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Guest blog: Mahamid Ahmed, Postgraduate Students' Campaign

Friday 06-05-2016 - 12:24

This year has seen big wins for postgraduates

Firstly, I would like to mention how the Postgraduate Campaign has punched above its weight this year as one of the relatively smaller and less resourced campaigns in NUS.  This year we had big wins for postgraduates from the #CapsOff campaign to fighting for postgraduates who teach.

NUS was one of the first organisations to bring up the idea of postgraduate loans a few years ago within the Higher Education sector, and indeed should be credited for what is now the government-sponsored postgraduate loans scheme coming in the academic year 2016-17. We started the year off by making sure this loans scheme is available for those aged over 30 with the #CapsOff campaign. I presented evidence to policy-makers, universities, government and specialists about the benefits of lifting the initially proposed cap, such as economic arguments (reskilling and upskilling) and access arguments (widening participation for groups such as parents). The campaign was successful and now the loans will be available to those over 30 as well as having much improved repayment terms and being extended to research masters students as well.

Throughout the year we’ve also been working on the continued development of support for postgraduates who teach and campaigning against casualisation. Sai Englert, the postgraduate research representative, has been instrumental in leading on this through his support for individual postgraduate researchers. We have also been supporting the Fight against Casualisation in Education (FACE) which offers a national network for local campaigns for better pay, conditions and recognition locally. For postgraduates who teach, the PREVENT agenda has meant that they are legislated to spy on their students for signs of ‘radicalisation’. We supported the NUS Black Students’ Campaign in the #StudentsNotSuspects tour, with Sai speaking at many campuses, highlighting how postgraduates who teach can go against PREVENT as they are educators not informants.

We fed into the Disabled Students’ Campaign on postgraduate mental health and suicide prevention, talking to policy-makers on how campus-wide services could be reformed and what safeguards must be in place for better mental health provision for postgraduates. In terms of ongoing campaigns, we are working with the Union Development Zone on gathering evidence on best practice for postgraduate involvement in student opportunities to help student unions involve their postgraduates. Looking forward, a central priority of mine as postgraduate taught representative for 2016-17 will be to tackle postgraduate taught fee increases at institutions and campaign on fee regulation for postgraduates in the context of free education, making sure the loan scheme provides access for the least privileged students onto PGT courses. I am also working on improving postgraduate representation and grassroots campaigning activities. We had a successful NUS Postgraduate Conference in March passing policy on many issues affecting postgraduates, which we will campaign and lobby on throughout the year.

Finally, I would like to congratulate Malia Bouattia, our new NUS President, in particular because she has been both a postgraduate taught student and a postgraduate research student meaning this will definitely be uplifting for our campaign as we have already seen the benefits for the campaign by having a VP HE, Sorana Vieru, who has studied at both postgraduate taught and research level. I look forward to working with Noha Abou El Magd, our new postgraduate research representative.

If you have any questions email me at Mahamid.ahmed@nus.org.uk.

Twitter: @MahamidACES

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