The University’s senior management has informed staff that a review of undergraduate teaching in the College of Life Sciences and the College of Medicine, Dentistry and Nursing will likely mean cuts to staff numbers.
University Secretary Dr. Jim McGeorge said in an email, which was sent to staff today, that the University Court had approved the review last month.
DUSA Media first learned about the impending staff cuts to both colleges after the Court met in February, but agreed to hold the story until the University had informed staff.
Back then, McGeorge told DUSA Media that the Court expected “a reduction of around ten staff” as the result of changes “to modernise and re-develop the Life Sciences, Medicine and Dental undergraduate degree programmes.”
McGeorge also confirmed to DUSA Media that the Court had agreed that “a reduction of between 80 and 120 academic staff posts is required” across the University, a number that had been reported earlier by The Courier. He cautioned, however, that “the precise target number will only be established when the further proposals come to Court in April.”
In his email to staff, McGeorge said: “The Colleges will establish a consistent approach to management and delivery of all teaching and scholarship for biomedical and life sciences undergraduate teaching across the University, including the delivery of MBChB [Bachelor of Medicine/Surgery] and BDS [Bachelor of Dental Surgery] science teaching.”
He said the University hoped staff in both Colleges could be reduced without layoffs, including through the voluntary severance scheme the Court approved last month. “Full details of the scheme are to be finalised after consultation with the campus unions,” McGeorge added.
McGeorge also told staff that changes in other areas “will be subject to consultation through Senate and School and College Boards, and also with the campus unions.”
The Student Representative Council has called on the University to explain what consequences it will have for them when up to 120 members of academic staff are cut.
An SRC resolution said that “the University’s communication on the issue has been nothing short of disastrous” and that “students are left in the dark about the consequences the cuts will have on their education.”
The resolution went on to state: “With five to ten percent of academic staff positions on the chopping block, consequences are inevitable. The University has failed to tell students which schools will suffer the most, whether entire courses could be shut down, and how an already overworked academic staff is expected to serve students.”
A University spokesman reacted by pointing to the Court’s statement made last week and Principal Pete Downes’ presentation during a special SRC meeting, and said there would be a letter from the Principal to staff and students today.
The spokesman added: “As already explained in the University’s previous statements, detailed plans surrounding the voluntary severance scheme will be taken forward to the next meeting of Court in April. Staff and students will be made aware of those plans as and when they have been fully developed.”
In a separate motion, proposed by Psychology School president Martin Béll, the SRC called on the University to provide graduates with life-long email addresses. Current @dundee.ac.uk email addresses are usually closed six months after a student graduates from the University. SRC reps and the University’s IT department will work together on the issue in the near future.
The SRC met on Tuesday right after DUSA’s annual general meeting. President Iain MacKinnon updated students on his Exec’s activities since taking office in July. MacKinnon also presented a report on DUSA’s accounts for the year that ended on 31 July 2013, which showed DUSA made a loss of £113,000. He said DUSA is expected to make a surplus for the current year.
After issues in previous years, this year’s general meeting had been overhauled. The quorum was reduced significantly, and unlike last year, when the meeting banned selling The Sun in DUSA premises, the meeting did not discuss any motions, as these will now be decided upon during next month’s referendum process.
Like the SRC, DUSA Media is part of DUSA, but you already knew that. The author is an SRC member and proposed the staff cuts motion.
In a mock referendum held on Tuesday, students at the University of Dundee voted against independence.
Students were asked the same question that will be on the ballot for the official referendum in September, “Should Scotland be an independent country?” 319 students participated in the mock referendum. 58.6 percent (187 students) said “no” in response to the question, with 40.4 percent (129 students) voting “yes”.
DUSA President Iain MacKinnon said in a statement: “It’s great to see so many students engaged in politics at the University with hundreds voting in this referendum. The vote was a lot closer than many people expected and shows that there is still a lot to play for. I hope that the students who voted here today continue getting involved in politics and, for those who are able, vote in the real referendum in September.”
