There are always advantages to becoming a sabbatical officer (‘sabbatical trustees’) at your SU. You get to become a trustee of an institution with a huge cash turn over – 21-year-olds who’ve run a £1m+ turn-over organisation are few and far between. You get to influence your University at the highest level, attending and influencing the most important committees and changing the University for the better. However, one particular quirk for Oxford is that you also get the chance to contribute to the national conversation – with sabbatical trustees regularly contributing to national newspapers and hosting parliamentarians. Here is just a snapshot of some of the exciting things coming up:
Frozen fees and free education?
How students and tax payers should share the cost of education will always be a simmering issue, however 2019 will see the release of the Augar Report, which will offer a comprehensive review of funding for post-18 education. Just some of the issues that have been mooted are differential fees for different subjects (such that fees for undergraduate history degrees may be £6.5k, whilst engineering degrees may cost £13.5k) and the introduction of minimum grade thresholds for student loan eligibility.
Even those who have tried to bury their heads in the sand for the past three years will have heard warning that they need to start stockpiling sand in case of the possibility of a no deal Brexit. Whatever happens, there will likely be some impact on the University, and as a Sabb you can speak up for the views of the student body. (If you’re an EU student, you can read the University’s Q&A here: http://www.ox.ac.uk/students/oxford-and-the-eu )
If you have never heard of the USS pension scheme, don’t worry (it’s not an oddly named battleship). It is however the cause of a dispute between a number of University staff (through the University and College Union) and the Universities themselves. Last year this led to staff across the country (including Oxford) striking. Following mediation, an expert panel was set up to try and come up with a way of assessing the scheme’s financial stability (and so the benefits gained by many University employees upon retirement) that was satisfactory to both parties. This issue has been brushed under the carpet for now – but keen an eye on it to return.
Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK where abortion is illegal (unless the parent’s life is in danger). Following a referendum in the Republic of Ireland in 2018, pressure is mounting to change the law in Northern Ireland. If you’re passionate about reproductive rights, 2019 will offer you a chance to shape feed in to a national conversation.
If that sounds like a lot, don’t worry! As a sabbatical trustee you’ll be supported in understanding these issues, and you have the flexibility to focus on what you are interested in and think is important. If you think fixing any one of the more ‘local’ issues should be your priority, then the SU will support that instead. What’s more, the
Nominations are now open for Oxford SU sabbatical trustee positions. Read more about them here: https://www.oxfordsu.org/your-union/annualelections2019/