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2022 EM (AA) 1: Motion to support graduate entry medicine students gain access to loans.

Proposed by UCC Students’ Union

Congress Notes with Concern:

In the past week Bank of Ireland, who are the primary provider of Graduate Entry Medicine loan schemes in Ireland. Bank of Ireland announced this week that they will cease this loan scheme. This announcement was devastating to many students whose only way of funding their studies was via this loan scheme.

Congress also Notes:

Access to study medicine is extremely difficult due to the financial constraints associated with entering the medical field – whether it be the cost of study, accommodation or fees. This will be massively impacted by the announcement of Bank of Ireland ceasing their Graduate Entry Medicine loan – the only suitable loan of this kind in the country. From July onward, it will be phased out.

Congress believes:

All students pay extortionate fees, but in particular students attempting to enter graduate entry medicine who can pay thousands of euros and pounds between the 5000-16000 region.

Congress Further Believes:

Graduate Entry Medicine often leads to a more diverse field of students.

Congress Mandates:

The Vice President for Campaigns is to work with and campaign with the Association for Medical Students in Ireland, Irish Medical Council and other major stakeholders to lobby for a solution where graduate entry medicine students can access student loans until such a time where education is affordable in Ireland/Northern Ireland.

 

2022 EM (AA) 3: College Awareness Week

Proposed by Proposed by TCDSU

Comhdháil Notes:

That College Awareness Week is a national campaign which seeks to offer encouragement, support, and information to people of all ages about post-leaving certificate educational opportunities by showcasing and celebrating local role models.

Comhdháil Acknowledges:

The continuing need to tackle educational disadvantage and the absence of equal opportunities as seen by the expansion of the DEIS school programme announced on March 9th 2022.

Comhdháil Mandates:

The Coiste Gnó to endorse and promote the national annual campaign: College Awareness Week.

Comhdháil Further Mandates:

The Vice President for Academic Affairs to seek to collaborate with the Irish Second Level Students’ Union (ISSU) in support of College Awareness Week and its events.  

2022 AA 2: Travel Allowance for Placement Students

Proposed by TU Dublin SU

Congress Notes:

That many students must complete a mandatory placement as part of their studies. These placements can be upwards of 800 hours which can equate to 12-14 weeks. For most students their placements are not paid positions, and, where there are payments, the payment is pittance.

Congress Further Notes:

That for some students accommodation for placement is also not included and students need to pay out of their own pocket for suitable accommodation for them to live in during their placement. In some situations, placements might be across the country or even abroad. Leaving some students in great financial difficulty.

Congress Recognises:

The recommendations made by the McHugh Report in 2021.

Congress Further Recognises:

The USI Placement and Work-Based Learning Strategy 2021-2024, and the USI Submission to Longer Term Review of Student Nurse & Midwife Matters, and the motion Summer Time Placement 2021 AA 5.

Congress Mandates:

A placement subcommittee chaired by the VP for the Academic Affairs to be set up with student representatives from any course which requires a mandatory placement including but not limited to teaching, social care, nursing & midwifery, allied health sciences and more.

Congress Further Mandates:

The VP Campaigns to run a campaign based on their input and to build relationships with trade unions and to run an annual campaign based on this feedback.

 

2022 AA 6: Open Access Policy

Proposed by Maynooth Students’ Union

Congress Notes:

That the Irish Libraries Association (ILA) has warned of an electronic content crisis facing libraries and exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The ILA has said “We are deeply concerned about the rising costs and unfair licensing conditions for such content training

Congress Believes:

Access to education is a fundamental right and with the rise in misinformation it is imperative that all people should have access to research, especially those funded through public investment and/or conducted through public institutions for the public good.

Congress Further Believes:

That the soaring subscription costs that students and libraries are facing create a further barrier to education and takes good quality and enlightening material out of the hands of ordinary people and students.

Congress Therefore Mandates:

The Vice President for Academic Affairs to lobby the government to take swift action to combat the extortionate subscription costs.

Congress Further Mandates:

The Vice President for Postgraduate Affairs, alongside the Vice President for Academic Affairs, to organise a campaign to highlight this issue and encourage postgraduate students and  academics to opt to make their work publicly available.

 

2022 AA 3: Creative Student Representation

Proposed by the Academic Affairs Working Group

Comhdháil Notes

Creative arts students are facing the intersecting crises of the underfunding of both the arts and higher education. As well as this, the unique needs of creative arts students often go unconsidered in high level discussions around higher education funding.

Comhdháil Further Notes

The number of students in the creative arts and entering the workforce is increasing each year, with funding for arts staying relatively similar. There is a growing difficulty in accessing grants or funding and the Arts Council funding is not to available to undergraduate students.

Comhdháil Further Notes

Students in Creative Arts courses are required to spend significant amounts on additional course costs in software and material fees.

Comhdháil Believes

There is a need for informed discussions within USI, as well as interdepartmental communications to ensure that these students are not continually disadvantaged by a lack of collaboration between the Department of FHEIRS and the Department of TCAGSM.