Students were given the chance to cast their vote in DUSA’s foyer during the day. The mock referendum, which had been advertised across campus in the past few days, was part of DUSA’s efforts to raise political awareness among students. Dundee City Council were on hand on Tuesday to register any students who had not yet done so.
DUSA Media is part of DUSA, but you already knew that.
In reaction to proposed staff reductions at the University of Dundee, the Dundee University College Union is calling on staff and students to lobby the University Court. The Court is scheduled to discuss the plan, which the union calls “divisive and ill conceived”, during its meeting later today.
DUCU president Janice Aitken said in a statement to DUSA Media: “It is clear that his proposal is not in the best interests of students, who have already noticed the significant reductions in staff available to teach and support them.”
She invited students to join staff the rally at 1 PM in front of the Bonar Hall.
Aitken said there were better ways for the University to improve its finances: “One way could perhaps be to re-examine the College structure that is very heavy on highly paid senior managers who do not directly contribute to the quality of student experience.”
She also said the union had written Court members to express its concerns. “We are also asking for a much more transparent examination of the finances in the University in terms of why staff costs are being blamed for the lack of surplus even though spending on staff has gone down considerably over the last few years,” she added.
DUSA has not yet taken an official position on the issue, although many SRC members questioned the plan when University principal Pete Downes addressed the council last Tuesday.
DUSA’s president, Iain MacKinnon, declined to comment on the rally.
MacKinnon, who as president of DUSA sits on the Court, said: “I will be at Court on Monday ensuring that the [University’s] senior management team properly justify any actions which they are proposing, and making sure that they are sincere when they state that the student experience will not be affected.”
MacKinnon said he and Marija Tasevska, the independent member of Court, will ensure that the Court hears students’ concerns.
University principal Professor Pete Downes has confirmed the University will set up a severance scheme to reduce academic staff and defended the losses as necessary for Dundee’s 25-year plan to become Scotland’s leading university.
“We are proposing that we open a voluntary severance scheme for academic staff,” Downes said. “And we’re also proposing a small change management programme in one area of the University, which will lead to a small number – probably no more than about ten – [of] staff losses.” He added, “It would be disingenuous to say that it’s our intention that that’s where that ends.”
The Courier reported earlier this week the University was looking to cut 150 academic staff. While stating that The Courier’s article contained “inaccuracies”, Downes said it would not be appropriate for him to discuss how many employees and which academic programmes will be affected by the plans.
The University Court, the governing body responsible for staff and finance matters, will consider the scheme during its meeting on Monday. Although the Court might issue a statement after that meeting, crucial details will likely not be available until April.
Explaining why the University’s senior management considered the cuts necessary, Downes said: “We always envisaged that [the vision] would require us to do some quite difficult things … in part financially, to support investment in the most important areas of the University.”
He added, “The aim and purpose of what we’re trying to do is to ensure that the University can invest in its future.”
Downes, along with Professor Karl Leydecker, the vice-principal for learning and teaching, and Dr. Jim McGeorge, the University secretary, addressed a special meeting of the Student Representative Council (SRC) on Tuesday night. Originally scheduled to update student representatives about the University’s progress in implementing its vision, the meeting was overshadowed by The Courier article.
In his presentation, Downes focused on the University’s efforts to improve the student experience as a key part of the “Transformation” strategy. He said the institution already benefits from the “excellent reputation” of Dundee University Students’ Association (DUSA), and that both sides are working to further strengthen their partnership.
Downes said the University wanted to increase the subvention with which it supports DUSA, and was working on improving the availability of timetables. He also said further investment in the Library and more space for DUSA’s Premier shop were among the plans for the near future.
In the discussion following the presentation, student representatives were mostly critical of the University’s plan to reduce staff. They pointed out that current students are unlikely to benefit from the long-term vision while feeling its drawbacks now, that prospective students could shy away from accepting a place at Dundee in the light of recent news, and that many staff members already put in extra hours to get their work done.
Downes defended the plans, saying that the cuts would be accompanied by reviewing whether curricula could be simplified and workloads redistributed. “There are clear areas where [the University’s] performance is significantly less than … the other institutions with which we compare ourselves.”
