In her bid to be Association President, Annie Newman has come up with a coherent and well thought out plan. Her manifesto covers a variety of topics important to students; Accommodation, Internships, Widening Access, Mental Health, Alumni, and relations with the government.
On the ever present issue of accommodation, Ms Newman has chosen to shift her focus towards the University’s managed accommodation – the houses and flats that the University owns around town and lets out to students, often at much better rates than private letting agencies or landlords.
On how this would be achieved Ms Newman says that she would “recruit more landlords and flats into the University’s managed accommodation scheme,” while this is a good idea in theory, The Saint remains skeptical as to whether it can be achieved as landlords might not want to let the University manage their properties when they could potentially be making more money elsewhere. However, if this is successful, it can only help to keep down costs in St Andrews spiraling accommodation market.
Ms Newman wishes to create a new internship scheme, in part based around former St Andrews students who may wish to be involved. She proposes to use “St Andrews’ global community” to help provide exclusive internship opportunities, in order to try and end the isolation the St Andrews’ location sometimes causes. This renewed focus on internships is welcome. A job in the future can often be one of the biggest worries for students, and a new scheme to help facilitate work experience can only serve to alleviate some of this anxiety.
One of St Andrews biggest problems is that we still fall behind many other universities in the number of people from lower-income and state school backgrounds who are accepted. As such, widening access should be a huge concern for our next Association President, and Ms Newman has some interesting ideas on the issue.
She proposes to make all applications for bursaries automatic as part of a student’s application to St Andrews, aiming to alleviate anxiety about whether or not students qualify or how they sign up for such schemes. While obviously a plan that would require a large amount of work with the University, if it could be set up, The Saint believes that this idea would help students from lower-income backgrounds immeasurably, relieving anxiety and allowing students to focus more on their studies and less on their living costs.
Ms Newman also proposes further steps such as subsidies for textbooks and travel bursaries for open days. If the money for these schemes can be found, again, these ideas would be invaluable to students for whom St Andrews can often seem an impossibility to reach.
Ms Newman rightly recognises the importance of mental health issues in her manifesto. She proposes to help improve the University’s efforts in this area by hiring a clinical professional to help students and liaise with NHS Fife, aiming to improve communication between the University, students and health service. While The Saint expresses concern that this may be too small a solution for an issue that still presents a huge problem to a wide range of students.
Praising the Alumni Weekend that was introduced in the past year, Ms Newman proposes to expand the scope and reach of the events that take place during the weekend. Two key examples are a Centrepiece dinner which she says would help students who are not involved in societies interact with alumni and an alumni careers fayre to help students find more opportunities for beyond university.
While the dinner is a good idea, The Saint feels that it is perhaps simply too small, especially for students who, not being involved in societies, might inevitably feel more nervous about purchasing a ticket and meeting alumni.
The alumni careers fayre however, would be a brilliant initiative and possibly the highlight of the entire weekend if it was introduced. If the purpose of the weekend is to create connections between students and alumni and establish opportunities for everyone, a careers fayre based around actual former students and their experience would be of huge use to students
Government and University Relations
As part of her manifesto, Ms Newman wants to amplify student voices on major national issues and legislation. While St Andrews has traditionally been less vocal on major political issues, Ms Newman feels that students have the passion to get involved on major issues that affect them, citing the example of “Save our Rector” petition from late last year. She proposes to set up an online service where students could submit their detailed opinions on such matters. She argues this would allow students to more directly influence University and Government policy.
It remains to be seen whether students would become more active than they have traditionally been perceived to be however, a student platform is useless if students simply do not want to engage with it.
The Saint’s Assessment
Annie Newman has a clear set of plans of what she wants to do as Association President, her goals are realistic and in line with students concerns. If she can achieve what she has set out to do, her manifesto will improve the lives of students across St Andrews.