Happy New Year

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Happy New Year! I hope you all had a lovely Christmas break and are ready for semester 2. Whether you’re first year or final year, semester 2 is always a busy one and there lots of exciting things on the cards for the next few months.

The Christmas break gave me time to reflect on my first 6 months as Academic Affairs Officer and what I’ve managed to achieve from the list of pledges I created all those months ago. Below is a list of the things I’ve done from what I said I wanted to do before the end of the year.

·        I said I would look into the special circumstances system and make this more accessible, as it’s not always possible to get a doctor’s note to gain an extension. Myself and Molly had a meeting with AQRO and you can now use a note from a pharmacist as evidence for extensions. All pharmacists within Aberystwyth should be able to write you a free note for minor ailments or where long-term health conditions may be temporarily impacting your ability to work as normal. Although I can’t take credit for this, as it was brought in just before I came into office, it’s definitely worth publicising. As a result, we are seeing if this solves much of the issue with making the system more accessible. We will be reviewing this throughout the year so if you have any feedback do let me know.

·        I said I would work with the careers service on employability and ensuring you all leave university as prepared as you can be. I am still working on creating an e-mentoring service with alumni, and in October we held our first ever Part-Time Jobs and Volunteering Fair, with another one scheduled for 1st February. We also launched our volunteering hub, enabling all our volunteers to register their hours and skills online, which can then be printed out and used when applying for jobs in the future. There are also 2 new noticeboards in the Underground of the SU with careers events and it is regularly updated with part time job opportunities so keep an eye on that!

·        Upon the announcement back in July that fees would be going up in Wales to £9295, I pledged that I would campaign for the university to rethink their decision to raise your fees. I had many conversations with our own Vice-Chancellor and joined national campaigns, and the decision to raise fees in Wales from detracted in September, with a promise from Kirsty Williams, our Education Secretary, that fees would be frozen at £9000 for the next two years.

·        We have relaunched the You’re Great! scheme, to celebrate all the fantastic work staff and volunteers do. For more information have a look at the blog I published just before Christmas.

·        One of my manifesto points was to campaign to bring back Revision Week in January or to scrap Saturday exams. Again, I can’t take the credit for this, but Saturday exams are no longer!  This means you get a full weekend break throughout the exam period. I also met with AQRO to discuss the possibility of bringing back Revision Week but I have been told this would involve having to lengthen term further into June. After the January exams I will be running several focus groups with reps and other students to find out what your preferences are when it comes to how exams are scheduled. I’m also going to be working on back-to-back exams this semester, after over 80 of you got in touch with me about back-to-back exams in January.

·        I also pledged to increase Postgrad engagement with the SU to ensure that Postgrads feel more included in the SU. I have been working with our Postgrad Officer, and staff in the SU to look into creating a Postgrad Students Association. This is similar to a society, but gives Postgrad students a designated space to find and talk to likeminded students, especially those students who may not have completed their undergraduate degree in Aber. We are also looking at finding a space on campus for a Postgrad common room and ensuring that we have more focus groups and feedback groups for Postgrad students to tell us what they want from us.

If you want more information on anything I’ve mentioned (or not mentioned!), do feel free to pop in for a chat or drop me an email on suacademic@aber.ac.uk. I also publicise a monthly update on my Twitter page (AAAberSU), which you can see even if you don’t have an account yourself.

Best of luck with all your exams, and remember, my door is always open if I can help with anything!

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