They’ve led the Union through the ups and downs we’ve faced; the move from the old building, the introduction of £9k fees and the loss of the trading company. It’s fair to say that they’ve faced a lot, but students in Bangor face a stronger future than any other in Wales because of their hard work. One of the strongest course rep systems, an Athletic Union and Societies Department bigger and better than ever, and millions more from the University into students lives. As they head off into the real world, let’s take a look at the great work that they’ve done in their time here…
Jo Caulfield, President
When this sabbatical team took charge of your union back in July 2010 we didn’t have an SU building, the
government was threatening unlimited tuition fees and 40% cuts to higher education, we had a new Vice
Chancellor, a new institutional focus and a pretty uncertain future. So naturally, we set to work.
Early last year, we took 250 students to the national demo in London and successfully fought a proposed
£75,000 cut to our Union. We got you a nightclub, became a Union with a zero tolerance stance towards any form of discrimination and made Academi a safe space.
We fought for a fairer disciplinary system in halls, argued for greater investment in Normal Site, and secured £87,000 in compensation for students living in Bryn Eithin who faced a number of significant problems with their accomodation.
We introduced a comprehensive course rep system, ensuring that every single school in this university had
elected course reps to get your voice heard in your academic department and we successfully lobbied for library improvements in line with your feedback, securing investment to extend opening hours over the summer and a fixed book-to-student ratio that will be rolled out next year. We were successful in arguing the case for anonymous marking and from next year it will be the default way of marking assignments across all academic schools. We’re really pleased with that.
I have to mention our formidable campaign to free up Wednesday afternoons. We petitioned, we postered the place, we raised the issue in every meeting we had with the University and at the end of a long year, we were successful. Now, 98% of students have Wednesday afternoons free from lectures and when Pontio arrives that figure will be 100%.
So, if all that wasn’t enough, this was the year the University decided to charge £9,000 fees. Naturally, we were pretty disappointed by this but we took the opportunity to ensure that the fee money of future students was spent in a way that directly benefits those students. Thanks to our lobbying, from next year the University is giving us funding to make all of our clubs and societies free at the point of entry. That means no membership fees, free AU Cards, free Societies Cards and free UMCB cards. Alongside this, we campaigned for more investment in volunteering, making it a priority for our union. From next year, we’ll have an additional £100,000 to spend on increasing participation and maximising the number of projects we can organise for you.
Finally, on a personal note I’d like to say thanks to all of you who have made the past two years the incredible experience that they’ve been. To everyone who signed our petitions, to anyone who came to a protest, who became a course rep, who voted in our elections, who attended our Varsity games or indeed any AU game or society event to support your students. To anyone who became a Senator or a Trustee, to everyone who took the time to send us feedback, to tell us we were doing well, to tell us where we could do better and to every single one of you who has given your time and your dedication to our incredible Students’ Union. You have made these last two years the most amazing of my life, you have done our student body proud and made me an incredibly, incredibly proud President.
Danielle Buckley, VP Education & Welfare
During my two years as VP Education and Welfare, we’ve made some real progress with loads of initiatives to improve your time at university. Firstly, the Course Rep system has gone from strength to strength. When I took office in 2010, the Students’ Union had around 35 course reps across the University, now we have 300, all trained and working hard to make sure your voice is heard in your academic schools. I organised two Housing Fortnights that were a great success, complete with sessions on house hunting advice that over 600 students attended. I also gathered loads of information from you about your landlords in our housing survey and used this to get the University to make some changes on that front. I made progress with Bodnant Surgery, after you told us where they could improve and feedback so far suggests this has made a really positive difference. This year, we ran our first ever Student Led Teaching Awards, an initiative designed to give you the chance to nominate any University staff member who made a difference to your student experience. The awards were a resounding success, we received over 300 nominations and held an awards ceremony that 200 staff and students attended. We’ve had loads of really positive feedback and I’m hoping to get an invite to next year’s ceremony…!
I’ve also spent a lot of time working closely with students in individual departments to sort out problems. We successfully managed to prevent changes made to third year modules in Biological Science, which made a number of students happy. In addition to all of this, I worked at a national level, starting a petition to the Welsh Government for free chlamydia testing kits in Wales. We made it NUS Wales policy for them to support this campaign and the petition has nearly a thousand signatures at this point. I’m looking forward to seeing where NUS take this campaign and hopefully we’ll get the same treatment as NHS users in England when it comes to STI testing. I’ve really enjoyed my time as a sabb and wish my successor, Shôn Prebble, the best of luck for next year!
Rich Gorman, VP Societies & Community
I was originally elected as VP Societies & Sustainability in 2010, a strange combination, but one that I enjoyed. Sustainability was a new part of the Union, and whilst I enjoyed a good cup of Fairtrade tea and had a degree in Sustainable Development (Geography with a funkier sounding name), it was quite scary being given a whole new department and being told to ‘build it’.
