President Exeter

This position represents all University of Exeter (Cornwall Campuses) students, with a focus on academic issues.
Cara Chittenden, SU President Exeter

Introduction

Hello! My name is Cara and I'm your Students’ Union President Exeter for the academic year 2020/21. I've spent three years here in Cornwall, studying English with Politics. For my fourth year, I'll be working alongside your other SU Presidents, Lizzy Marshall (Falmouth), Amelia Banton (Student Experience) and Charlotte Agnew (Welfare and Inclusivity), to try and deliver you the best possible University experience.

At the University of Exeter in Cornwall you’ll receive a genuinely unique Russell Group University experience. You'll be taught by academics at the top of their field in an environment intimate enough that you can really get to know them and take advantage of their world-class knowledge. However, it's not all about studying! The size of the Cornwall campuses, the shared campus with Falmouth University, plus the wealth of societies, sports teams and events on offer mean that everyone meets everyone. You can find friends for life here - and they might not be who you expect!

This academic year looks like it’s going to be unique, with some of these experiences occurring in a digital environment. However, we at the SU are here to support and represent you. My job, specifically, is to improve your academic experience here in Cornwall as a University of Exeter student. So if you have any queries, issues or suggestions, drop me an email, or use one of our other feedback systems. Additionally, make your voice heard as a committee member or subject representative! In the meantime, take advantage of the opportunities that the University of Exeter in Cornwall has to offer. I hope you love your years here as much as I have!

News & updates

Roles & responsibilities

  • Academic appeals
  • Exeter Course Reps
  • Placements
  • Widening Participation Access Agreement
  • Academic representation
  • Employability
  • Elections
  • Liaising with Exeter Guild
  • Liaising with the University of Exeter Senate and Council

I'll be updating you throughout the year on the work I'm doing to improve your student experience.

Manifesto priorities

No Detriment Policy

A key priority for me in the autumn/ winter term has been getting students a No Detriment Policy or a Suitable Equivalent

Progress updates:

  • 09/02/2021
    I’ve been liaising with key University of Exeter figures to push for a No Detriment Policy equivalent to the one provided at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, and since the University communicated its proposed collection of protective policies (the “No Disadvantage Guarantee”), I’ve been passing on student feedback, trying to make sure the details of those policies support as many students as possible.

Tuition Fee Reductions/Refunds

The pandemic and lockdown have significantly impacted the student experience, so we have been working to try and secure tuition fee reductions and refunds.

Progress updates:

  • 09/02/2021
    We recently launched our #EaseTheFees campaign, seeking tuition fee refunds/reductions for students due to the impacts of the pandemic on their university experience. We’re working with other Student Unions across the country to lobby nationally on this!

Module Choice

A key priority for me is building a platform which enables and encourages student collaboration; where students can source other students to collaborate with safely, without risk of misconduct. Once it is running, I will work on progressing the platform so students can have profiles that showcase their work and skills. In future, the platform could feature LIVE industry briefs and university projects that need student teams to be involved. All of this will play a huge part in working towards the 2030 plan to have inter-collaborative courses with each other and the industry.

Progress updates:

  • 09/09/2020
    We have had initial discussions on how we can get the platform up and running as soon as possible, so students can use it to facilitate collaborative work for this academic year. From these conversations, “CoLab” was born!
  • 09/09/2020
    To launch the “CoLab” platform quickly, we are exploring a job board style forum. We have been working on visuals and are set to move into testing phases soon with the hosting platform. We are now working towards an October Launch.
  • 09/09/2020
    We are having discussions with the Universities and societies on how they can utilise the “CoLab” platform to enhance Student Opportunities.
  • 08/12/2020
    Creativity and Innovation week is underway in the planning phase. We’ve had our first brainstorm/ roundtable.
  • 08/12/2020
    CoLab is being built and will be finished very soon. We are then user testing it with some students.
  • 08/12/2020
    We have also been running smaller Cross Course Colabs to start the ball rolling.

