The Best Student Life. Bristol SU

Postgraduate Education: Leah Martindale

Hi, I'm Leah, your Postgraduate Education Officer! My role is all about ensuring postgraduates are fairly represented in University structures, systems, societies, and culture. No matter your background, level of study, interests, or intersecting identities, I will work to uplift your voices in university spaces and beyond!

I represent students from all groups that intersect with Postgraduate life, and will work with other Officers in areas including wider educational issues, wellbeing, and extracurricular life.

I joined Bristol in 2016 for my Undergraduate degree in Film & Television. After graduating in 2019, I stayed in Bristol and started my part-time MA in Film & Television, while also editing Epigram's Film & TV section. Don't let that fool you though, I have a wide range of interests, from diversity in higher education to bridging the Postgraduate financial gap, contemporary civil rights activism to veganism, and Musicals to travel.

My engagement with this role came from a feeling of disillusionment from the university community which changed when I moved from my undergrad to my postgrad. It is my firm belief that all students deserve a student experience where they are valued as highly as any student, regardless of size of cohort, age, or identity, or the strength and volume of their representation amongst the student body. 

This year, I will be working to ensure Postgraduates' voices are heard in conversations with the University, the SU, and the wider student community. I will work on making COVID provisions fair and representative, and on making sure positive change is learned from and carried forward in the future

What am I working on this year?

 

Student Wellbeing

  • Reassess the formative vs summative split of assessment in PGT 
  • Encourage methods of continued & post-study support 
  • Tailored support for PGTs 

Fees, Funding & Finance

  • Increase financial support 
  • Increased transparency and ease of access to resources 

Student Community

  • Support PGTs to engage more with (Re)Freshers
  • Create society comms & outreach to target PGTs and Rs 
  • Make it easier for PGRs to engage in sport & activity 
  • Push for PG Reps on every Network 
  • Increase Postgraduate visibility amongst students 

Digital/Blended Learning

  • Push for clarity in PGRs’ roles and responsibilities 
  • Value for Money (especially internationals, self-funded or Taught) 
  • Good teaching = good learning – PGR wellbeing will impact on UG education
  • Equality in access to digital services 

BME Representation

  • Decolonising Campus 
  • Scholarships & Bursaries to diversify PG student body 

Student Facing Services

  • Training for Student facing staff on the diversity of the student body 
  • Diversify points of access for student support 
  • Diversify the times and locations of student services

What have I done so far?

 

March

  • I worked alongside Isoc, Jsoc, Palsoc and Arabsoc to discuss different matters arising related to discrimination, campus safety and cultural competency.
  • I met with PGR Representatives to work out our next steps for a proposal for increased supervision training.
  • I worked with PGR teaching representatives to discuss issues in pay and workers' rights.
  • I worked alongside other Officers on the tuition fee campaign to ensure PGT and unregulated fee students' voices are heard.
  • I continued to work on a project intending to increase institutional work opportunities for WP students.
  • I have been working with our PGR representatives to investigate cultural and systematic issues with HPT payments, and to raise their concerns to SMT.
  • I worked with the BDC on developing a deep-dive into EDI in the PGR community with an incoming staff member.
  • Worked with Roy, David, and UoB SMT on a series of work surrounding cheating and plagiarism: academic quality, practices, and integrity; contract cheating and student vulnerability; clarity in academic regulations and what constitutes academic disintegrity.
  • Worked with David to protect students’ rights to academic support and Extenuating Circumstances in the Student Circumstances working group. 

January

  • I secured a package of academic mitigations, which includes an agreement that the methods for classifying taught postgraduate Masters’ degrees in 20/21 will be revised.

  • I met with UCU to discuss staff concerns and to re-engage in our friendly working relationship after the Winter break.

  • I attended the University Postgraduate Research Committee and developed on plans going forward for the coming year, including discussions around UKRI funding and the implications of this lockdown.

  • I met with the Bristol SU Network Chairs to discuss their letter to the PVC for Education regarding academic mitigations, and created a plan of action with the Education Network Committee for a campaign going forward.

November

  • I have continued to work with Ruth, David, and Jason on improving the personal tutoring system for PGTs – making this system more accessible, useful, and engaging for PGTs by improving tutor training.

  • I met with Robert Kerse and Erik Lithander to assess the changes in PGT fees, and to discuss transparency around fee increases for students.

  • I sought PGR feedback to shape my position on face-to-face teaching and understand the implications for PGR students who teach. 

  • I am developing a series of funding proposals to present to the university and NUS to make PG study as affordable as possible for all PGT and PGR students.

October

  • I worked with Roy, Bristol Voices & the BDC on PG and International Students' Buddy Systems (respectively). 

  • I worked with Jason on best practice and good conduct online to try and minimise instances of student bullying, disrespect, and sexist harassment on Blackboard (including targeting staff).

  • During lockdown planning, I ensured Postgraduates in halls received vital supplies such as food, medicine and mental wellbeing support. I also ensured they were included in planning around planning around community building.

  • David 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.

  • I worked with the University and researchers to reassess the Personal Tutoring structure to make it more applicable, useful, and relevant to PGTs.

  • I worked with David, BILT, and others to bring decolonising the curriculum to the forefront of our teaching agenda.

  • I worked with the University comms team to help ensure that PGR facing comms are PGR specific and relevant, so students get the information they need. 

September

  • David 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. 

  • David 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.

  • David 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.