It's time to reflect as our Officer Trustees of 22/23 come to the end of their terms. Hayley, Dylan, Niamh, Jason and Nathalie summarise their time leading Imperial College Union, sharing their achievements, highlights and farewell messages.
Hayley - President
I remember a message that came through very clearly from the OTs the year before me – the year will go by in the blink of an eye. I already had that expectation, but now coming to the end of my role, I could never have expected how fast it would go. There were many things I wanted to do in the role; some of them I have made pretty good progress in, and some I would have wanted to do much more in had I had more time.
One of the proudest moments in my role was when we successfully passed the College’s new Student Disciplinary Procedure at Senate. It has been a project that so many people have put so much time into. To see a set of new policies, which is much fairer and more transparent for students, come into fruition during my term has been amazing.
This year, we have made large strides in better connecting with other Students’ Unions and external bodies. We joined the Russell Group Students’ Union and established clear connections with the Russell Group itself. That was instrumental in the lobbying effort on the conditions of the recent Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Act. Nathalie and Jason have also both spoken at Parliament on the Cost-of-Living Crisis and the use of Generative AI in Higher Education. With the turbulent political landscape of the foreseeable future, it is imperative that we continue in this direction to ensure we continue to have a voice in national policies affecting students.
A big part of my role this year has also been to sit on many decision-making bodies of the College to represent the students. We have been able to influence many things, for example ensuring that student issues are at the forefront of the College’s mind in the Student Experience Forum, and successfully adding a second student member onto College Council.
Seeing how decisions are made behind the scenes in this enormous organisation has truly been eye-opening.
Finally, coming to the end of the Back to Basics strategy, we have developed a new strategy that will guide the Union in what it does for the next five years. It is centred around the three values of Integrity, Inclusivity, and Innovation. I have no doubt that the Union will become a truly high-performing Students’ Union for all Imperial students.
Being Union President is an odd first job to have – being the ‘CEO’ of an organisation yet at the same time learning the most basic things about a workplace. This role gave me the opportunity to do things that people at my stage of life normally wouldn’t have a chance to do. I have had many odd experiences in the role, including being invited by Antony Gormley to his party and having to explain Gen-Z internet slangs for a disciplinary case. There have been some not-so-good times, like being consistently attacked online or in-person about every aspect of the Union. There have also been many amazing instances, for example giving the opening speech at my own Graduation in the Royal Albert Hall. But all in all, I have learnt a lot in this role, and I am very happy I had the chance to do it. A big thank you to everyone who has helped me this year.
Dylan - Deputy President (Clubs & Societies)
I hope that the work I’ve put in this year leads to the long-term changes and improvements the organisation needs. So much time is spent on the day-to-day running of CSPs that it can be difficult to get projects moving, let alone finished. If not now, I hope the benefits of the projects are felt many years after I leave the role.
After a rigorous tender process, we have signed an agreement with SUMS to transform our website and digital systems. Although there won’t be an immediate change, our website should look, feel and work a lot better before too long.
Despite several teething issues, we ran the first centrally organised and funded varsity against LSE this year. Over 20 matches were played across various sports, and we even managed to win a few of them. Unfortunately, LSE may have won overall, which should be great motivation to go and batter them next year. This is part of our long-term work to open ourselves up a little more to other institutions.
Student Experience Fund
There has finally been some success in starting a fund to support disadvantaged students to engage with activity. Whether it’s CSP events, departmental trips or the Summer Ball, the aim is to give financial support to those who need it most through discounts and subsidies. Over £100K of funding has been secured to pilot the project, with more to follow if the scheme proves to be successful. Watch this space…
Sick List & Parachute Fund
Support for struggling CSPs has always been complicated, with various systems having been tried. The Sick List allows ICU to identify and support these CSPs, tracking their progress from sick to healthy over multiple years if necessary. In the worst cases, CSPs can be supported financially through the parachute fund. The less this is used the better – only 1 CSP has had to access this support so far, but it has helped them stabilise for future years.
