Progress is being made in introducing drug testing kits and combatting the rising cost of living, according to recently elected President of Edinburgh University Students’ Association Andrew Wilson.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with The Student, Andrew discussed what he has already achieved in office as well as his plans for the remainder of his term.
On the introduction of drug testing, a key manifesto pledge for Andrew, he said:
“We have made really good progress on drug testing kits; I had a paper approved and we’re going ahead with a trial for that.
“I think the approval of the drug testing kits was good because it involved having to change people’s minds a lot because it isn’t very conventional.
“Hopefully we’ll have a pilot soon, and if that goes successfully then we’ll roll it out on a larger scale.”
Andrew also highlighted tackling the cost of living as a key priority which he is addressing through the soon-to-launch ‘Money Matters’ campaign and an upcoming survey of students’ relationship with money.
He said, “I’d like to think that I’ve put certain things on the agenda that might not have necessarily been on the university’s radar, like the cost of living when it comes to accommodation.”
“Cost of living is something that affects each and every student in varying degrees.”
“The Students’ Association has lots of financial support and I think some students don’t necessarily know a lot about it.”
The cost of living is really important to me because I think that it’s getting worse in Edinburgh – the housing prices are going up, transport is expensive, there are hidden course costs, etc, so addressing that is really key.”
Alongside implementing changes, the role of President involves representing students, something Andrew has been balancing.
Regarding this, he said: “Obviously I get elected on [a] manifesto and so throughout the year I try and achieve that but it’s not as easy as you think, as a lot of your time is taken up by being the student representative and doing the things that come with it.”
Discussing this specifically regarding student satisfaction, he added:
“The university has launched the Student Experience Action Plan, a three-year body of work that they’re doing to improve the student experience, and I sit on the Standing Committee for that.”
“Working on the cost of living and changing attitudes around the university is really integral to the student experience.”
“How can you have a good student experience if you are worrying about how you’re going to afford your rent that month, or if you can’t afford to get by in the city?
“There’s also lots of other great stuff that I’m involved in to improve the student experience, like working on participation grants, making sure that every student can participate in regards to financial barriers, and helping shape the Students’ Association in contributing to the student experience through programme representatives and student voices.”
When asked what he was most proud of so far, he said:
“So far it’s only been 3 months, but I think the idea of seeing people change their minds or making people at the university, the Principal and the Vice-Principals, look at things in another way, makes me really proud.
“I’m a student that feels passionately about something, and it is going to affect our university for five or ten years to come.
“Also I really enjoyed my Principal’s Welcome Ceremony speech, because I spoke to 1,600 new students and you get to be a leading voice in how they shape their university experience.
“It was great that a boy from Blackpool could do that for students, so I really enjoyed that.”
On the future of the Students’ Association beyond his tenure, he said:
“I recommend that every student get involved in student democracy and student politics because you really have the power to change things.
“If you’re thinking about running in the March elections, I would start thinking now and build those networks of people that could help you.
“The December and January before I put in my nomination for the election, I spoke with so many students about what they care about at the university.
“I think it’s so important because you shouldn’t pursue your own individual priorities; you speak to lots of students and you get the sense on the ground of what students really care about.
“I found that a lot of students worried about the cost of living and how to get by in the city and I thought that this is something I really want to champion.
“Now this is what I’m doing, 9am to 5pm, Monday to Fridays, so it’s lots of fun.”
Image: Andrew Perry