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SPS student voices and experiences
Make your voice heard! Student representation and government explained

Make your voice heard! Student representation and government explained

It’s that time of year again: student elections are back! Our resident Students’ Association expert, Ash, gives you the lowdown on what to expect. 

With the student elections happening every year in March, you will probably see posters, emails and flyers popping up around study spaces, or the Student Association venues. When this time rolled around during my first year, I was incredibly confused how the student representation at a massive university with 49,000 students works and where to go if I wanted to change something. So, after having been here for almost three years and holding a Liberation Officer role myself, I have compiled a little, non-exhaustive guide for you!

The Sabbatical Officers

The Sabbatical Officer team work full-time, have regular meetings with senior University staff, and sit on the Students’ Association’s Trustee Board. There are five different Officers:

  • President, who acts as the key bridge between the Students’ Association and the University,
  • Vice President Education is responsible for representing students on issues of learning and teaching, and ensuring students have the opportunity to shape their academic experience at Edinburgh,
  • VP Activities and Services concerns the Students’ Association’s shops, cafés and many student opportunities, such as volunteering and societies,
  • VP Community represents students’ voices on many key issues within the university including housing, transport and sustainability,
  • VP Welfare deals with students’ welfare and wellbeing, from mental health to sexual violence, as well as issues of equality, diversity and inclusion.

So, if you have ideas on how to improve your student experience, or you want to ensure your voice is being heard, let them know!

The Liberation Officers

Your Liberation Officers work part-time to represent marginalised communities of students. They lead and support our five Liberation Campaigns which exist to create a space where self-defining students can come together, discuss the issues affecting them, and campaign to improve their student experience. The campaigns are the Black and Minority Ethnic, Women’s, LGBTQ+, Trans and Non-binary, and Disabled Students Campaign.

The School Representatives

Every school at the University has an Undergraduate, Postgraduate Taught and Postgraduate Research School Representative who work on a voluntary, flexible basis to ensure your voice is heard at the School level. They work closely alongside Programme Representatives who ensure that student feedback is communicated, issues are addressed, and that individual programmes are continually enhanced. If you would like to see change happen in your School, like SPS, these are the people to reach out to!

The Section Representatives

Section Representatives work on a voluntary, flexible basis to give a voice to non-traditional students who may face additional barriers in accessing education. They’re responsible for building supportive communities for the students they represent and ensuring that their concerns are on the University’s agenda. Here, Commuter Students, Student Parents, Mature Students, International Students, Postgraduate Taught, Postgraduate Research, Student Carers and Part-time Students are represented! If you fall under any of these categories, feel free to contact them!

The Campaign Representatives

Our Campaign Representatives have been elected to campaign on a single issue that affects Edinburgh’s 49,000 students and which they are passionate about. That issue might be the lack of affordable student housing, the Climate Crisis, barriers to access specialist mental health care, the experiences of student survivors of gender-based violence, student sex workers, or estranged students, or something else entirely. There are five Campaign Representatives who work closely with relevant student groups, other student representatives, and the Sabbatical Officers to create positive change, whether that’s through running a student-facing behaviour-change campaign, lobbying the University, or engaging with local and national political leaders

Student Council

Student Council is a monthly online meeting, hosted by a student Facilitator, and attended by over 90 Elected Representatives, as well as any student who is interested. At these meetings, attendees discuss issues affecting students, hear updates from the five Sabbatical Officers on their work, and vote on political policies that shape the Students’ Association’s political direction. Any student can bring in motions or expenditure requests about a topic or project that they care about. If a proposal is approved by Student Council and ratified by the Association Executive, it will officially become Association policy.

Society Lobbying

One way I have found particularly useful when trying to enact change on campus are societies! There are so many societies that are involved in different types of student changemaking, from the Feminist Society and Amnesty International, to the the 93% Club or Student Action for Refugees. These groups bring together a number of people caring about a certain issue, meaning you can more effectively work on them and make new friends along the way. Do not fret if you think you don’t know enough about a certain topic to go to one of their meetings, everyone is super open and keen to chat to you!

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