What do students want from the Office for Students?

What do students want from the Office for Students?

The regulator – brought into the spotlight by Toby Young – has only one student on its board. We asked those it seeks to represent what the priorities should be

It has been a rocky start for the Office for Students, the government’s new regulator, launched to champion the interests of students. It has already faced criticism for having only one student on the board and has lost Toby Young, who resigned as a board member after an outcry over tweets that suggested more interest in regulating women’s cup sizes than university teaching quality. So what would students like to see from the body that seeks to represent them?

Peter Anson

Second-year politics and international relations student at the University of Sussex and founder of Liberate the Debate, a 『free speech』 society

The OfS should do some kind of study on sustainability of student life – the relationship between tuition fees and rent – because this is what affects students. Freedom of speech should be about number eight down the pecking order. It’s important, but students have larger concerns and a lot of those are economic. If those problems are out of the way, then you ask questions about freedom of speech. When students are protesting so much that you are denying access to speakers, you have to ask the university and students』 union what sort of generation of students they are fostering.

La-Vern Tegede

First-year student at the University of Greenwich studying finance and investment banking

A lot of student problems are to do with anxiety – trying to make friends, trying to fit in, trying to keep the balance between work and social life. They should try to help students find that balance and manage their time and priorities. Student finance causes a lot of problems. I didn』t receive my student finance until November so I was struggling for a long time. I was thinking, 「what if I can』t pay my rent?」 If we were paid our money on time it would cause a lot less stress. Also, I』m partially blind and there was a lot of support I didn』t know about and that wasn』t mentioned until I inquired. That’s quite a big thing. If I were head of a student representation body, the first thing I would do would be to give students as much information as possible.

Riddi Viswanathan

diversity officer, Manchester University students』 union

The priorities for most students are employability, getting a good degree and having a good time at university. If you just have one student on the board, how are you going to understand students』 interests? The board isn』t inclusive or diverse enough. The OfS is focusing on a consumer market and emphasising competition and choice, whereas most student unions believe in free education, so it is contradicting that, even when talking about value for money. Also there are a number of immigration rules that restrict universities in what they can do, so that contradicts the idea of competition too.

Alex Boulton

Third-year history student and co-editor of Epigram, Bristol University’s student newspaper

Vice-chancellors』 pay and freedom of speech are non-issues. A lot of students want the focus to be on making sure we get value for money and increasing social inclusivity at universities. I get four contact hours a week and it’s hard to justify why we are paying more than £9,000 a year for that. If we thought we were getting value for money, vice-chancellors』 salaries wouldn』t be such a contentious issue. At Bristol we have had a lot of student suicides. Another key thing they should be focusing on is how universities are supporting wellbeing services for students.

Matilda Gomersall

Third-year student at Hereford College of Arts studying for a BA in contemporary design craft

A lot of students don』t feel they get value for money. With the amount of tutoring provided, we feel we are paying just to say we have the degree. There is possibly not enough support for mental health; where there is support, people aren』t informed about it enough to feel comfortable seeking help. I would like a better connection with the arts world. It is hard as an artist to make your way after university. The ways you can turn your practice into working need to be more evident. I would also like to find a way where all students of various disciplines can come together and have an understanding of each other. I think there is a real divide between the disciplines.



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