Let me explain what exactly you can make of this position and your time as a Sabbatical Officer!
My dear fellow postgraduates,
I have been posting incessantly about the upcoming Oxford Students’ Union leadership elections. We have six Sabbatical Officer roles, NUS Representatives roles, and Student Trustee roles up for nomination and election.
We’re really hoping to increase our PG engagement rates. The role of Vice President for Graduates is one with access to many different stakeholders and, historically, we have not had many postgraduate students stand for these positions where you meet key stakeholders and help to decide the fate of thousands of postgraduate students and their diverse needs daily. If that is not reason enough to stand, I thought I would take this opportunity to level with you and talk about WHY exactly you should be standing as a Sabbatical Officer.
I hope to explain very honestly why you should take a year off from your research/study/degree/part-time job to take on the role of Sabbatical Officer:
Committees and Access to Key Spaces and Stakeholders
I personally sit on 25+ committees. While that seems like a lot of work, I do it willingly to learn as much about this University as I can. However, I do that willingly and you are free to decide your committee involvements and projects. Many of these committees are chaired by the Vice Chancellor, Pro-Vice Chancellors and this year as a member of the Vice Chancellor’s nomination committee, I also had the opportunity to interact and discuss key issues with the Chancellor himself. I am very aware of how precious many of these people’s time and my presence in these spaces is – you can and should be a part of such a space and conversation too!
Students and Innovation
Oxford is a place of knowledge and power, yes. A lot of it comes directly from our students. As a Vice President, I have direct access to a lot of wonderful work our students are doing at the collegiate and University level. I also get to sometimes directly and indirectly support them in their work. Did I mention I am also a curator of the Bodleian library?
Run your own projects
As postgraduate students you can stand for not just my post of Vice President Graduates, but also all other Sabbatical Officer posts (keeping gender in mind). You can run your projects and implement ideas you think will help students and the University. My argument is, you will see real-time impact because committees do often (not always) listen. Want to run a project on communications – research – maybe AI and engagement? The SU staff will help you plan your project, apply for funding for it and implement it. This is quite literally the best space and opportunity for you to run with your ideas and see where they lead you. Some good examples of these ideas coming to fruition are the bystander intervention training by our VP Women Oluwakemi and Sub Fusc Reimbursement scheme by VP Academics and Access, Safa. The possibilities are endless. The worst part – the possibilities are endless.
Policy – Research and Impact together
Perks – Training, Exposure, Engagement
Honestly, the role itself is a perk. If you are passionate about student engagement and policy work, this role is great. But is also great in that is a full-time PAID job (with amazing paid holiday allowance!). I also get welfare support, policy support, and sponsored training so I perform the best I can in my role. Are there limits? Obviously! But no idea or potential training is shot down without a discussion. I have had my antisemitism training, but I also get regular policy briefs from our great staff, I discuss engagement strategy with my team, and I attend workshops and conferences across the UK while learning more about Higher Education and how to succeed in my role. Our President Anvee Bhutani even went to Scotland as a representative to the recent UN COP Summit.
This is one of my favourite parts of the role. As a Sabbatical Officer, I am a student representative but also a Director and Trustee of Oxford SU (a charity with a turnover of a million pounds), at the age of 24. I am part of making key decisions on the organisation’s future. I Chair the People and Culture Subcommittee because of my passion for diversity and inclusivity but you can also drive action within the SU in the areas of finance, media and more.
This position is quite literally what you make of it. You can focus on areas you are passionate about but, reminder, these will also be areas students chose you for based on your manifesto – for me that is graduate voice and streamlining. My argument – you can choose your own!
I desperately want as many postgraduate students to stand and vote as possible. This article seems like a huge exercise in me idolising and telling you how much I love my job. I do and you can too. I am here for only one year to affect as much change as I can, and I really want more postgraduate students to take advantage of this opportunity. These elections matter because people who get elected end up standing behind decisions that decide the fate of the University and of your experience as a postgraduate student.
Elect People you want representing your needs and concerns