Interview: Bobi Archer reflects on her year as VP Education

What has been your biggest achievement in your role as VP Education so far?

This is a difficult one! On a personal level, I think it is very rare that a student is elected as a Sabbatical Officer from King’s Buildings, so it has been really good to utilise the platform to highlight some of the issues internally within the Students’ Association and to the university, not just about academia but also in terms of the services and the facilities at King’s Buildings that play a large role in student experience and satisfaction.

In terms of a project, the largest project that I have worked on this year has been reforming the Class Representatives system, moving from a class reps system to a programme reps system. This will help to represent students on joint degrees, whereas in the past there hasn’t been an appointed representative, so lecturers have just hoped that students from a joint programme would come forward.

Along with that, it means that we will reduce the number of reps – we had 2,800 reps last year, which is ridiculous and really hard to support. So this means the Students’ Association will be able to better support the representatives, and we’re moving back to in-person training as well, which will be school-specific, so it will be really relevant in supporting the reps.

What have you regretted not having been able to achieve during your VP Education tenure?

I wouldn’t necessarily say a regret, but more of a frustration: so when I came into this role, coming from the College of Science and Engineering, I wasn’t so informed of the LiberatEd campaign to diversify the curriculum, but it’s an absolutely amazing project and I give so much credit to the people behind it because they have achieved some great things. I think it’s a frustration because I don’t think that the university values how amazing that project is, and they’re not providing it with the platform to really create change. A lot of what they want to do is really quite easy for the university to implement, for example diversifying reading lists and galleries.

It’s an amazing agenda and I’ve put a lot of work in to give it the platform and we are slowly moving somewhere and I’ve found consensus from the university that it is important, but it’s hard to actually get them to say that they are going to do something about it and be proactive in creating change.

Have you managed to make advances in providing accessible transport for students based away from Central?

This was something that I was really passionate about as a student who studied on a satellite campus, but in respect to other sabbatical officers within the union, it didn’t naturally lie within my remit and actually it was something that Ollie, the Vice President for Community, and Patrick, the President, took on to do within their year.

How have you tried to deliver on promises to make the first semester workload and exams easier for students?

One of the things I set out to do was to reduce the pressures of semester one, and I wrote a report and submitted to the Senate, which is the highest governing body in academic terms in the university. So this was to have Week 11 free of new examinable material; it was to have week six or seven free of regular weekly assignments. For example, in the School of Mathematics this would be an assignment that equated to five per cent of a 20 credit course, so actually just having week six or seven free of that meant that students had the ability to catch up on stuff that they may be behind on.

The report was passed, it gained support and I met with each of the individual Colleges to see how this would be implemented, and they’ve taken it on as an informal policy, because there might be the odd course that has the exception. But they said in principle they would do all of the things.

What has been the most fun part of your job?

I would say the funnest part is the team- I know that’s really cheesy! But there were five completely different individuals that came into it, and you always worry about whether or not you’re going to get along, but we’ve dealt with any issues in a professional manner and we just really get along. I genuinely think that I’ll take away four really good friends as well as great colleagues for the past year. As well as that, doing something completely different every day… I think that’s what makes it really fun and engaging.

What is next for you?

Coming into the role, I wasn’t entirely sure what I was going to do next, but I did a week’s placement with a construction company and they have given me a job as a trainee civil engineer! The company actually has no women other than in admin staff, so I’ll be really excited to put my stamp on it. They also do a lot of outreach with primary schools to try and get kids involved and passionate about engineering, [and I think it will have a] different message from a young, 23-year-old woman, so I’ll be really excited to inspire the next generation of women to come into engineering.


Image: Andrew Perry

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