“If we look at the income that our staff generate, and divide that by the number of academic staff, we are a long way below our nearest competitors. So we’re being unproductive in certain respects,” Downes said. He singled out research income and attracting students from overseas as areas in which the University was below the benchmarks.
Leydecker added, “There are some areas where we don’t have enough staff. We need to be able to release some resource to make those investments and improve the student experience and the support environment that we have. We can’t do that at the moment because we don’t have the headroom to do it.”
The two Court members elected by students – DUSA President Iain MacKinnon and an Independent Court Member Marija Tasevska – did not comment during the SRC meeting. Both are bound by the body’s confidentiality rules.
DUSA Media is part of DUSA, but you already knew that. The author is an SRC member.
The dean of the School of Psychology, Professor Trevor Harley, has announced that he will leave his post at the end of July. “I’ll still be here, but just doing more of what I want to do: writing, research, comedy, public awareness of science and psychology… the list could go on and on,” he said on the school’s Facebook page.
In an email to DUSA Media, Prof Harley said his decision, which he had announced internally a few weeks ago, was not related to yesterday’s news about University staff cuts. Asked whether he would stay at the University, he said: “Definitely staying here (unless another institution comes along offering me much more money for much less work, of course).”
Prof Harley said his biggest success as dean, a position he held for eleven years, was “hiring many tremendous new staff, who are young and energetic, from ethnically diverse backgrounds, and increasing the number of female academics in the School.”
Explaining his work on his staff profile page, he said: “I work primarily on the psychology and neuropsychology of speech production, and the representation of word meaning. I focus in particular on lexicalisation, the processes whereby we turn thoughts into sounds.”
In addition to his academic work, Prof Harley is known for his standup comedy, including a gig during the Fringe in Edinburgh last year.
Martin Bell, Psychology’s school president, said: “Psychology students will be greatly saddened to see him step down as dean. He has been a fantastic figurehead within the school who makes a real effort to engage with students from the very beginning of their degree, a rare quality which has inspired the admiration of everyone that has studied here during his term.”
Asked about the timeline for appointing a successor, a University spokesman said the process would start shortly.
About six months ago, the Exec – the seven student-elected leaders of Dundee University Students’ Association (DUSA) – took office with ambitious plans. Now that they are more than halfway through their terms, we sat down with them to talk about their experiences, successes and lessons learned. In the final installment of our series, President Iain MacKinnon talks about DUSA’s budget, the challenges of getting students involved, and lad culture on campus.
“Better communication and engagement with students” is one of the things you promised in your last campaign. How would you rate yourself on that?
Quite highly. Last year’s Exec did a lot with the University behind the scenes. I wanted to do a lot more with students and I think my Exec has been more open and approachable.
You said you’d work for “more involvement in national campaigns”. Are there any achievements in this area that you’re proud of?
We’re not a member of the National Union of Students (NUS), so perhaps we miss out on some of their big campaigns. Although we did run a few concurrently with them, like Tim [Hustler-Wraight, DUSA’s Honorary Secretary]’s campaign on payday loans.
I’m in contact with the NUS Scotland’s Women’s Officer. They’re running a campaign on “lad culture” on campus. I’m involved with the Feminist Society and I’m really keen to do something on that.
Do you see that as a particularly big problem in Dundee?
No, I think we do quite well on that. I was Honorary Secretary for two years and I didn’t see many cases come up in [disciplinary panels] that involved students doing something inappropriate to someone of the opposite or the same sex. I think that if any student, male or female, had an issue [in the Union], they would speak to customer safety, who would deal with the issue then and there.
Can you walk us through DUSA’s budget? I think many students don’t know too much about that.
DUSA’s overall turnover is about £5.5 million to £6 million. We usually run close to the line between deficit and surplus, because we’re a charity and don’t make money for dividends and things like that. Our senior managers have taken a pay freeze for years, and the Exec earn £17,500, so we’re not exactly paid tons.
