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Postgraduate Representation Reshuffle

The comments below are unmoderated submissions by Live! readers. The Editor accepts no liability for their content, nor for any offence caused by them. Any complaints should be directed to the Editor.
Nov 14 2008 17:11

A paper to be discussed at Council on Monday looks to remove Postgraduate Representation from the Faculty Unions.

Click Here for the Full Article

Nov 15 2008 01:14

No, no, no. TAUGHT and RESEARCH need different representation. A few masters students fall between the two, but lumping them ALL with PhD students (who may teach their courses or mark their coursework) is STUPID.

Hopefully a paper which actually describes WHY the current WORKING system needs to be changed will appear before Monday, or I shall end up at Council on Monday. Which I had said I wasn't going to do this year.

Grrrr. Don't touch it if you don't understand it. (I get that there are College-level issues, but I don't believe this is the way to fix them).

Nov 15 2008 11:30

The problem with "the current WORKING system" can be explained in one word.


Where do students on Graduate Entry medicine fall in this plan?

3. Danny   
Nov 15 2008 13:20

Graduate entry medicine is essentially undergraduate medicine for three out of the four years. ICSMSU can adequately represent them.

There does however need to be better representation of the true post-graduate students in the faculty of medicine.

Nov 15 2008 15:24

RE: Post 2:

Your point is exactly why this proposed solution doesn't work. It would put graduate entry medicine into the GSA and not feed into the undergraduate structure.

If medicine used the same solution as that used by CGCU, reps for graduate entry medicine would report to an Academic Affairs Officer for taught students, who would already be dealing with issues for (I presume) UG456, which is the same course. This seems to be the most sensible thing to do, but isn't what this restructuring actually achieves.

What it does achieve is cutting off the input masters students have into their taught courses, and making PhD students sit in meetings for longer while masters students complain about teaching/coursework (some of them may have taught/marked the coursework of course!).

Nov 15 2008 17:09

where's jon matthews got to these days? i am sure with his immense constitutional powers that he could sort this out

Nov 15 2008 17:10

Ash, I agree with you on most points but I think you are a bit dismissive of the differences between a taught Masters Student and Undergraduates. I agree that a certain amount of dialogue with the Undergraduate Academic Affairs Officers needs to be maintained as it is highly likely that issues will overlap. However, I never have really seen it as an appropriate position for us to be in where we have the AAO(Taught) as the only representative for Masters Students. The AAO(Taught) is not and probaly will not ever be invited to sit on the Graduate School Committees, however it is at these meetings that decisions on course structures, marking schemes, grade boundaries, coursework schedules etc for Masters Programmes are overseen. I honestly think that we need to have a separate masters Rep as noone is in a position to undrstand exactly what the issues are within these courses unless they're actually experiencing it.

The other problem is that Undergraduate AAO's have a restricted availability outside term time whereas Masters Students have the same sort of yearly timetable as PhDs. There is a significant proportion of the year (when they are arriving and need to get settled in and when they are doing their exams - the two busiest times in terms of casework for the Union) when they have no representative around at all!

Another problem is that we cannot have Masters Representation falling outside the GSA and only in the Faculty Unions as the Graduate Schools cover so much more than the Undergraduate Faculties. Science Communication (humanities), Business School and a hell of a lot of other inter-disciplinary and specialist medical courses do not fall into one of the three faculties at all so an Undergrad AAO cannot represent them. The simple problem is that College does not consider Postgraduates, whether taught or research, to belong to one of the three Faculties. They are instead members of one of the two Graduate Schools which encompass far more specialist areas than the Faculty Unions are even aware of.

Nov 15 2008 17:18

So in other words: Masters Students should not be 'represented' by the same people who are representing PhDs as it would be an awful situation to have MSc students compalining about their teachers and markers when those people could potentially be their academic/welfare reps. However they should also not be represented by undergraduates due to the problems outlined in my previous post.

