Democracy Review: SU President Claire Blakeway

Incumbent SU President Claire Blakeway is currently working on developing a lecture theatre that could be used as a theatre as well. However this is yet to be confirmed.

Creating buses from Park Place to Heath Campus

As part of the Campus Master Plan, Blakeway has been in discussions about travel plans between both locations. No further details have been provided.

Increasing the hardship fund

Since the Welsh Government’s decision to cut the Financial Contingency fund, the SU President has lobbied the University to create a comparable fund. Further pressure has since been put on the University to increase this and Blakeway has made it clear that students need more support. This has included working with both the NUS and the government Diamond Review.

Establishing a pharmacy in the Students’ Union

According to Blakeway this aspect of her manifesto has been “particularly challenging”. Currently the Students’ Union are struggling to obtain a license for a pharmacy and have been told that it is “unlikely” that another will be granted in the area. As a result, a company interested in opening a pharmacy would have to close another branch and transfer their license to the SU. Despite this Blakeway will “continue” to push for progress to be made.

Plans to introduce a pharmacy have also been included in next year’s SU President Sophie Timbers.

Encouraging a festival in Bute Park

Despite featuring in the President’s manifesto, Blakeway told Gair Rhydd that the cost of running a festival would simply be too high, at a price of £250k. The Students’ Union has said that the idea would present a “massive risk with regard to returning a profit” that would make the event unfeasible.

Biggest achievement

For Blakeway her biggest achievement has been lobbying with the NUS Wales to reduce the Welsh Government’s £41m cut to Higher Education to £10m. This was achieved by calling and meeting with Assembly Members across Wales and campaigning on ITV. Although some cuts are still going ahead, the Students’ Union President described the experience as a massive win for the student movement. She explained that the money saved will help fund part-time course and research, in order to “widen access and ensures that the quality of research within Wales remains high”.

To conclude, the Students’ Union President said: “I think this win shows the influence and lobbying power that we have in Wales and that students are starting to be taken more seriously by the Welsh government”.

Biggest challenge

Like her biggest achievement, the SU President also describes the government cuts and financial pressure put on students as the biggest challenged faced during the year. Blakeway has described politicians as “unreceptive and dismissive to the needs of students” with the exception of local MPs and explained that she has had letters and emails ignored.

Fighting government cuts

Blakeway had made sure to meet with local MPs on a regular basis to highlight her concerns and lobby on the behalf of students. This has also included attending a protest against cuts to NHS bursaries in London and encouraging other students to attend. Following this, Blakeway penned an open letter to voice the concerns of Cardiff students. After being signed by “hundreds of our healthcare students” the letter was sent to both UK and Welsh government.

In addition to this, the SU President described herself as “engaged heavily” in the NUS Cut the Costs campaign to save maintenance grants. By organising a student walk out day, Blakeway also encouraged students to protest against the changes to International student visas.

Overall the President concluded that she has communicated with “all the students who have been affected by the cuts and informed them of how the Students’ Union is supporting them”.

Promoting the Welsh language

Despite the reported tensions between the Students’ Union and part-time Welsh language Officer earlier this year, Blakeway described the relationship between both parties as “really positive”. She continued: “We have productively worked together to create positive change for Welsh Speakers here at Cardiff University”.

This year the Students’ Union has employed a full time Welsh Language Coordinator to further improve Welsh Language provisions.

As part of plans to improve communication between all groups the Students’ Union has created the Welsh Language Steering Group. The group is made up of Elected Officers, the Welsh Language Officer, student representatives, and Union and University staff. The aim of the group is to look at ways in which the Union can further promote the use of the Welsh Language, create a culture of bilingualism in the Students’ Union and increase the range of services on offer for Welsh Speakers.

Following this group a Welsh Language Policy has been developed, which is soon to be going out to student consultation, with a planned implementation from July.