Last year, we had deficit of over £100,000. It was one of our worst financial years for decades. When we realized we were running into financial issues, we took action. We made one of our senior members of staff redundant, for example. We also expanded Mono, which we paid for out of our cash reserves.
Despite the deficit, we don’t have to go to the bank grovelling for money. We have the cash reserves to pay for that. This year, we’re up a few tens of thousands so far, so that’ll make up for it. When we’ve got any money left over, it goes into the reserves.
How does the University support DUSA?
We get just over £500,000 from the University every year for everything we do. It’s one of the lowest subventions per student of any big union in the UK.
Do you think that’s a fair amount?
In all honesty, I’d like to see more. We got what amounted to about a ten-percent increase last year to pay for two new positions: one to help with policy support for the Exec, and another position to help with societies and volunteering.
We’re getting help from the University in other ways, though. The [former bank branch next to the Union’s main entrance] is being turned into a student support hub at the moment. We’re getting offices in 18 Airlie Place because currently some of our staff are in [the Union] and others in Cross Row, across the Library. And the shop is being expanded as well.
We greatly appreciate that, but I think it’s important that we keep pushing for more.
Can you explain how DUSA is involved in student representation behind the scenes? All Exec members have said that takes up a lot of time…
A heck of a lot of time. I added up how many committees I sit on in DUSA and in the University, and it’s over 50.
The University is committed to having a student on almost every committee or working group or sub-committee on campus. As President, a lot of them fall to me. I sit on the University Court, the highest governing body that deals with big financial decisions, University strategy responses to government documents, and things like that. Along with the rest of the Exec, I also sit on the Senate, which is the highest academic body.
Then there’s a whole host of other committees like learning and teaching, finance and policy, the “5 Million Questions” group, two recent appointment panels for the new head of admissions and student recruitment and the new head of international operations…
Do you think you make a difference on these committees?
I think we do. Any I sit on, definitely. There are members of the University staff who are very focused on the student experience, like the new vice-principal for learning and teaching [Professor Karl Leydecker]. He’s keen to get student input on everything and has created a few new committees himself, all with a student on them, and that’s fantastic.
Are students from outside the Exec or the Student Representative Council (SRC) involved in these committees?
Not yet. We’re currently looking into trying to get school presidents more involved in committees within their schools and in their colleges. Most school presidents already sit on their school boards and learning and teaching committees. But Dundee’s structure involves colleges as well, and it would be great to see school presidents involved at that level, too. The University seems to agree with this, so hopefully we’ll see some progress there this year or next.
You’ve said you wanted the Exec to be more accountable. How is that going?
So much of what I do is behind the scenes and students don’t know and don’t care about it. The Exec present updates at every SRC. I could write articles for The Magdalen or dusamedia.com. But if no one reads them, what’s the point?
Students are obviously not getting engaged enough. Either you come to University for the degree and that’s it, or you get involved in some societies, go out for drinks in [the Union], and that’s where your involvement with DUSA ends. Students only come to us if they need us for an appeal or with a housing issue.
So many things happen on campus because of student representation, and students don’t realize that. How many students about to get [financial support for students from England, Northern Ireland, and Wales, who have to pay £9,000 per year in tuition fees when coming to University here] realize that I helped to get that? How many students realize that the Library is now open until 2:30 AM every day because student reps fought for it? If we get 24-hour Library access over the next exam period, how many students are going to realize it’s because the SRC is fighting for that?
If I go out and say, “I was on a committee about student services yesterday, and we talked about how the timetabling on campus is crap” – how many students are going to care that I was there pushing for a better timetabling system? Many students want that. But when we get it, how many are going to realize that it was myself, that it was Kayleigh [Watson, the First-Year Service and Facilities Rep] on the SRC, that it was Stefan [Tomov, DUSA’s VP of Engagement] pushing for exam timetables to come out earlier?
But students just don’t question the University enough. If you don’t get your reading list until Freshers Week or even Week 1, if you don’t get your timetable until two or three weeks before the exams – why can’t the University improve there?
