Student Senate calls for more transparency

Last year's Student Senate

The last Student Senate of 2015 was held last week, and voted upon issues including the need to make university investments more transparent.

The group, which is voted in to discuss policies on behalf of all students, met on Tuesday December 1st. Chaired by Jacob Ellis, the Senate passed all three motions by a vast majority but failed to discuss other proposed items.

Whilst decisions were made to tackle cuts against funding for both S4C and for student nurses and midwives, expiring policies were not renewed due to complications in Students’ Union staff changes.

The first motion of the night was proposed by Chiron Hooson, and stressed the need to increase transparency around university investments and where they are spent. The proposal, which saw 20 senators vote in favour, also recommended that more opportunities be created for students to voice their opinions about where investments are made within campus.

The agenda for the meeting noted that 42 per cent of the university’s income is directly funded from tuition fees, with investments therefore provided by students.

The current systems in place to inform students of investments was also criticised, as the Annual Fee Report for 2013/2014 was described as providing “little information regarding exact figures and investments” on campus.

Talking to Gair Rhydd, student senator Hooson stated the that motion was created to “achieve a higher level of transparency by the university” and allow students to access information to see how their money is being spent. He also emphasised that the university needs to create “more appealing surveys” to “receive the best possible feedback from students” and to review possible provisions for students to express their opinions.

Following the success of the motions, the Students’ Union will lobby the University to present their financial report in a more “student-friendly way” including more evaluation and analysis.

This will also include a review of how students can have an input into the allocation of investments and lobbying the University, especially for those leaving university and “and not still undergoing academic study at the university.”

Finally the Senate agreed that the Students’ Union should raise awareness of all “public investment surrounding the release of the report and its impact on university students.”

As a result, Hooson concluded that this will allow students to “adequately notice positive changes to their learning environment during their time at university on a year on year basis” in addition to ensuring that they can participate in decisions in through a “more creative and dynamic feedback process.”

The next motion of the night called for the Students’ Union to speak against the proposed changes to end the funding for the education of student nurses and midwives in England, and to condemn any future changes in Wales should the Welsh Government consider this.

It was noted by Tim Nagle, Vice President of NurseSoc, that proposed changes for nurses and midwives will have an adverse impact on female and mature students, often with children and families of their own.

Due to the intensive natures of the courses, it was also states that there is no time for students to earn money through part-time employment.

In response, the Senate voted in favour of both the Students’ Union President and VP Heath Park contacting officers at others Students’ Unions in the UK and Wales where nursing and midwifery education is provided to seek support for its policy.

The representatives for Cardiff Students’ Union will also seek signatories to send a letter to relevant government ministers to oppose the changes and urge against similar cuts in Wales.

Other actions decided upon include the need for VP Heath Park to talk to professional bodies and professional trades’ unions to identify any campaigns against these changes that the Students’ Union can participate in.

The involvement of NUS and NUS Wales was also suggested to allow a debate on the future of financing healthcare education and to propose future campaigns against scrapping fee tuition.

It was noted that should the motion to oppose cuts fall at the NUS National Executive Council then it will be taken to NUS Conference and NUS Wales delegate training to improve awareness.

The motion saw all senators vote in favour of the suggested action.

Lastly, during the Student Senate an addition motion was proposed by Jacob Ellis and Welsh Language Officer Steffan Bryn.

In response to proposed cuts to Welsh language broadcaster S4C, it was suggested that the Union should send a letter to the Welsh Government to call on UK Government to re-instate full financial commitment to S4C. A separate letter will also be sent to Westminster.

Legal action will first be considered however to ensure that the Students’ Union is “responding adequately to the resolves.”

The news comes after previous announcements that the government will cut its grant to S4C by 94 per cent over four years. This has resulted in funding for the TV channel dropping from £101 million in 2010/11 to £7 million in 2014/15.

The motion also called for the Students’ Union to lend its support to subsequent campaigns including working with NUS Wales. It was noted that cuts to S4C could damage opportunities for students including scholarships, work experience, training and internships.

The vote saw only two rejection and three abstentions.

During the meetings however, concerns were raised over matters which were not discussed. According to one senator, the minutes of last year’s AGM were planned to be approved on Tuesday’s meeting but was postponed to February’s meeting to allow the audio from the event to be reviewed.

Talking to Gair Rhydd, Students’ Union President Claire Blakeway explained that the Senate will be presented with the minutes once the audio version is revisited and any corrections made.

In a more concerning development, plans to discuss lapsing policies were also neglected. As policies expire every three years, the student senate currently hold responsibility for renewing commitments previously made by the governing body. However, this was not done in this month’s meeting.

This was later justified by Students’ Union President, who explained that this was caused in part by staff changes.

She explained: “In light of staff changes during the summer, we are aware of a number of activities in relation to Student Senate that need to be improved. As members of the new team settle in, this will occur and we are settling plans to continue its development.”

The next Student Senate will be held on Tuesday, February 2nd in the Students’ Union.