Although principally Niamh’s project, much of my year has been spent refining the budgeting system used by CSPs. ICU distributes by far the largest amount of grant of any students’ union (almost half a million quid), so getting this right is crucial. Special thanks goes to Phil, who single-handedly designed and built a system to make budgeting easier, more transparent and more efficient. Special thanks also goes to Rob, who stayed with CSPB until midnight for three nights in a row to help allocate funds fairly and efficiently.
There’s still a lot to work on here, but I’m pleased to say that all our processes are in a much better place than this time last year. It’s extremely tough to balance our legal obligations with all the things CSPs are doing – operational workload has dominated my time here. When so many things are happening all the time, even the slightest improvements in efficiency can mean huge improvements in the bigger picture. We’ve implemented receipts, automated responses and ticket tracking, FreshDesk and many more boring things that aren’t worth mentioning. Next year will build on that to make processes smoother and friendlier.
The role has been the toughest and most rewarding challenge I’ve had in my life so far. It’s a shame I wasn’t able to engage in more project work, as so much time is spent keeping the daily CSP machinery going. It’s been an absolute pleasure working with so many amazing volunteers this year who make it all happen, they’re the soul of the Union. My greatest thanks goes to Christian Cooper, this year’s Sports Chair and the successor to my role. He’s an example to everyone around him, and will absolutely flourish in his position as DPCS next year. Thanks also to every one of the staff members at ICU, with special mention to the Activities Team who have been such a joy to work with. A final thanks to the other OTs this year, you’ve been an amazing team. All the best to next year’s sabbatical officers – you’ll smash it!
Niamh - Deputy President (Finance & Services)
An interesting thing about being a sabbatical officer is with most the work you do, the impact isn’t seen for a year or two afterwards (for better or worse). What we spend our days doing can become elusive to the students we work to represent; as my year as Deputy President (Finance & Services) comes to an end, I’d like to reflect on what I did achieve:
Our Venues & Events
Restarted the weekly postgraduate pub quiz at h-bar and a series of postgraduate specific events for Welcome 2022. Gained feedback from PGs to improve their event provision next year.
- Launched more Union-led events throughout the year, including Chess & Vinyl’s and Terrarium Building, to be expanded next year.
- Was Creative Director for Summer Ball 2023, which was the most successful Summer Ball financially and in terms of student responses.
- Led the student representation aspect for Welcome Week 2022 and 2023.
- Built relationships with the College and fellow London universities.
- Led the London Student Sustainability Conference for Imperial, going from zero applications in 2021-22 to 16 applications from Imperial for 2022-23.
- Led Imperial’s Sustainability Week for ICU, including a panel on Climate Justice featuring experts from Imperial.
- Began the research to frame ICU’s future Sustainability Strategy.
Annual Budgeting for CSPs
I owe so much to Phil, Dylan, and our student volunteers for helping this goal be achieved. I’m immensely proud of this project and hope it can be taken forward for further development and improvements.
- Managed the development and launch of a brand-new annual budgeting system.
- Generated new training pages on the system and process and held drop-in sessions over four weeks to troubleshoot with CSPs.
- Reviewed the policies and process which were approved by CSPB and the Board of Trustees.
- Improved transparency and scrutiny that grant allocations see, and successfully received £425,000 of funding for the next academic year from the Board of Trustees as a result.
It has definitely been an interesting ride. I am mainly proud I was able to achieve so much while also managing the operational burden the DPFS and DPCS roles have historically had to hold. Most of my hours have been wasted away by approving (and rejecting) claims, purchase orders, contracts, budgets, and activity proposals.
A massive thank you to the amazing student volunteers I’ve gotten to work with; to the ICU staff team, especially activities and venues, who have been so supportive and my rocks throughout this year; and my fellow Officer Trustees, who’ve helped keep me at least slightly sane.
Here's to the next sabbatical officers, and most importantly to my successor Stephanie; you’re going to achieve amazing things this year, and I know the Union will be in good hands with the six of you.
Jason - Deputy President (Education)
Reflecting on my year as Deputy President (Education), I’m filled with lots of different emotions – the last 12 months has gone incredibly quickly and yet looking back so much has happened that I’m not sure how it’s only been a year.