Graduation

I will be looking into the infrastructure of Falmouth Campus to see how it can be developed to ensure a good university experience for every course and serve students’ individual needs. One proposal is the development of a zebra crossing at the top of Falmouth Campus, to bring together the two sides of the campus and increase safety when moving between spaces. This would be especially beneficial to Architecture and Fine Art students when crossing the road with their artworks. I want to also introduce showcase storage containers for the top of Falmouth campus, for when students have to move out of their studios to make room for the showcase. Other focus areas include looking into the engagement with the top of the Falmouth campus (and Penryn Campus) to assess the distribution of food facilities, and involvement in the new library development plans, to ensure the new modern space suits all Falmouth courses (shared with Amelia).

Progress updates:

  • 09/09/2020
    I have had conversations with the Mayor regarding enhancing student safety, quality of student experience and student/ local relationships.
  • 09/09/2020
    Conversations with Cormack and Councils are underway regarding zebra crossings and other infrastructural options.
  • 09/09/2020
    Conversations with the local school headteacher and local residents are due to take place in October to discuss the potential zebra crossing.
  • 09/09/2020
    I have been looking into Falmouth Campus and identifying weaknesses and areas for improvement.

Decolonise the Curriculum

I will focus on Student Rep system developments to ensure student feedback is reaching the top of the chain, in order to make real impact. I will be working with student committees & council to ensure the right conversations are happening towards the progression of the university, especially surrounding the decolonisation of courses and Covid-19 impacts.

Progress updates:

  • 04/02/2021
    With some great help and advice I finally launched the Decolonising the Curriculum survey. This is intended to gather feedback on as many student experiences of learning at Exeter’s Cornwall campuses as possible, to inform decolonisation work in all departments (and in the SU itself). Check it out at the Decolonising the Curriculum campaign page
  • 09/09/2020
    The Student Voice team and I have put together a new Student Rep handbook to ensure Reps understand their importance within and influence on the University structure.
  • 09/09/2020
    I have rewritten the Feedback Loop to highlight the importance of ROS and make it more digestible for Student Reps so feedback can be managed better.
  • 09/09/2020
    I have added more specific BAME categories to ROS, so there is better quality feedback within these areas, so a tailored approach can be met.
  • 09/09/2020
    We have included equality and diversity as an agenda item on every SSLG meeting, so reps can openly discuss it within every meeting. Plus, there are conversations surrounding ‘equality Reps’ being implemented if there is a persistent lack of minority representation.
  • 09/09/2020
    Strengthening Postgraduate representation has been another key area. By working closely with the Postgraduate lecturers, we are more involved within the PG student experience and therefore able to better communicate with them about representation.
  • 08/12/2020
    The Big Rep meeting is happening tomorrow, and we have picked 5 topics of importance to talk about.
  • 08/12/2020
    I am taking Falmouth ROS data and escalating it to departments if needed, but also alloweing reps to work on things with their SSLGS.

Other items from my manifesto

Assessment Feedback

I will seek more detailed assessment feedback for all students, particularly by use of the line-by-line annotation tool available on Turnitin.

Progress updates:

  • 11/09/2020
    Updates to eBart are planned which include in-line text marking – we are currently awaiting final confirmation on these plans.

Funding Gap

I will investigate and work to rectify the rumoured funding gap between Cornwall campuses’ students (under The Students’ Union) and Devon campuses’ students (under The Students’ Guild).

Modularity

I will increase the promotion of, and access to, modularity and interdisciplinary modules.

Course Reps

I will make Course Reps more visible, accessible, and influential.

Progress updates:

  • 11/09/2020
    With Hannah Partington, have begun discussing ways to give course reps more training and development opportunities.
  • 11/09/2020
    Our Student Voice team have been working hard to update and improve ROS (Rep Online System) in the lead up to the new academic year. It will be easier for Course Reps to input feedback into and also will be accessible by all students.

Divestment

I will scrutinise the University of Exeter’s divestment from fossil fuel and other unethical industries.

Progress updates:

  • 11/09/2020
    I have discussed with Andrew Connolly, Chief Financial Officer for the University of Exeter, open-invite meetings at the Penryn Campus where students can scrutinise the University’s investment decisions. I hope to work on this with the Environment and Ethics Officer on the Student Council when they are appointed in October in the Student Council Elections.

