With the small matter of a general election around the corner that could have a major impact on both students and staff at universities, the buzz of activity at The University of Manchester in recent weeks has centred around the annual elections to the Executive of the University of Manchester Students Union. For anyone working in higher education, the campaign posters, election hustings and associated paraphernalia will be a familiar sight around campus.
The object of all this activity of course is to persuade students to elect candidates into various roles, with one-year salaried posts to be taken up in the following academic year. Among the range of roles – including Entertainments, Wellbeing and Campaigns – there is a vote for the post of Education Officer.
This year, most of the candidates were offering a manifesto based on improving the facilities, resources and learning opportunities available to students. Enriching the student experience is a core goal for students seeking election to this role. Of course, the student experience is one of the main priorities for the University as a whole, but students are now being far more analytical about what this means to them in practice.
In a record high turnout this year – highlighting the growing engagement of our students in the elections and the issues being debated – the winning candidate for Education Officer actively campaigned on an issue that resonated strongly with us and is one of the key drivers for the Books Right Here Right Now project:
“End additional course costs!”
University libraries are always struggling with the perennial issue of students not being provided with enough copies of their core texts and finding a viable solution to this problem is a real challenge. To some extent, the practice of lecturers advising students to acquire copies of their core texts – and students doing so – has eased the situation in the past but in the current educational climate, with rising costs for students fuelling their increased expectations, we are seeing this model called into question.
With student dissatisfaction at meeting any additional course costs combining with institutional aspirations to enhance the student experience and ease the burden on students where possible, the outcome of this particular election has only served to increase our motivation to give the voters what they want…