According to the NUSU website, S.O.S. has been created with the aim of ensuring that all students receive “an education that is consistent, flexible, accessible, and inclusive”.
The site focuses on improving three main areas of student life: academic representation, decolonising study skills and tuition fees.
Dickie told The Courier that she started the campaign because she strives to truly represent student interests. She explains that “by the end of the year I really hope to implement some permanent policy changes based on the feedback we receive”.
She adds, “in the current climate, it has never been more important to the Union and the University to hear the student voice”.
Through academic representation, each student has a Course Rep who is responsible for gathering feedback about their course and relaying it at the Student-Staff Committee (SSC). Also at the SSC are a Student Chair and Student Secretary, as well as staff members, all of whom work together to address the feedback raised.
At a higher level there are School Reps who give feedback about taught programmes to the Faculty Education Committee, and about research programmes to the Faculty Postgraduate Research Committee.
The objective of decolonising study skills is to recognise the issues that come with the teaching of university study skills, such as academic writing and critical thinking. According to the site, the main problem is that they are “culturally determined constructs, rooted in the white, middle class, western norms of how we should think, act and communicate at university”.
To combat this, S.O.S. arranged for Dr Helen Webster, Head of the University’s Writing Development Centre, to give a virtual talk on the subject.
Webster will be sharing her thoughts on the subject, and explaining why we need to decolonise the way in which students learn “so that learning is recognised and rewarded in richer, more diverse and emancipatory ways”. The event took place on Zoom on Wednesday 25 November.
The campaign also asks “When it comes to tuition fees, which of the following approaches do you think that NUSU should take?”, where Dickie invites students to “truly have [their] say”.
Below are four options: lobby for refunded tuition fees, campaign for reduced tuition fees, leave tuition fees as they are, or instead campaign for “other ways to ensure better value for money”. Students are able to vote on the website.
Also on the campaign website is a chance to leave anonymous feedback on other matters regarding education that concern you.
“I will be constantly updating the page as the year goes on with new issues that we are fighting for”, Dickie tells The Courier about the S.O.S. campaign.
As well as this, she has posted her own statement regarding the issue of tuition fees. She writes: “The 2020-2021 Sabbatical Officer team would like like to express our full solidarity with the student body […] I sympathise with the fact that working online is a very different leaning and teaching environment for students and staff alike.”
She writes that change regarding tuition fees should be directed at the government, not the University: “NUSU believes that any ‘call to arms’ around tuition fees and refunds should be directed towards the wider University sector and the government. A united student and staff collective can be more powerful than a divided ‘Us vs Them’ rationality”, she explains.
Reiterating the Present in Person (PIP) teaching plans the University had during the summer, Dickie writes that the University’s move to Tier 3, and therefore to online teaching “was a very difficult decision for University staff to make”.
She goes on to explain that the reduction of tuition fees would not be beneficial to the poorest students, since “the less debt you accumulate, the more you are likely to pay off”.
Another risk she mentions that would come with the national reduction of tuition fees is the bankruptcy of smaller Universities, which could harm the education of future students.
While she therefore does not agree with the fee reduction of home students, Dickie acknowledges that international students face greater challenges. Students from abroad have to pay increased fees and are sometimes required upon graduation to pay them back immediately, and so she believes the University sector should reduce their fees.
Featured image: NUSU website