Nov 15 2008 17:42

Dear Kirsty,

First of all thank you for the article- it's great to have the issues explained to students that's not in the form of a council report.

There are a few points that I feel I need to clarify:

1. Graduate entry Medical Students are Undergraduates- only one year of the course is different from Undergraduate medicine. They are currently represented by ICSMSU, and very effectively. However, the Postgraduate students in the School of Medicine are not represented by ICSMSU. Nowhere in their constitution are Postgraduates mentioned. We are effectively ignoring over a thousand students who are in very disparate locations.

2. The Taught/ Research divide is one that we thought very hard over, with consultations from people who do research and those that are registered on true masters courses. While the issues that affect research and taught students are very different, it has to be remembered what the reason for this proposal coming about was. Essentially, all Postgraduate courses are managed at a Graduate School level. Regardless of whether you are registered on an MRes, MSc, MPhil or a PhD the decisions made about these courses are done at GSEPS and GSLSM Committees which the new Reps would sit on. I know some modules are shared by MSci/ MSc students and likewise for Engineering but these are few and far between. Regardless of this point, the Undergraduates will be discussed at Engineering Studies Committee, for example, and the Postgrads at GSEPS. The Dep Reps (Undergrad and Postgrad) are responsible for passing on information about issues with their course to their respective rep- Academic Affairs Officer for UGs and Postgraduate Rep for PGs. In the past the PG Dep Reps were supposed to be reporting to the AAOs (Taught) but in reality this did not happen. This is why I made the point that Undergraduates were representing Postgraduates on issues that did not affect them.

3. The reason we are 'lumping' PhD and MSc students together, is because they share more in common with each other is purely because that is what the College does. There is no reason to work against that. However, we are not removing either group of student from the Faculty Union. They will still be members, and still be able to run for positions in the Faculty Unions. The only thing we are doing is shifting their representation under one umbrella body. No matter how brilliant a Rep is, someone always gets forgotten. While students in the other Faculties sometimes have parts of their degrees taught in the business school, they are represented by their Faculty effectively. Noone has ever represented the students who are registered as students of the Business School. They are entirely Postgraduate Students, who were supposed to fit in under the CGCU. It is unreasonable to think that the AAO of CGCU is capable of representing all these taught students as well. If anything, we are making the Reps lives easier- they only have to deal with the issues that affect the people in their division, be it medicine, engineering or business. Anything that affects the PGs on a wider scale will then be moved forward by the GSA. If you are going to sit on the highest College Committees such as GSEPS and GSLSM, you have to appreciate that some of the issues discussed are less relevant to you. Regardless of that, this is where students from across the board have their say about things like access to Transferable skills etc. If they hear that all the PGs want more online modules, rather than the majority of them in lecture-based formats they listen. One Dep Rep can take this issue on but they can now rely on the GSA (along with me) make sure their views are aired at the highest level. In regards to the earlier point that having Masters students sitting in on a Committee like RSAC making it longer, then you could say the same about TSAC. Just because they are going to make a meeting longer doesn't mean the responsibility for them should be ignored. Remember, the AAO (Taught) did not sit on the GSEPS Committee to represent these Masters students so what is the point of them being their ultimate representative?

As a kind of closing point, the College seemed concerned about Postgraduates. While the results of the PRES (Postgraduate Research Experience Survey) weren't appalling, issues did come up that they are very keen to work with us on. These included lack of a Postgraduate Community and time spent with supervisors. They also remarked that they have never had student reps on their GSLSM Committees in recent years and only the engineers have ever had a rep on GSEPS. I have managed to mostly fill our positions in the interim and since the email that went out at the beginning of the week and the article in Felix I have had a positive response from PGs, with at least one person interested in each position including from the School of Medicine, Life Sciences and the Business School (from a mix of PhD and Masters students. We really feel like we're moving forwards and College has been very supportive of the change.

The election of these positions will not happen until it has been passed by Council, but a paper already went to Council last time and the Councillors agreed with the sentiment of it unanimously. Oh, and the elections for these positions will happen in October rather than in the Summer term like has traditionally happened.