A big thing last year was the crappy WiFi in the Library. Students just accepted that. When the SRC took the issue to the Library, they told us they hadn’t had any feedback saying that. So we started a petition, took it to the University, and now WiFi in the Library has been improved. [Editor’s note: The interview with Iain was done before the latest round of WiFi issues in the Library.]
We need students to come forward and take ownership of their education, whether they pay fees or not. For most of them, it’s their University for four years of their life. They need to take control of it by standing up more than they currently do. I’d love it if every day I came into my office with a bunch of complaints from students that I could take to the University.
Is the fact that most students don’t pay fees part of the problem?
I worry about using that argument. If I go to the University and say, “This student pays £9,000 a year but they only get four contact hours a week, which means each tutorial is worth however many hundred pounds”, then you create a tiered system. You’ve got Scottish and EU students paying nothing, RUK students paying £9,000, and internationals paying upwards of £10,000. What if the University starts treating students who pay fees better? That’s not the way we should be looking at it. Scottish students should be expecting just as much. They may not be paying fees right now, but they’ll pay taxes and they’re spending thousands of pounds to live in Dundee.
The University judges itself to a certain extent – although it won’t come out and say so – on league tables, on National Student Survey (NSS) scores, etc. If they’re going to improve things, they need students to stand up. So if a student has an issue, speak to your student reps, speak to an SRC councillor, speak to a school president, speak to me.
Talking about standing up, what’s your take on the staff strike?
It’s a difficult one for me. Personally, I find the idea of staff getting a pay cut in real terms for the past five years terrible. They are here to support students and if they’re having a crap time at work, they’re not going to be able to provide services to the best of their abilities. So we as students should be supporting our staff.
If I’m representing a student, however, who has had their exam cancelled or moved, then I can’t stand up and say I completely support the strike.
For me, the blame doesn’t rest on the staff members who are striking, or even on Dundee University. The problem is that pay negotiations happen on the national level and that the unions and the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) are not coming to a deal. From what I gather, UCEA have just stuck their heels in the ground and said one percent is what staff are getting, that’s it, so the staff have had to resort to industrial action. The blame rests on UCEA for not coming back to the negotiating table.
Have you pushed the University to lobby UCEA to do that?
Yes, especially after the SRC motion [in support of the staff strike]. It was good to have the student council backing staff. Although my main concern is making sure that students aren’t penalised – be that students whose exam is cancelled or moved, or the student who refuses to cross a picket line. I have lobbied the University to say that if you don’t want to cross the picket line, you shouldn’t be penalised. At every level, we would support these students for what is a personal, a moral choice.
What can students expect for the rest of your term?
A lot of the next semester will be taken up with the elections [for the Exec and school presidents in February] and referendums. We’ve also got a big bunch of political campaigns. DUSA has been confirmed as a polling station and that’ll be used for the first time for the EU elections. Then the independence referendum is coming up in September and we’ll be working towards that.
I also hope I can get the lad culture campaign up and running, with or without the NUS’s help. I’d be really keen to start running more campaigns as President, so if students have any ideas, I’m happy to help them.
I already know that a lot of my time will be spent in meetings, and that’s terribly dull and boring. We also want to review academic tutors and advisers, for example, because the system just doesn’t work in Dundee. That will take up a lot of my time as well.
Are you running for re-election?
Yes, I’m running again. I’ve enjoyed the last year and would love to continue working for students, even if the pay’s not fantastic.
DUSA Media is part of DUSA, but you knew that already. The interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
Zuchaela Smylie, DUSA’s Vice President of Communication and Campaigns
About six months ago, the Exec – the seven student-elected leaders of Dundee University Students’ Association (DUSA) – took office with ambitious plans. Now that they are more than halfway through their terms, we sat down with them to talk about their experiences, successes and lessons learned. In the sixth installment of our series, Vice President of Communication and Campaigns Zuchaela Smylie talks about an upcoming mock referendum on independence, student enterprise, and the role of student media.