Luckily, NUS were running a scheme called ‘Green Impact Unions’, Bangor had managed to get ‘Bronze’ level in 2009, thanks to myself and a few other hippies hassling the previous Sabb team until they probably wanted to hang us with our organic hoodies. I set out to try and get us up to a Silver, there were over 200 different criteria and tasks, from ensuring all paper used in the Union was recycled paper, to encouraging biodiversity on campus. Several months later, it was a massive shock when Bangor was awarded Gold, named Most Improved Union and awarded The Ecologist Prize!
I was re-elected and took on the Community portfolio, albeit giving it a little green focus, from running community planting projects to encouraging students to put their bins out correctly (a massive local gripe) with a focus on recycling. We even managed to win NUS Wales’ Community Engagement Award for our variety of community based campaigns! In what spare time I had, I kept going on the NUS Green Impact programme too, and this year managed to achieve 99% completion – this led to us not only retaining our Gold award, but being named Union of the Year in our category – a massive success, from Bronze to Best in the UK in 2 years – not bad!
However, despite all this tree hugging, Societies have been the real mainstay of my role. When I took office in 2010, there were around 50 active societies. Now, as I finish, there are nearly 100 active student societies at Bangor. I wanted to make it easier for students to start societies, get rid of some of the pointless bureaucracy that surrounded them (who wants to have to write a 4 page constitution just to get a Chess Club going?) – I’d like to think I’ve succeeded. I wanted to give each individual society the attention and support they needed, some societies are huge, others are small, some are well known, others fairly niche. The truly unique thing about the Societies department is how diverse we are, each society is completely different from the next, and that is what makes us so successful – we’re able to represent as many interests and hobbies as our students have.
It’s been an absolute honour to be a Sabb for these last 2 years, I’ve met so many great people at Bangor who have inspired me. So thank you for the opportunity, and remember, keep on recycling!
Danielle Giles, VP Sport & Healthy Living
What a year it has been! So much has happened, so much has been achieved, amazing! Over the two years we have seen an increase of 35% in the number of students participating in sport for performance, including activities in Healthy Living Week, BUCS, intramural sport, varsity and club activities. Over both years we have worked together within the AU to produce a good Healthy Living Week, with a healthy living fairs, activities to try, free fruit and lunchtime walks to name a few of the events. This year has seen AU Nights become a huge part of students’ nights out. With the move back to Academi, the AU has been able to raise valuable funds. Varsity; both years were different to me with being away and home but this year’s was magical I will never forget the passion of our students, it was incredible and we WON! This year we have been very successful, right now we are 60th in the BUCS league table up 8 from last year, an amazing performance by many teams this year! Intramural events have continued with an increase in participation and the increase of intramural leagues with the addition of a Halls League. To say that it has been a good year cannot be complete without mentioning the huge amount of money that AU clubs have raised for charities including British Heart Foundation, Breast Cancer Care, Prostate Cancer, Hope Hospice and Mountain rescue. It shows that even when clubs are in need of money themselves they still find time to help support others. I can’t forget to mention the highlight of my time as AU President: the AU dinners have been amazing, to celebrate the year with all your friends in a great room, with great food and entertainment, is what I leave behind – I hope I get an invite next year.These past two years have been amazing and we have achieved so much I couldn’t have asked for a better sabb team or students to work with. I wish Emyr all the best and can’t wait for Old Boys!
It’s been a busy year for UMCB, a very successful one, and I am very proud to be a part of it all. In terms of events, Clwb Cymru has been held every other Thursday in Academi, it has been a great night giving Welsh students the chance to celebrate Welsh culture and to make some money for UMCB and our societies. A very successful event for us was the UMCB Rugby trip to Dublin in February, where 150 of our members went to Dublin for the Six Nations match and we were all celebrating a victory for Wales after a very exciting game. The biggest event of the year for UMCB was the Eisteddofd Ryng-golegol (inter-collegiate Eisteddfod) that was held in Bangor in PJ Hall back in February. This is one of the main events on the social and cultural calendar of any Welsh student. The weekend included a Sport Gala with rugby, football and seven a side netball championship, the Eisteddfod itself with stage competitions: everything from singing, dancing and acting competitions, and also a magnificent gig to follow the Eisteddfod with a performances by a number of Welsh bands. The Eisteddfod was a great success. Bangor came out on top achieving an overall 843 marks, with Aberystwyth University in second place with 482 marks, and the Welsh gig was a sell out! The atmosphere was electrifying and everyone enjoyed themselves.
This year a lot of my time has been given to the development of Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol. A very significant development of critical importance to Welsh medium Higher Education, its main aim is to increase, develop and broaden the range of Welsh medium study opportunities at universities in Wales. We managed to secure students reps on the College’s Board of Directors and Academic Board – I held a workshop for student members of the Coleg to discuss what they wanted from it and how they wanted their representation to work.
I’ve enjoyed my 2 years in office, I’ve learnt so much and have made great friends, I’ll be sad to finish but I know the next UMCB President, Mared Jones, will do a great job.