I know that this won't have covered absolutely all the issues but I hope it explains thoroughly enough the overall reasoning for this move.

I am really keen to hear as many people's views as possible.

Nov 15 2008 17:48

"The simple problem is that College does not consider Postgraduates, whether taught or research, to belong to one of the three Faculties"

Then College needs to realise that is a stupid approach to take. The fact that I share an office with around 15 people is due to space allocation by my department, which is in the Faculty of Engineering. Nothing to do with the graduate schools at all. My supervisor is in the Faculty of Engineering. My research group is in the Faculty of Engineering. My funding comes from the departmental pot, which is administered by my department, which is in the Faculty of Engineering.

The only way in which GSEPS tends to affect me is by sending annoying emails and making me go to ridiculous useless courses in my first year (e.g. 'How to use the library'). And a load of other hoop-jumping they've introduced as well.

College's own structures are completely broken, but that doesn't mean we should have a broken representation system to go with it.

You're right that there need to be separate Masters reps - but the proposed solution doesn't really provide that, unless the aim is for the PG rep to be a masters student...

Maybe taught UG, taught Masters and research PG is the correct division...

Nov 15 2008 17:51

After my extensive ramble, I've just seen Kirsty's post which was written after started typing. I think it kind of hits the nail on the head! The Masters 'problem' is one that will rumble on for years. At the end of the day, at GSLSM, for example, you have 2 Reps, a Medicine and a Life Sciences Rep. They HAVE to represent both Masters and PhD students- there is no other option (apart from asking them to change it so we can have 4, a Masters and a PhD for both which is realistically never going to happen). This is fundamentally the reason for this proposal.

Nov 15 2008 18:03

Regardless of whether we think the College system is 'broken' or not, we have to work with it the best way we can. Remember, though, that every Faculty has the highest members of staff dealing with teaching sitting on these Graduate Schools Committees- they don't work independently of each other. The same is true for the GSA and the Faculties. We are just trying to accommodate the students that have been forgotten in the past- and clutching onto a system that has worked for Engineering PhD students, and Engineering PhD students only is not the way forward sadly. We don't anticipate that anything will be lost with this system, and things should work for the Research students in the Faculty of Engineering in much the same way!

Nov 15 2008 18:14

College persists in referring to 'Postgraduates' and a 'Postgraduate Community'. Trying to get a taught and research rep on GSEPS and GSLSM committees might help to remind them that the profiles of the two groups can be very different.

"Regardless of whether we think the College system is 'broken' or not, we have to work with it the best way we can"

Or, better, if we think their system is broken (and referring to 'Postgraduates' all the time is stupid), we should push them to change it. If College are so concerned about PG representation, why don't they listen and have a taught and research rep on their committees? It just makes sense...

Nov 15 2008 18:17

Having said that, I take your other points on board.

(Regarding it ONLY working for Engineering PhD students - is that the fault of the system, or the fault of the people operating it? Do you think you'll have better luck getting PhDs from Phys and LifeSci to take an interest?)

Nov 15 2008 18:20

We already have! I think the new system has stirred new interest in these departments. Regardless of whether we could persuade the Committees to increase the number of students up to

Nov 15 2008 18:26

Has the new system stirred new interest, or has mentioning the new system in Felix stirred new interest? i.e. was it a lack of advertising previously that meant no-one was interested? I don't see what it is about the new system that would make someone more interested in it now than before (other than nobody knowing what the previous system was)...

Nov 15 2008 18:27

whoops.... The point I was trying to make was that getting Masters Reps from all these departments as well as PhD Reps is probably stretching it... The Postgraduate Rep would be responsible for gathering feedback from the PhD Dep Reps and the Masters Course Reps so noone is forgotten.

I have to refer to them as Postgraduates because that is what they are!

