Alex Turner: UoNSU Education Officer Candidate 2014

Our final interview with the SU candidates is Alex Turner, 3rd year Geography student from 'London/Essex', who is running for the role of Eduction Officer. We spoke to Alex about the changes he wants to see happen to education at UoN, the experience he's had to prepare him for this job, and a real-life encounter with Brangelina...

 

 

Tell us what’s involved in being Education Officer.

I think that the difference between this role and the other Exec roles is that you (sadly) get less of a chance to engage with students on a day to day basis. In lieu of that, you are able to represent what the students want to the University’s directors, getting round the negotiating table and making sure that the right changes are being made.

 

Talk us through the key parts of your Manifesto

I’d like to implement a university-wide online peer mentoring scheme. I’ve already made this happen within the School of Geography and it’s been incredibly successful. Where it differs from current peer-mentoring schemes is that it will work between schools. So if you want advice about taking a module in a school other than your primary one, you will be able to get in touch with someone who has taken that module before. It allows students to make better, informed decisions about module choices amongst other things.

Another important policy is the second-hand book platform. There is something similar in place on the SU website, but students don’t tend to visit that site regularly. However everyone uses the Portal. If we move this platform to the Portal and make it solely for books, it will be much more straight-forward to use and students are much more likely to find and use it.

I also think it’s important that we publicise these changes very well. If the marketing isn’t right, then no-one will know that these services are in place for them to use!

 

A lot of your policies focus around making university life more financially viable for students. Do you think that the higher tuition fees mean students can demand more value for money from their education?

Definitely! We’ve seen it with a First Year Geography trip; it used to be compulsory while also costing a lot of money, but now it’s free for every student. Because students are paying higher tuition fees, they should have access to better support if they’re experiencing financial hardship.

 

Which of your policies do you think will be most difficult to implement and why?

I think the online lectures will be tricky. It is possible – it’s done in Manchester and Leeds. But there are problems with confidentiality and copyright. For instance, you couldn’t record a seminar because there’s confidential information disclosed in these. There’s also concern that putting lectures online will affect attendance, although in Manchester this isn’t the case.

I would work very hard with Schools that want recorded lectures to make sure they have the support from the SU to do that. But I’m not suggesting forcing implementing it everywhere. I’m trying to be realistic about the promises I make, and I don’t think it’s possible to get every School to participate.

 

What makes you right for the job?

Firstly, I’ve been working on a mobile app with Enactus which has given me the technological knowledge to work on the app that I’ve proposed for the University. I also took on the responsibility of project leader with Enactus, which has seen me representing the requirements of the organisation to the SU, and we’ve got what we needed as a result. This has given me the skills to get the attention of the University and SU. We’ve conducted surveys among the students for Enactus and put the findings to the SU, and they’ve reacted to these very positively. There’s no reason we can’t do that with even more students to find out what they really need.

Secondly, I’ve worked a lot with publicity, which I think vital for making my policies work effectively. When I came to University, I had no idea there were Course Reps, and I found this meant that a lot of students would just moan about their courses rather than tell someone who can make changes. I’ve built up experience in publicity which will make sure students engage with the SU.

Thirdly, a lot of the policies on my Manifesto are things that I’ve already carried out within the School of Geography, for instance the mentoring scheme and the second hand book facility. This means I know that the policies are achievable, and they should be available for all students across the University.

 

You’ve got a lot of past experience! What’s been your biggest achievement in all of that?

It would be within my role as President of FlairSoc. Last year, we ran mixology training sessions in what was basically the store cupboard of a large-chain Gastro pub. It wasn’t safe, it wasn’t very glamorous, and people didn’t want to come because of this.

I used my negotiation skills to sit down with various bars and work out a sponsorship agreement so that we could use their bar two nights a week. The bar that we finally decided upon wanted, in exchange for our free use of their bar, a guarantee from us that we would spend £180 a week buying drinks from them. Now I knew that wasn’t something we could promise, so I spent three weeks negotiating with them, and finally, got them down to £0! Not only that, but they also pay us £80 to continue coming to them!

 

That’s impressive! How have you managed to get them to pay you?!

Well we do bring students to their bar! So thanks to my negotiation skills we’ve gone from a store cupboard to a swanky upstairs bar which they pay us to use!

 

QUICKFIRE ROUND:

(When you say Quickfire, can I still have time to think?)

Ocean – yay or nay? Yay

Dream job? I’m going to have to say Politician.

Best holiday you’ve been on? Berlin

Personal miracle hangover cure? A secet-recipe Mocktail, which works very well.

Most expensive thing you’ve ever bought, or your best purchase? My education!

If you were an animal, what would you be and why? I’d be a polar bear, because I have incredibly small ears.

(We check) You really do! Snog, marry, avoid –Kim Kardashian, Victoria Beckham, Amy Childs from TOWIE. I’d have to avoid Amy because I don’t really know who she is -  wouldn’t know what I’m letting myself in for! Snog Kim Kardashian, and marry Victoria Beckham. Because then I might get to hang out with David Beckham!

Well, probably not considering the circumstances!

Ha, yeah probably not actually.

Got a fun fact about yourself, personal claim to fame or special talent?

I worked in a restaurant in France for three months, and it backed on to a private airport. One day a helicopter landed and Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie got out! It was great because I was the only English-speaking person there! They walked through the restaurant and I said Hi!

Amazing! Is she as beautiful in real life?

Yes. Brad Pitt also!

 

Anything else you’d like to add?

If you Join the Online Turneround, your education will become so much easier.

(Alex decided upon ‘education’ after first promising to make your ‘life’ easier. Sorry, but even this candidate can’t do much about life improvements in general!)

 

 

VOTING CLOSES TOMORROW!

Check out Alex’s manifesto and campaign page!