the University worked closely with them to ensure the pilot – which is also supported by a new IT system within HR – was delivered successfully. As a result, ARC agreed revised frameworks for 2016/17, which included a harmonised framework across the Arts and Social Sciences.
The pilot was extended into 2016/17, when the department of History joined existing pilot departments to help us further refine the framework. We aim to introduce a new STP across the whole University for the academic year 2017/18.