The Best Student Life. Bristol SU

Undergraduate Education: David Ion


I have just finished my undergrad degree in History, and have been working with the SU on campaigns throughout my time at Bristol uni.

In second year I led the These Walls Must Fall campaign against immigration detention with Bristol City Council, and I've also helped establish the Sanctuary Scholarship Legal Fund to help students who are asylum seekers with their legal fees in times of crisis.

Another area of activism I've been involved in is around the climate crisis, pushing for the university to endorse the climate strikes.

I was also a lead player in starting People and Planet's USS Divest campaign, working with the uni to encourage the university pension scheme to divest from fossil fuels.

As president of the Amnesty society in my final year, I worked closely with many activist groups across a spectrum of issues. I hope to continue this activism in education as the new undergraduate education officer for the SU.

What am I working on this year?

 

Education for the Climate Emergency

  • Create a ‘Climate Emergency Day of Action’ in TB2 
  • Creation of a ‘with sustainability’ course, designed by partnership of students and academics from a range of faculties
  • Embed education around the climate emergency into all degree programmes

Decolonising the Curriculum

  • Work with the BME network to create mandatory criteria on decolonising the curriculum 
  • Get the university to commit to investing resources into decolonising the curriculum

Changing assessment to boost wellbeing

  • Gather student feedback on how assessments can be changed 
  • Ensure Covid-19 assessment changes lead to permanent positive change

Supporting our Sanctuary Scholars

  • More actively engage the SU in welcoming and supporting sanctuary scholars through their time at Bristol 
  • Continue Sanctuary Scholars Legal Fund campaign

Get arms companies out of education

  • Lobby the university to cut ties with arms companies
  • Work with faculties to find alternative sources of research funding

Online and Blended teaching experience

  • Proactively work with the university to create an digital education offering which provides the same level of engagement and value to those who cannot attend on-campus teaching as those who can. 

What have I done so far?

 

March

  • Roy and I have launched Bristol SU's Fee Justice Now campaign - calling for tuition fee compensation for the 'class of covid'.

February

  • The faculty reps, Leah and I have been running a series of consultations with course reps from each faculty to explore what education after covid should look like. This will feed into the university's planning of what learning and assessment is going to be like for years to come!

  • We held a forum on academic mitigations and the January assessments. We planned out what we need to ask the university for when we reopen talks with the university in March. Any students who would like to help shape what we're asking for, please fill in our survey to let us know how January assessments went for you!

  • We have progressed the 'Personal Tutor Portal' on blackboard as a one-stop shop where you can find all the info about the role, who your personal tutor is, and how to book appointments. We're working with the Digital Education Office to take this forward.

  • Ruth and I have secured £20,000 in funding from Bristol Alumni and Friends for student-led sustainability activity coming out of the Climate Emergency Day of Action.

  • I secured longer extensions (up to 3 weeks) on coursework for parents and carers without needing to provide evidence beyond the fact that you have caring responsibilities. If you apply on these grounds and get rejected, please get in touch with me on david.ion@bristol.ac.uk

January

  • Leah, Imogen (Disabled Students Network Chair) and I fought for and won a package of mitigations for January Assessments, including extended exams for students with AEAs and lowering the evidence needed for extensions and Extenuation Circumstances. We know these wins do not constitute a comprehensive enough safety net and we're continuing talks with the university in which we will continue to push for bigger blanket mitigations. 

  • We are hosting the Education Network Forum on 3 February to discuss assessment feedback and begin organising for further academic mitigations for the Summer.  

  • Leah, Ruth, Jason and I finished drafting a paper on improving personal tutoring. Taking this work forward, I will be working with the Digital Education Office to create a personal tutoring portal on blackboard which will include all the information about your personal tutor, what they do and how you can meet with them. 

  • I've been working with Rushab on a fundraising campaign with sports teams for the Sanctuary Scholarship Legal Fund. Thank you to the STAR and Amnesty fundraising team who did an amazing job in a really difficult time for fundraising for the fund in TB1! 

  • Ruth and I have continued planning for the Climate Emergency Day of Action for February, and have been supporting Ella (Sustainability Network Chair) to plan Sustainability Month which starts next week!  

  • Over the next few weeks, Khadija (BME Network Chair) and I will be working with the university to ingrain decolonising the curriculum into the university's process for assessing new and returning units. We're also going to be making a video explaining our work around decolonising working groups in schools and how you can all get involved so stay tuned for that! 

  • I fed into the All Party Parliamentary Group's report on tuition fees arguing for the importance of reducing fees for international and home students and that this year has proven how the fee model is completely broken.  

  • I've been working with national organisers on a campaign for free education, with the first priority being justice on fees for students impacted by Covid this year. 