You promised in your statement to “provide a gateway to student involvement in important social political issues affecting them”. What have you done in that regard?
The first thing to increase student involvement was the Big Education Debate, which was a joint event between DUSA and the University. The main focus was what independence could mean for higher education in Scotland, which obviously is a big issue to students. This doesn’t just affect students from Scotland but also those from the rest of the UK, the EU, and around the world. If Scotland becomes independent, it’s going to affect everyone, with fees, immigration laws, etc.
Since then, Iain [MacKinnon, DUSA’s President] and myself have been working with the “5 Million Questions” group [an initiative by DUSA and the University to hold debates on topics related to the Scottish independence referendum in September]. We have been giving them the views of students and advice on how they can get them involved.
We managed to secure the Union as a polling station, which is great for students – particularly those in halls – who may not know where their local polling station is. It means that they have this central hub where they can vote. We’ve also had the electoral commission here and will have them again, and they’ll be offering advice to students and give them the chance to register themselves to vote.
Then we’re having a mock referendum on independence the same week as the Exec elections [in February] to gather what students’ attitudes are. It’ll be a paper ballot, very similar to the real thing.
You also said you would want to encourage “student ideas and employability”. How is that going?
That’s been hard to implement and it’s currently in the initial stages. The Big Education Debate took up a lot of time and so did [DUSA Radio’s 55-hour] Marathon Radio Show.
I noticed that there were a lot of students who had their own businesses on the side, whether it was offering a service or a product. Students often find it hard to get part-time jobs while they’re here. So when I was thinking about my policies last year, I wanted to help promote students who also run a business.
The first idea I came up with was the Winter Market [in December]. We had a few stalls for students to sell their products, and we hope to turn it into a semi-regular thing. I would also like to create an online student business directory, where any student can register their business.
You also talked about “reinvigorating the student media systems and advancing their social worth and recognition”. How have you helped DUSA Media?
I was lucky enough to be blessed with a great team. I can’t take any credit for that but I think they’re all doing great.
This is dusamedia.com’s first year and it has definitely taken off. The Magdalen is doing great. There have been some controversial articles, but all in all, the magazine has definitely been improving a lot this year: The new design and the new logo are phenomenal and the front covers are getting better with every issue.
Perhaps the biggest boost has been in DUSA Radio, which was non-existent toward the end of last year. One my ways of raising awareness for that was through the Marathon Radio Show, which was done in coordination with this year’s RAG [raising and giving] effort.
I would like to push DUSA TV in the second semester, that’s something we’re going to talk about.
There’s been some controversy about one of our articles last semester. In light of that, talk a bit about how you understand DUSA Media’s role on campus.
It’s important that DUSA Media represent student views. Now, students don’t necessarily agree on everything. I think people should be able to express how they feel as long as it’s within the law and their remarks aren’t racist or sexist or so.
DUSA Media is funded by DUSA. What are the pros and cons of that arrangement?
I think it’s a good solution. It means there’s a budget set aside for the media, which provides a sense of security for DUSA Media’s work, and it provides continuity for the outlets. It also means there’s a balance of what you guys want to do and what DUSA needs you to do, like working with the Exec and promoting the Student Representative Council (SRC).
Some people may feel that they have to be more sensitive about what they write and those who want to be extremely controversial may feel that they don’t have the freedom to do that. But I don’t think that that’s necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes, when things are independent, they fire out of control.
Your title is VP of Communication and Campaigns. We already talked about the campaign side, what’s the communication part about?
Each week a member of the Exec writes a post for the Exec blog. I oversee those and make sure they’re put on the website and the Exec board in the Union.
We have been concerned with how hard it is for people to access things like the Exec page on DUSA’s website. Other student associations make it a lot easier for students to find that sort of information. We are working on improving that for the Exec, the SRC and student representation in general.
I will say that perhaps the communication side of things has not been my strongest point so far. I’ve given myself a kick up the backside and we’re communicating more on social media about what we have done, what we are doing right now, and what we will be doing.
You said in your statement is that you would like to organize better website designs for societies. How that’s coming along?
