by Adam Clarke
At Cardiff uni we are lucky to have a diverse and dynamic Student’s Union that provides all sorts of services from the print shop to the coffee shop, yet some students feel shut out from this. Many postgrads that feel there is a clear bias towards undergraduates that is to the detriment of the many postgraduates and mature students we have. As a postgrad student myself I feel I can comment on this as someone who can relate to the problem and represent it on the platform that Gair Rhydd affords me. Although I am not as vocal as others in their criticism of the SU, I can understand the fact that postgrad students feel as if they are sometimes forgotten about.
An obvious example of this is the fact that at the Student’s Union AGM in December 2019, there was a proposal to remove the VP Postgraduate position in favour of creating a full-time Welsh language sabbatical officer. Whilst I, and I’m sure none of the other postgraduate students, are against the creation of a Welsh Language position in the SU, the option to replace VP postgraduate just underlines how dispensable postgrad students feel when it comes to the SU. The current VP Postgraduate, Nick Fox, obviously spoke out against the proposal and as well as highlighting the importance of his role to securing wins for the student body as a whole, he also made it clear that amongst postgrad students there is a feeling that there is “disproportionate focus on the undergraduate university experience” which seems fairly evident in the proposal to remove a full-time VP postgraduate position in the SU.
“The option to replace VP postgraduate just underlines how dispensable postgrad students feel when it comes to the SU”.
A further example of the seeming disregard for postgrad students was the decision to permanently close the postgraduate study area in the SU and replace it with an International Study Centre on the fourth floor. This area had provided a place for postgrad students to study away from the busy libraries and undergrad study areas in the SU and other locations around the university. The decision to close this area, without offering any form of immediate replacement for solely postgraduate students, seems to me to be indicative of the SU’s clear bias towards the undergraduates at the university. The fact that the decision was explained away by the university by stating that, “Postgraduate students may use any of the libraries on campus”, is both incredibly condescending (we already know that we can use the libraries like any other ‘normal’ student) and insulting considering that international students can also use any of the libraries; why can’t they use the libraries and we keep our study area?
Whilst the SU obviously doesn’t have a bottomless pit of resources – it still has a responsibility to create provisions for, among others, Welsh language students and international students. But, the examples above show that it is unfailingly postgraduates who suffer when cuts do have to be made.
The fact that any changes appear to always negatively impact postgrad students seems to be very unfair. The SU has a responsibility to look after the welfare and interests of the entire student body, both undergrad and postgrad, and at the moment, given the examples above, I feel that they are failing in that responsibility.