December

  • I am continuing to push for blanket mitigations for January Exams which would include automatic extensions for students who have three or more 7-day exams in a week, uncapped resits, and lower evidence requirements for Extenuating circumstances and exams deferrals.  I have met with Tansy Jessop (PVC Education) to present our demands, and have engaged course reps to tell the University that students need more support. I have launched a petition which students can sign here.
  • The faculty reps, Leah and I have been meeting with the libraries team to ensure that students have as much time in the libraries over January.
  • I have pushed the uni to create spaces students can book to undertake timed exams in a quiet space with reliable Wifi.
  • I am working to ensure that the University’s Digitally Ready course for assessments includes information about Extenuating Circumstances and student well-being.
  • I am continuing to ensure students are supported in blended learning. Student Digital Champions are now in role and advising the DEO on digital best practice, I am working with Faculty Education Directors to make sure that students are better supported in TB2 with asynchronous learning, and to ensure students aren’t overloaded.
  • I held an education Network Forum with Leah to discuss on-campus teaching and we are committed to making regular spaces for us to consult students and course reps in this way.
  • I am continuing to build a tuition fee reduction campaign and have met with Thangam Debbonaire, Bristol West MP to discuss the support she could give in lobbying the government.
  • I've been working with Leah, Ruth and Jason on improving the personal tutoring system. I'm currently drafting a paper on improving the consistency, communication and training of Personal Tutors based on feedback from our faculty and course reps. 
  • I have continued to plan the Climate Emergency Day of Action on 26th February 2021.
  • I have taken my plans for an integrated masters on sustainability to the Deans for approval. Hopefully we'll get a business case in place by the end of the academic year and recruitment can begin next academic year.
  • Recruitment has now begun for the Sustainability student reps.
  • I am involved in an event run by the BAME Students and Sustainability Networks on making climate activism in the SU more accessible.
  • I am working with Ruth and the Arms Off Campus student team to meet with the university to explore ways of moving away from arms partnerships and towards more sustainable projects. We have had a promising meeting with the university on this.

November

  • I have been working on increasing study spaces, finding sensible uses for un-used teaching rooms, lobbying the university to widen Extenuating Circumstances eligibility criteria, and continuing the push for uncapped resits and a streamlined deferral process in line with mitigations provided last summer in acknowledgement of the ongoing impact of Coronavirus on student education.
  • I have been working to improve students’ experience of asynchronous online learning by providing some formal structures, and ensuring quantity of work is not overwhelming. 
  • I recruited a team of Student Digital Champions to work with the Digital Education Team to ensure online resources are designed with student feedback front and centre. 
  • I have been listening to the concerns of disabled students about being disadvantaged by the absence of Alternative Exam Arrangements for long-form exams. Together, we've ensured that the university will provide tailored support for individual students with disabilities who are worried that the current exam format is disadvantaging them, which can be accessed by getting in contact with disability services.
  • I ran a staff workshop to put together a proposal for a new undergraduate integrated masters programme in sustainability. 
  • I worked with Khadija, the BME Network chair, to finalise our plans for the Decolonising the Curriculum programme working groups. 
  • I worked with SU staff to approve the first application to the fund: an asylum-seeking student seeking financial support to pay for legal representation. Check out our brand-new t-shirts and Crowdfunder campaign to helps us to replenish the fund and support even more students in the future. 

October

  • I successfully lobbied the University to re-timetable a day off teaching in February for a University-wide Climate Emergency Day of Action.
  • I launched the Arms Off Campus campaign.
  • Leah and I worked with Khadija, the BAME Network Chair, to start ingraining the decolonising the curriculim project into the way units and programmes are quality reviewed. This means that engagement with decolonising the curriculum will be one of the criteria on which new and existing courses are assessed.
  • Our Student Digital Champions scheme is moving forward. Champions are now being recruited, who will work with the Digital Education Office to improve online learning.
  • I pushed the University to open non-silent study areas, for students with poor Wi-Fi, for synchronous online seminars on-campus.
  • I also helped ensure that these new non-silent spaces do not contribute to the weekly study time-cap.
  • I successfully lobbied the University to increase the hourly study cap per student, when using the libraries. This would see an increase from 4 hours to 8 hours of study time, on a 2 week trial basis.Leah and I met with course and Faculty reps, to help us assess our position on face-to-face teaching and blended learning, and raised these concerns to the University.

September

  • Leah and I worked to safely increase study space capacity for TB1, and successfully lobbied the University to extend opening hours of all study spaces, and to ensure all study spaces are available to book through the library booking system. 
  • Leah and I have moved forward with our Digital Champion scheme, which will employ students from all faculties to feed the student experience straight back to the Digital Education Office and work to improve it. We’ve secured funding for this project from the University. 
  • Leah and I worked closely with Khadija the BME network chair to develop a strategy for tangible change on decolonising the curriculum, working to ingrain student voice into decolonising within specific programmes. 
  • I started creating a committee within University governance to deliver on ingraining the climate emergency into education. 
  • I secured £2000 funding from Judith Squires to extend the graduation grant scheme to Sanctuary Scholars, ensuring they’re able to enjoy the full graduation experience.