That’s something I have not even looked at. It’s probably something that is not realistically implementable for me. I didn’t realize how many different campaigns and other things I would have going on.
Another point you mentioned was mental health awareness. What are your plans for that?
Katie [Jowett, VP of Student Welfare] and I had been planning various mental health events. We had hoped for it to be a yearlong campaign but unfortunately, due to other commitments on both ends, that wasn’t feasible. It was a lot of work, we had a very short time for planning… But there will be something next semester. It’s an issue that’s really important to me on a personal level and something I would really like to focus on.
What’s the thing that surprised you the most since taking office?
The wide range of things I’m doing. One minute I will be sitting in my office planning the next campaign, the next minute I’ll be down riverside taking part in a Sports Union charity event, and after that I’ll be sitting in an important University meeting.
I also didn’t think I’d be having a radio show with Jade [Rea, DUSA’s Deputy President]. I’ve really enjoyed taking that up.
Are you going to run for re-election?
I’ve been considering it for some time and have decided that I will be running again.
DUSA Media is part of DUSA, but you knew that already. In addition, the VPCC directly oversees the work of all DUSA Media outlets, including dusamedia.com. The Interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
A former student from the University of Dundee was held in December as part of an insider dealing probe by the Financial Conduct Authority. Paul Coyle, now treasurer and head of tax at Morrisons, Britain’s fourth-largest supermarket chain, was arrested, yet not charged, at the end of last year. According toThe Telegraph, who broke the story Monday morning, Mr Coyle “was arrested on suspicion of buying shares in Ocado before it was publicly revealed that the companies had agreed a lucrative partnership to launch an online grocery service for Morrisons”.
Mr Coyle graduated from Dundee University in 1987 with an MA (Hons) in German and Contemporary European Studies. He then joined Inland Revenue as a tax inspector before working stints at KPMG and RAC, according to a LinkedIn profile that seems to have been recently deactivated. Mr Coyle has served as Morrisons’ group treasurer and head of tax since 2006.
According to sources inside Dundee University Students’ Association (DUSA), national newspapers are investigating whether Mr Coyle has claimed to have been president of DUSA in the past. He never held that office, but he did serve as president of the Student Representative Council (SRC) for a time, a position that no longer exists.
DUSA Media is part of DUSA, but you knew that already.
Correction: A previous version of this article revealed an embarrassing lack of Latin knowledge within our editorial team. Mr Coyle could not have been an “alumni”, as the headline previously claimed, because he’s only one (ergo an “alumnus”). In lieu of apologies, we shall attempt to memorize the University’s official motto: Magnificat anima mea dominum (My soul does magnify the Lord).
Katie Jowett, DUSA’s Vice President of Student Welfare
About six month ago, the Exec – the seven student-elected leaders of Dundee University Students’ Association (DUSA) – took office with ambitious plans. Now that they are more than halfway through their terms, we sat down with them to talk about their experiences, successes and lessons learned. In the fifth instalment of our series, Vice President of Student Welfare Katie Jowett talks about STI testing on campus, volunteering opportunities, and why even responsible students occasionally need to let loose.
You said in your statement that you wanted to increase awareness of student services around campus. What have you done with regards to that?
I introduced a few social media sites for student welfare. I have a Facebook site, I use my own Twitter, I put up regular posts on DUSA’s Facebook page, advertising links to student services. I also regularly post and retweet messages that the different University departments put out. I’m constantly advertising different services, whether it’s online or through flyers, telling anyone who will listen to go to student services because they’ll help.
Do more students use these services now?
I know it for the Health Service. Although they had quote high numbers, it was still relatively low compared to the student population. The number of people who went to the health service this year has shot up, to the point of where we’re almost overworking them. It’s definitely increased, at least for some departments.
Why should students go to the Health Service?
We now do STI testing on campus, which is great because it’s a drop-in and it means that you don’t have to go up to Ninewells. Any day during the week, you can go when you are on campus.