Other things I'm working on

Postgrads

I aim to improve academic representation for Postgraduates at the Penryn Campus.

Progress updates:

  • 11/09/2020
    I have created a plan in collaboration with the Students’ Union comms team for how our communications can include and recognise our PGT, PGR and mature students better.
  • 11/09/2020
    Plan to set up PGT coffee mornings later in the academic year.
  • 27/11/2020
    I’m involved in discussions about creating a new member of staff within the Students’ Union with a focus on the Postgraduate experience.
  • 27/11/2020
    I’m meeting with key staff members in Postgraduate Research to learn more about the experiences of PGR students and how I can support/represent them better.
  • 27/11/2020
    I’ve set up a Postgraduate Taught Rep Drop In session to listen to the concerns of PGT students and find out how the rep system can be improved to support them.

Paused Courses

Following the decision to pause recruitment on some courses at the Penryn Campus, a priority is to seek reassurances about the future of these courses and preserve the degree value and experiences of current students studying them.

Progress updates:

  • 06/10/2020
    I’ve been liaising with students and the University following the decision to pause 2021/22 intake on the Penryn Campus’ English and Mining Engineering undergraduate courses.
  • 06/10/2020
    We held an open meeting for concerned English students and alumni to ask questions and are currently planning the same event for Mining Engineering.
  • 06/10/2020
    I’ve been promised student involvement with discussions about the future of these courses and a student-staff working group which will make sure that the current student experience is maintained and prioritised.
  • 06/10/2020
    I’ve discussed the pauses with the new Vice Chancellor Lisa Roberts who has assured me that she has an "exciting and expansive vision for the Cornwall campuses" that we will work with her on going forward.
  • 27/11/2020
    We recently held an Open Meeting for Mining Engineering Undergraduates to discuss the paused recruitment. It was a successful meeting and I’m hoping to set up regular touch point meetings for staff to update students on progress around new course development.
  • 27/11/2020
    The Penryn English Student Experience group is now regularly meeting, with myself, the Undergraduate Education Officer and the Humanities Subject Chairs invited to address concerns around the recruitment pause and hear updates on the development of a new programme.

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

I aim to work towards greater Equality, Diversity and Inclusion across Campus.

Progress updates:

  • 27/11/2020
    We’ve now recruited EDI reps in all departments and are training them in 2 weeks time.
  • 27/11/2020
    We’ve officially changed the wording of an SSLC agenda item has been officially changed, after approval by the Taught Faculty Board, to put greater focus on "diversity and inclusion related issues".
  • 27/11/2020
    I provided feedback that SU Presidential Elections need to have a greater focus on diversity of candidates, leading to campaign comms focused around diversity.

Blended Learning Environment

An unexpected but major priority this year is to respond to feedback on the blended learning environment, making sure that students are still receiving an excellent value education despite the pandemic.

Progress updates:

  • 13/01/2021
    I revived the Write Now campaign to provide some support and signposting for students struggling with organisation this year, since there is a greater emphasis on learning in your own time. You can find out more at the Write Now campaign page
  • 27/11/2020
    I voiced the concerns of students that online seminars were awkward and less-enriching when lots of students had cameras off and weren’t contributing. Guidance has now been produced, for staff and students, on how to encourage “Cameras On” whilst respecting students’ rights to choose not to.
  • 27/11/2020
    I expressed the frustration of students and staff at Penryn who had been forced to move a number of classes fully online due to the University’s cap of 30 people in a lecture. Now, in Penryn, the cap has been increased to 40 in a number of departments, allowing more face to face teaching.
  • 27/11/2020
    I provided feedback that students needed more face to face time with course-mates, in order to reduce loneliness and make online learning sessions more successful. Now academics can book the marquees for more face to face academic activity for their students.
  • 27/11/2020
    I’m working on reviving the "Write Now" campaign to support students who have told me they’re struggling with workload and time management, as deadlines approach.
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Falmouth & Exeter Students' Union
Penryn Campus
Penryn, Cornwall
TR10 9FE

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