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Looking back...and looking forward

Monday 04-07-2016 - 11:16

What a busy year 2015/16 has been! From Scottish elections and the EU Referendum to campaigning for student support reform and working on widening access, students have been at the heart of debate this year - and NUS Scotland has been pivotal in making student voices heard.
 
As we approach the start of the new officer year, let’s take stock with a round-up of our key achievements. 
 
2015
In September Emily held liberation and sport training in students associations.

In October we marked National Care Leavers week with Who Cares Scotland, highlighting out work to ensure better representation of care leavers.

October also saw us attend Labour, Lib Dem, Green and SNP conferences, holding a fringe meeting on higher education with NUS UK and Million + at SNP conference.

Discussions around the Teaching Excellence Framework began in October and have continued throughout the year, particularly since the HE green paper in December.

Also in October, Rob led Education and Work workshops in Students Associations. These focused on education, work experience and work.

In November we worked with NUS UK on the #CutTheCosts lobby in protest to £9k tuition fees in England. This included meeting MPs, and taking part in a mass lobby of Parliament in early December.

The interim report from the Commission on Widening Access was published. Vonnie – a commissioner – commented that it must go further.

Also in November we held Zone Conference, and our first ever Presidents’ Summit.

In December we launched a campaign calling for changes to the draft budget calling for this to include fairer financial support for college students. We also evaluated and responded to the Westminster HE Green paper

Also in December we launched the first stage of our Scottish Parliament elections campaign Shaping Scotland’s Future, sending out campaign packs to enable our member Students’ Associations to run voter registration campaigns.

2016
In January the Housing (Tenancies) Bill passed at Stage One. We held our 'Housing is a human right' event to update SAs and encouraged MSPs to support this Bill for the positive impact it will have on students in the private rented sector. 

Also in January we launched a Liberation and Learning campaign pack, offering student associations’ support and advice on launching their own liberation campaigns.

On 14 January we held our second Presidents’ Summit. Presidents took part in a parliamentary lobby, meeting with their local MSPs to discuss shortfalls in the upcoming budget and the interests of students in the lead up to SP16.

On 15 January our Women’s Campaign held the parliamentary event ‘Lead the Way’. This brought women from across Scotland together to discuss women in leadership.

February marked several awareness drives. We marked student mental health awareness day, highlighting the rising number of students seeking support for mental ill-health and outlining the work of NUS Scotland’s Think Positive project.

We also held a week long elobby event, calling for the Scottish Government’s budget to address the shortfall in college funding.

Finally, we worked with the electoral commission to mark National Voter Registration week by encouraging voter registration drives on campuses.

Also in February, we marked Modern Apprenticeship Week and Rob held engagement events with the National Society of Apprentices in colleges across Scotland.

Throughout February and March, we represented students at party conferences. Here we discussed our three Shaping Scotland’s Future campaign asks with candidates. We had stalls at each event, as well as a fringe event at SNP party conference.

In March, the student movement united for the #SaveLord campaign to fight the deportation of Strathclyde University student Lord Apetsi. Students held demos in Scotland and London, MSPs and MPs were lobbied and our campaign attained national press attention. We managed to halt Lord’s deportation – but the fight continues.

March also saw the publication of the Commission on Widening Access report, which includes a majority of NUS Scotland’s asks within its final recommendations to Scottish Government.

In response to the CoWA report, Nicola Sturgeon announced plans to appoint a commissioner for fair access.

At NUS Scotland Conference, we launched our Shaping Scotland’s Future Manifesto outlining our demands for fairer student support. Photos are here.

200 students marched to Parliament for our National Demo to make sure MSPs heard our demands for fairer student support. Photos from the day here.

In March the HE governance bill passed. NUS Scotland welcomed the act as a step forward in making university governance more transparent.

The National Society of Apprentices Scotland launched their election manifesto, calling for fairness, gender equality, and council tax exemption.

In April First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, Labour leader Kezia Dugdale, Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie, Green leader Patrick Harvie and Tory MSP Adam Tomkins took part in our National Hustings, which was covered by BBC Scotland. Photos from the debate can be found here.

Ahead of the Scottish Parliamentary elections, the 5 main parties made a series of commitments in response to our Shaping Scotland’s Future campaign.

After weeks of intense campaigning, Lord’s fight to remain in the UK received positive news thanks to the efforts of students across the UK.

Also in April we compiled FOI requests on student mental health support at universities and colleges for Mental Health Awareness Week and this attracted national coverage.

For the past few months, NUS President Vonnie Sandlan has represented student interests on the Scotland Stronger In advisory group.

Also in April, Emily led a group of students down to Westminster for NUS’ #BursaryOrBust campaign. Student representatives from Scotland met with SNP and Labour MPs to lobby against the abolition of bursaries for NHS students.

Following the election in May, the new SNP Scottish Government reaffirmed the commitment to carry out a review of student support in response to NUS Scotland’s election campaign.

This month Emily ended her time as NUS Scotland’s Women’s Officer on a high with the publication of ‘The Bairn Necessities’ report looking at the experiences of student parents using research from over 700 students. This important report highlights the challenges faced by student parents and sets out a way forward to improve the support they receive. The report was widely covered in the national press and will form an important part of our work in the year ahead.  

Sadly last week we said goodbye to Emily as her time as Women’s Officer came to an end. Her hard work and dedication was clear for all to see and we will miss her. However, we’re looking forward to welcoming Angela Alexander to the team and know she will be fabulous – as her work on the This Ayrshire Girl Can project has already demonstrated. We know you will all make Angela feel welcome in the weeks and months ahead.

Thank you for all your work and support. Let's get to work and make 2016/17 a success!

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