News writer Harriet Steele interviews Edinburgh University Students’ Association President, Eleri Connick.
So far in your time as President, what have you felt most proud of achieving?
The Participation Grant being open to International Students. This was a really important part of my campaign because taking part in extra-curricular activities at university can bring so many opportunities and I love the support it currently provided UK students on bursaries, so to see the £100 grant opened up to International Students is just fab.
There should be no financial barriers for any Edinburgh students taking part in sports and societies. This is a step in the right direction.
What has been your biggest challenge as President, and what can you see being the biggest in the future?
Juggling a very hectic calendar. I want to be a President who is on the ground, at all of the campuses, talking to students so juggling different meetings and writing reports has been a struggle. But I love it.
What have you been doing over the summer and since being elected to improve the lives of students?
It’s been a busy few months – lots of meetings with the university to make connections. Some action points though: the £10,000 for the International Student Participation Grant, organising the first ever Kings’ Buildings fair, buses for 500 new undergraduate and postgraduate students to get them to [the Varsity rugby match in September], free yoga starting at the library and ECA, attending Medical School Council, £4 pre-sale tickets for the Big Cheese and getting Information Services Group to invest into the feasibility of student cards on phone.
Looking forward, what policy are you most looking forward to working on?
I’m working on a paper looking at what students need to ‘get in, get on, and get out’ from university. There are various people around the university doing amazing work for students from a widening participation background but it would be great to bring it all together.
You mention in your manifesto and previous interviews that your biggest aim is to target bad landlords and extreme housing prices, what steps have you taken to achieve this?
When I took up this role, Georgie (VP Community) and I had a conversation about who should take the lead as we both had it on our manifestos. Georgie has been taking a lead researching websites like ‘marks out of tenancy’ and looking into rent zones. However, within the university, we have both been pushing more affordable beds in university accommodation at the Estates committee we both sit on.
There have often been criticisms of the university around diversity and a lack of inclusivity. As President, how do you feel you have been dealing with these issues?
We have four amazing Liberation Officers, so my role this year and for the rest of the Sabbatical team will be to ensure that we bring the Liberation Officers to more university meetings when we can and help them raise their profile because of the amazing work they are doing.
With the recent launch of #WeAreEdinburgh what are you hoping to gain through it?
I’m hoping that students start to feel that the Students’ Association is there celebrating and supporting the amazing things students are doing. Too often, student stories are only highlighted during graduation ceremonies or during awards season. Yet, all around us are amazing Edinburgh students, doing amazing things every day for our university, our community and our world. I want to celebrate that – and also for students to know that we are here to support them in any of those projects.
Finally, if you were to give one piece of advice to other students thinking of joining the Students’ Association team what would it be?
Do it! You’ll be amazing – it’ll be hard work [and an] emotional rollercoaster but the opportunity to make change for your fellow Edinburgh students is a very, very special feeling.
Image: Andrew Perry