I started the year analysing the NSS responses and working in partnership with the College to produce an NSS Action Plan that will (hopefully) start addressing some of the long-standing issues we have at Imperial – assessment and feedback, workload, communication, and student wellbeing.
This year also saw the College and the Union writing our Teaching Excellence Framework submissions. This involved doing lots of research into what the undergraduate experience is like across the College, and unsurprisingly what came out was a document focusing on assessment and feedback, academic support, and workload. Our response will be used to evaluate the College’s undergraduate teaching and our feedback has already been well-received by College.
I’ve spent a large part of the year reviewing the College’s Student Disciplinary Procedure with Hayley and Nathalie – we’ve made significant improvements to the procedure and this will see students get better outcomes, resulting in a safer, more inclusive Imperial. I hadn’t originally planned to work on the review but I’m glad that I did because of the work we managed to achieve.
Some of the most rewarding parts of this year has been working with our incredibly dedicated student volunteers who give up so much of their own time to represent students and improve the student experience at Imperial. The Union couldn’t function without our volunteers and I’m so immensely grateful to everyone I’ve worked with this year.
Working with the College has also been a really interesting experience this year – Imperial has so many staff members who go above and beyond their roles and really care about what students have to say. This has meant that I’ve been able to feed directly into (and change) loads of different College policies this year, from Bioengineering’s new resit policy, to ensuring students are still able to progress and graduate this year with the disruption from industrial action, to how the College will approach the challenges from generative AI.
The Union has now come to the end of its Back to Basics Strategy and we’ve spent the last six months developing our new strategy which will be launched in September. I’ve done really extensive consultation with students and staff to ensure that our strategy is truly reflective of what the Union is and what it needs to become. I’m proud of what we have achieved with the strategy and I’m really excited for how the Union will evolve over the next five years.
The best part of the year has definitely been working with the Union staff team and my fellow Officer Trustees – Niamh, Nathalie, Hayley, Dylan – you have been such amazing colleagues and I will miss working with you every day.
Nathalie - Deputy President (Welfare)
A Changing Union
Damn. Two years really went by fast. I remember crying on a livestream as the election results were announced in 2021 as if it happened just yesterday.
Running in that election is the best decision I have ever made. I was at a turning point in my life where after 6 years of chronic illness, I was finally starting to have hope again. At the same time, the Union was also at a turning point. It was emerging from a rapid transformation that it underwent during the pandemic and had just implemented a completely different staff structure and leadership than the one it had in 2019. Back to Basics was in full force, and the Union was ready to find its feet again after many years of difficulty.
Since then, the Union has done the following:
Created a new, AQS accredited Advice Service with zero corrective actions at its first audit.
- Joined networks of other student unions to lobby on issues affecting students at a national scale
- Hosted two successful, inclusive Summer Balls in a row
- Had sector-leading turnouts in its leadership elections
- Wrote a new strategy to go beyond Basics
At the same time, I did the following:
- Increased the size of the Student Support Fund by more than 100% (from £400k to £900k)
- Increased the size of the Imperial bursary by £700k and added estranged students and care leavers to the maximum band.
- Reviewed the Student Disciplinary Procedures and increased the resource allocated to student casework by 450% to reduce wait times and improve support for students in the process
- Spoke at Parliament about how the cost-of-living crisis was affecting students and had 4 of my recommendations actioned
- Created the College’s first Mental Health & Well-being Strategy and so much more.
A lot of people ask if I would do this role for a third year if it were allowed by the Education Act 1994. My answer to that is complicated.
On the one hand, I love this work. It’s given me a sense of meaning and purpose that I have never felt before. For the first time since graduating high school, I actually feel excited to wake up in the morning.
On the other hand, the time limited nature of this role is what created the pressure that I needed to succeed in the role. It made me act with a sense of urgency and enduring commitment that would have been otherwise difficult to maintain. It also means that the Union can go on to grow, change and evolve in a way that represents the ever-changing student body.
So with that said, I’m signing off for the last time and leaving you in Andreea’s very capable hands.
Your Deputy President (Welfare)