Pei certainly has experience of working with students, as Vice President and one of the founding members of the Chinese Hongpao society. As a member of the Rectors fund committee, she has experience working with staff in the University. However, her role as Vice President of the Hongpao society is more focused on holding events and bringing students together than representation. The society certainly has been very active this year as they pulled of the organisation of the hugely successful human coat of arms but she does not have the traditional experience of working within the SRC.
Fee cap for international students
She would like to introduce a fee cap for international students. She argues that international students can be subject to price increases as their degree progresses and that when they reach their honours years, they may no longer be able to study at St Andrews. She wants to introduce a cap so students know what they will be paying and whether they can afford it.
Although this has been introduced at Edinburgh and has already received support from our SRC, we should ask questions about whether this is actually feasible. International students represent just under 20% of students at Edinburgh, while at St Andrews, over 30% of students are international. International students provide a major source of income for the University and it is going to a difficult process to get the University to agree to this fee cap. It also seems that she has not included a policy on what she would do to represent RUK students who are also facing an uncertainty with their fees as Scottish university heads are trying to remove the current £9,000 cap.
With regards to reading week, Pei recognises that there is a problem and that the new semester structure has been stressful for many students. She wants to move the beginning of term of second, third and fourth year students forward, leaving room for a break in the middle of the semester. First year students would start at the date already set under the current system but would have a 4 day weekend in the middle of the semester. This would effectively mean older students would have to give up their Freshers’ Week.
Although in her interview with The Saint, Pei argued that this would not have too much of an affect on Freshers’ Week, getting up every day for class and having to start working slightly earlier means that older students will not have as much time to fully participate in the activities of Freshers’ Week. As Freshers’ Week is run by an army of volunteers from second, third and fourth year, taking away their free time during Freshers’ Week could cause problems for the way in which it is run and it may not provide as welcoming an environment for freshers. This proposal would also cause problems for second years who take first year level modules as their modules would start at different times and they would have different breaks.
Amanda Litherland also told The Saint that “As the University’s calendar dates are set years in advance, the current system is set to stay for at least the next 4 years. However, there is scope for a few tweaks of the system and I hope that we can reinstate some sort of break in the middle of the first semester, even if a full Reading Week might not be possible.” Pei may need to investigate further whether it is really feasible to change the semester dates within her time in office.
Pei wants to bring the school presidents into the SRC to ensure that their individual problems and ideas are heard and considered. At the minute, the DoRep acts as the middle man between school presidents and SRC but by bringing them into the SRC (on a rotating basis), she will give the more of an opportunity to communicate with the SRC.
Although the Careers Centre already has an alumni network and the University has alumni contacts across the world, this could be expanded and publicised more widely. Pei wants to create a global alumni network as she feels there are a lot of opportunities and connections in the US but not in other parts of the world. By bringing together and expanding the systems that already exist, she hopes she can provide a lot more opportunities for internships and alumni mentoring.
She also has some new ideas on how to increase communication between the sabbs and the students. She wants to continue the policies of the current sabbs, including attending hall events and the weekly sabb state of affairs show on star. However, she also wants to introduce both a physical and online office hour. An online office hour would allow busy students or those who are intimidated by knocking on her office door to still get a chance to speak to her and ensure that their thoughts are aired.
Pei has some interesting ideas but there are a few aspects of her policies that may need to be investigated further. It also seems that she has missed some popular issues of her manifesto that have previously been major vote winners for her predecessors. Amanda Litherland’s 24 hour library was an important policy last year and one of the successes of her time in office was that she managed to secure this during the exam period. Pei has not mentioned whether she plans to work to expand this further. Similarly, she has placed a heavy focus on issues for international students and has not mentioned how she plans to help RUK students as they face new issues with their fees.