President’s Report – External Council 19/11/2012

This was originally a report to External Council on 19th November.

 Campaigns

This semester has seen an impressive array of External Affairs campaigns, involving huge number of students and touching upon a wide variety of issues. I feel that this semester’s achievements for this Council alone has already exceeded the campaigning from the whole of Student Council this time last year (which included academic and welfare campaigns) so I am delighted. I have been involved in all of these campaigns but they have been genuinely led by the student members of this Council, so the great successes that we have had are down to their hard work. I am very impressed!

International student fees

On Monday 5th November I presented a report on the experience of international students at Edinburgh to the University Court. This had been prepared by the International Fees Task Group.

The report was excellent and perfectly replicated the University’s corporate branding (thanks Mike Shaw!). We already had informal support from the Principal on this issue but the result of this Court meeting is that this has become formalised and we can expect to see a formal proposal for how fixed fees or inflation-fixed fees will be implemented. My view is that we should push for fixed fees. One minor reservation that I have is that the discourse from the university has emphasised *undergraduate* programmes. This covers the vast majority of multi-year courses but I can see no reason for why we would not apply the same principles to PGs as to UGs.

On Tuesday 13th we presented the case for fixed fees for international students in the Scottish Parliament. There were people present there from the University, NUS, a wide range of students’ associations and MSPs. The event was very effective and we received many compliments on how well run and presented it was. A lot of this is down to the excellent work of Sheona Lawson, without whom the event would have been nothing like as good.

Overall, this campaign is going incredibly well. This is down to the wide and deep involvement of a range of students. This has meant over a thousand people signing our petition, over a hundred completing our survey, dozens of people contributing to the report, and a handful of dedicated activists working incredibly hard to achieve some amazing things. Some names which come to mind are Briana Pegado, Hona-Luisa Cohen-Fuentes and Mike Shaw. I also to specifically commend Aurora Adams for her excellent work in organising and coordinating the campaign, as well as her own individual efforts.

Defend Education – #demo2012

We have currently sold just short of 200 tickets for the demo (although 20 are to Edinburgh College at cost price). This means that we will be taking 4 buses down – fewer than 2010 but more than 2011.

Our initial target was for 250 people, the same as 2010, but this was a highly ambitious target. Overall I am delighted with this result.

Fundraising too has been remarkably successful. I hope to have a full report for this evening. The final fundraising event is the Ceilidh this evening, beginning right after this meeting. Do come!

Like with international fees, the success of this campaign has been down to the hard work of a wide range of activists. Lucy Eskell in particular has done an outstanding job in overseeing this fairly long-term and often pressurised campaign.

It is now important that we work out where we go post-demo. This is a discussion that I would like to encourage in this Council.

Birzeit and Right to Education

The initial plan of having two students from Birzeit come over was jeopardised by issues with visas and Israeli border control. This meant first that the delegation was delayed, and secondly that one of the students was unable to come. Instead we heard from the remaining student and the co-ordinator of the Right to Education campaign.

Despite these setbacks the lecture had great attendance and the speakers spoke eloquently and persuasively. was unable to attend the social event at the weekend so cannot comment on that.

The bulk of this work has been down to Liam O’Hare and Students for Justice in Palestine so I want to commend their work on this campaign.

Students in the community

On Wednesday 31st October we held our third annual Students in the Community event, jointly hosted with the South Central Neighbourhood Partnership. Students and members of the community came together to discuss potential projects. We then voted for the one we wanted to allocate funding to. The winner was the student society People and Planet, who want to create a permanent space where unwanted items can be sold on to members of the public. This builds on the massive success of their annual free shop where freshers can get free furniture and other items left by the previous year’s cohort of university tenants.

This event was the result of a huge amount of amazing work by Sheona Lawson which I cannot praise enough.

External representation

NUS Zone Conferences

Last meeting I had just been to the first of 3 NUS Zone Conferences I attended on EUSA’s behalf. I have since been to the other two: Union Development and Higher Education.

At Union Development conference I was elected to the Zone Committee. This will be an opportunity for me to gain skills and knowledge that I can apply to EUSA, and also to use my own experience to contribute towards the national student movement.

NUS Activism 2012

I delivered a session on University Governance at the NUS training conference ‘Activism 2012’ on Saturday 10th November.

NUS Union Development Zone Committee

I attended a UD Zone Committee meeting on Sunday 18th November.

Accountability

One of the purposes of this Council is to hold me to account. Since the last meeting I have received some informal criticism on a number of subjects. If anyone wants to question me on them they are as follows

–       The content of the statement regarding the visit of the Israeli Ambassador and subsequent protest. Issues raised have included our criticism of Professor Aspinwall’s intervention, the mention of ‘no platform’ and the criticism of shutting down the event. Everyone who has raised one of these issues has agreed with our position on others. My view is that the statement was appropriate in relation to our standing policy, relationship to societies, and the political context.

–       My decision not to attend the official Remembrance Day ceremony for political reasons.

–       My taking three days (which eventually became two due to unavoidable work commitments) on annual leave last week.

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