We also have a regular doctors’ surgery at 1 PM every day. It can take so long with your regular GP so if you’re really ill, that’s easier if you are on campus already. Students can go there instead of booking an appointment with their own GP.
The second goal you set for yourself was to carry out a week dedicated to the importance of a healthy mind, healthy body for students. Talk about that.
Healthy body, healthy mind is about increasing awareness of how being healthy all over in general can help you in different aspects. If you eat healthily, you’re more likely to be mentally healthy as well. If you’re doing regular exercise, you’ll be stress free and more likely to be healthy. It all connects together.
It’s important that everyone on campus should be healthy, so instead of a week dedicated to that, myself and the Sports Union, who lead that campaign, and Students Services carry out one-off events throughout the year to keep the awareness up.
I also have a Pinterest board with a lot of tips.
You also wanted to promote awareness of student volunteer roles. Have you made any progress on that?
The idea is that if you want to volunteer, there will be a list of places where you can go, both on campus and in the community. You will get a little bit of credit for it, whether it’s a certificate saying you dedicated so many hours, for example. I’m part of a working group that is putting that in place.
I currently advertise any volunteer roles that the Career Service put up, like internships on campus. I regularly post about the Student Representative Council (SRC) to get students involved in that, even by just helping out on different campaigns or for societies and events…
You also wanted to run a campaign for drink awareness. Obviously the Union depends on students spending their money on, among other things, drinks. Do you see any tension there?
No. It’s important to remember that we’re never going to get students not to drink at all, and I wouldn’t want to take away their chance to enjoy themselves. A big part of remaining stress free is being able to let loose every so often. I’ve aimed the campaign at just responsibly and at making sure you’re safe, so that it doesn’t get to the point where you’re throwing up on a street corner at three o’clock in the morning when no one’s about and you’re putting yourself at risk of being locked out of your flat.
You are one of the Exec’s non-sabbs, which means you also study. How does being a final-year student and having this position go together?
It’s incredibly difficult. I really enjoy it, and I don’t regret running for it, despite the fact that I have been incredibly stressed at times. Defining hours when I would be available for students to drop in pretty early on was important. That gave me time to not only focus on uni work but focus on me as well. Otherwise you end up living here in the Union.
Would it make sense to make VPSW a sabb role?
As much as I would like it to be a sabbatical role, I don’t think that’s a high priority. A lot of what I do is supporting Student Services, helping them with campaigns, and they help me with mine. If it was to become a sabbatical role, I think it would take a lot away from them. Effectively I’m here to make sure that they’re doing their job properly and the students’ needs are being heard. I don’t think there’s the need for a full-time position.
I think many students know Student Services exist but don’t use it, maybe because of embarrassment or stigma. Why would you say that is?
Knowledge about Student Services is a lot like knowledge about everything on campus. You’re kind of aware it’s there, but until you actually need it, you don’t think about how they can help. Often, when the students are in crisis or stressed, they go, “Oh wait, there’s a Student Services.” They’re often not aware of the events I set up to prepare them for the exams, to stop them getting to the very end of their tether…
Unfortunately we can advertise as much as we want and constantly shout “It’s right here”, but until you need it, you’re not going to find it. Luckily, with the move to old bank [in the entrance area of DUSA] this year, they can be a lot more effective than where there currently are.
If you had to single out one threat to student welfare in Dundee, what would it be?
Alcohol and the freedom to escape all the rules your parents have set down. When you’re finally free and away from home, you can do whatever you want. Some students run with that freedom and get themselves into a bit of a state. But there’s plenty of students who are responsible, understand what risks come with drinking, and manage it with the work and the hangover.
What was the biggest surprise for you coming into this office?
I didn’t expect that we would be that well known on campus. I never really knew what the Exec did until a couple of years ago. It’s been really nice to see that there are plenty of students who know who we are and will happily come to us with issues.
Are you running for re-election or another office next year?
No, I’m not. I’m in fourth year and I don’t feel I could carry a postgrad and an elected position at the same time.
DUSA Media is part of DUSA, but you knew that already. The interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.