Nov 15 2008 18:32

Exactly my point Ashley. The Postgraduates didn't feel like they were a part of the Faculty traditionally. There was certainly enough publicity- we've always advertised the AAO Research positions in Felix along with the other positions, but they traditionally rarely get filled whilst the other positions are mostly contested. The PGs didn't feel that those elections were of any relevance to them, and now that we are presenting them in a different way that makes more sense to PGS, they think they are more relevant to them. This won't stop PGs running for other positions in the Faculty if they really want to though.

Nov 15 2008 18:36

Simple question, ignoring everything else. Is it sensible to consider taught masters students (around for 1 year, no office, sitting in lectures/doing coursework) to be the same as PhD students (around for 3 years, office, helping with tutorials, marking coursework, travel to international conferences) ?

College seems to think that these two groups form some sort of homogeneous unit.

But it's not unknown for PhD students to play an active role in supervising MSc students, simply because they're doing their Masters Thesis in an area directly related to a PhD Thesis. I really don't understand how it makes sense. From a PASTORAL view, it does make sense - postgraduates are older, may have partners/children and so their needs in that regard will be similar. However from learning/academic view, it's totally bizarre to lump them together. What about mature undergraduates? They have the same needs as taught masters wrt. possibly having children etc.

I'm actually coming around to an idea put to me a few years ago: that PhD students should join the UCU (AUT as was), because they have so much in common with RAs and academic staff that it makes sense.

Nov 15 2008 19:22

College doesn't always consider the two groups to be a homogonous unit. Look at the SCR for example!

I think you'd find a lot of legal problems with joining the UCU because employment contracts and (student) registration status and other associated problems would all become very complex. Think about all the problems about getting Council Tax Exemption for Writing-Up students. Essentially to join the UCU you'd have to be classed as an employee rather than a student and all of a sudden it's an absolute hell hole of things that PhDs cannot do, aren't entitled to, cannot have any say in etc etc. I had looked into this once. it's not a good idea.

Nov 15 2008 19:25

Interesting, I recall being told by the UCU that they would also represent PhD students...

Nov 15 2008 19:33

I'm sure they'd be happy to boost their membership numbers. :o)

Whether or not it would be any good for those students or not is a different matter. I'm not saying it isn't possible I just don't think that the benefits of being a member of a trade union would outweigh the disadvantage of losing student status. If you could wrangle it so that you could maintain both then it would work out very well but I imagine someone at some point would say 'hang on a minute... they can't have their cake and eat it...'

22. Hmm   
Nov 15 2008 19:39


Let just propose the right solution. Change the GSA into the RSA (research students association). Research students become a part of it and the taught students have their welfare dealt with by faculty unions.

Nov 17 2008 16:39

jon matthews is alive and well but clearly said he would only get involved when asked for his input and he has stuck to it. perhaps someone should ask him for his opinion or are people too afraid to persuade him out of retirement and ask for his help?

Nov 17 2008 19:29

Nobody wants him to come out of retirement!

Nov 17 2008 21:06

Jon Matthews' tears cure cancer. Shame he has never cried.

Nov 20 2008 13:38

I heard Jon Matthews climbed the Himalayas half naked with only a toothpick to help him.

did you know he was also the first man in space?

Nov 20 2008 19:45

yes, but even he was unable to stop certain clubs *cough, cough* from behaving badly...

Nov 21 2008 01:55

HAHHHAAA F**k you bitchez - football club is the biggest club out there, what the f**k are you and your muvvas fat c**t gunna do to stop us doin what the fuk we want. brap brap your ass - i wanna smash a pub, i will c**ts so why dont you gettalife you wankas, or if you got any real balls - come meet us at the union at the next sports nite - we'll f**k your pussy face right up harder than i fukked your muvvas s**t leakin goatse asshole BRAP FU

29. Editor   
Nov 21 2008 02:41

Any further comments related to the football club posted in articles not related to the football club will be deleted from those threads.

I'll leave the above comment as an example of some of the fun you can expect from the article on IC Football creating havoc in Hammersmith.

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