The new Students’ Union constitution has introduced the role of a full time Graduate Education Officer, however this year it is only being phased in on a part time basis. This is in order to set the infrastructure in place for coming years, when full time sabbatical positions like Campaigns and Communications Officer will be scrapped.
Mark Stokes was elected to the graduate office, and has several issues he plans to tackle in order to help the needs of graduates. One issue of particular importance to him, is the graduate loan scheme: “I’ll be following up on a national basis on the issues of a properly resourced, funded and structured post graduate loan scheme.”
The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) is similarly concerned with the loan scheme, and Stokes plans on working closely with them to improve the scheme: “I will be working to make sure that this a major priority for them throughout the course of my term.”
The number of vacant seats for graduate class reps has traditionally been much higher than for undergraduate students. Current C&C officer, Paddy Guiney says: “With the graduate convenor I want to find out what the issues are with graduate students, and what I can certainly see, is a disengagement with the Students’ Union; unfortunately that is the case. Before a postgraduate sabbatical officer takes his or her place in July, I would like to think that we will have improved our position and our relationship and involvement with postgrads.”
While there are many issues that both undergrads and postgrads will have in common, Guiney recognises graduate students have many unique concerns which he hopes will be tackled more substantially in the following year: “It would more be graduate unemployment and access to further education and those are two of the main issues that I hope myself and the graduate convenor can work on.”
The position of Agriculture, Food Science and Veterinary Medicine Convenor was left vacant. Guiney however, does not foresee a problem in filling them: “I do not see a difficulty in it being filled, I am looking at two names of two people in those buildings now who are Union class reps.”
When asked about the amalgamation of these schools into one convenor position, Guiney says: “I feel it will give them greater representation in the union if there is one convenor who is in charge of one quite substantial faculty, and then Vet obviously is considered to be smaller.”
Guiney is confident that the changes made to the Students’ Union will be a learning experience and hopes the new positions will encourage students to get involved: “I feel like you will get more people involved in the union and that is exactly what you need and you get more people interested in the issues.”