Comhdháil Therefore Mandates

The Vice President for Academic Affairs and the Vice President for Campaigns to coordinate an annual campaign seeking the following;

  • Additional funding to cover material costs in all Higher Education Institutions
  • Introduction of Arts Council funding for ungraduated artists to avail of outside of term time
  • Allowing current creative arts students to avail of the Universal Basic Income pilot scheme for artists
  • Increased mental health funding for art and design schools
  • An end to the disparity between the funding for creative arts courses in comparison to more traditional courses.
  • Allocation of funding to cover the costs of industry standard technology.

Comhdháil Further Mandates

The creation of a Creative Arts subcommittee that tackles issues that are exclusively faced by Creative Arts students. This subcommittee will consist of the VP for Academic Affairs, VP for Campaigns, at least one representative from each MO that specialises in Creative Arts, and any other student representatives/freelance artists.

Comhdháil also Mandates

The Vice President for Academic Affairs to provide targeted support to member organisations with creative arts courses to promote and ensure representation of students at a local level.   

2022 AA 7: Study Abroad & Erasmus Accessibility

Proposed by the Vice President for Academic Affairs

Comhdháil Notes

International exchange opportunities for students continue to grow, with a significant number of students studying abroad during their degree. However, there can be significant social, physical and financial barriers preventing students from availing of these opportunities.

Comhdháil Believes

There are great benefits for students engaging in study abroad programmes.

Comhdháil Mandates

The USI President and Vice President for Campaigns to lobby for the increased funding of student exchange programmes and availability of grants.

Comhdháil Mandates

The Vice President for Academic Affairs to lead to work with, and lobby the European Students’ Union (ESU) to provide general resources for participating Erasmus+ institutions (e.g. info on accommodation, finance, transport links) and to investigate flaws in the current Erasmus+ system.

Comhdháil Further Mandates

The Vice President for Equality and Citizenship and Vice President for Academic Affairs to work with member organisation representatives to ensure their Higher Education Institution clearly communicates the available supports and physical accessibility of their partner institutions and to push for HEI’s to continually lobby for improved accessibility for students with disabilities in their partner institutions.

Comhdháil Further Mandates

The Vice President for Academic Affairs to support MO officers in lobbying for the standardisation of application processes and grade conversion tables in HEI’s across the country.

2022 AA 8: StudentSurvey.ie

Proposed by the Vice President for Academic Affairs

Comhdháil Notes

The StudentSurvey.ie is well respected and recognised across Irish Higher Education Institutions having been launched in 2013, and the Postgraduate Research survey in 2018, following years of lobbying from USI. The survey was created to ensure the gathering of empirical data from students in colleges across the country.

Comhdháil Further Notes

The USI and Students’ Unions have worked to ensure the StudentSurvey.ie is recognised and engaged with by students, and are often the main driving force behind promoting the survey, using their own human and financial resources. StudentSurvey.ie data should be readily available and accessible to student representatives to allow them to examine the findings and seek ways to action them through their institutional processes. The expectation or burden of data analysis should not be placed upon student representatives. USI and StudentSurvey.ie should aid Student Representatives to advocate for their role in strategy and decision making, using the findings of the survey.

Comhdháil Notes with Concern

The success of this valuable national initiative hinges on the power of the data generated to bring about positive, meaningful and long-lasting impacting the participating institutions. Despite significant efforts of student representatives and rising response rates, collaboration between student representatives and institutions is not always facilitated and sabbatical officers in most cases, do not have access to the institutional data. Students often do not understand the  importance of the StudentSurvey.ie and as a result, some HEI’s struggle with poor response rates.

Comhdháil Believes That

If students are empowered to understand the available data, and how this can facilitate change within their institution, they are more likely to engage in the survey.

Comhdháil Therefore Mandates

The Vice President for Academic Affairs to complete a review, with the support of the Regional Vice Presidents, to present to the StudentSurvey.ie Steering group no later than June 2023, which includes;

  • How member organisations work in partnership and collaboration with their institution on the promotion of the survey with a view to continually increase institutional response rates and address any barriers to student engagement with the survey
  • Good practice recommendations on the role of Students’ Unions, including ways in which the StudentSurvey.ie data can be viewed, distributed, and engaged with by students and staff in partnership

Comhdháil Further Mandates

The Vice President for Academic Affairs to promote the availability of accessible and relevant reports and resources following the analysis of data each year as a member of the StudentSurvey.ie Steering Group

Comhdháil Also Mandates

The Vice President for Academic Affairs and Vice President for Campaigns to co-ordinate a briefing session with the StudentSurvey.ie Project Manager for all officers, prior to the launch of field work each year, to inform on the StudentSurvey.ie processes and idea share for promotional opportunities. Also, to support MO’s to work in partnership with their registrar or designated nominee, throughout the fieldwork period, return of results and analysis. The Vice President for Academic Affairs to facilitate a training session, following the publication of results, to support officers’ ability to engage with the results and recognise the possible strategic actions arising from the survey findings. This should include the provision of a template for an institutional action plan arising from the findings of the survey for officers to utilise and crossover to their successors each year

2022 AA 4: Connecting Creative Arts Students

Proposed By Creatives Working Group

Comhdháil Notes:

Within many of the USI MOs there are Creative Arts courses that are underrepresented locally, as well as nationally, and offer unique issues to their students. Networking and support within the Creative Arts is essential for progression and further development.

Comhdháil Further Notes:

Graduates from Creative Arts courses tend to have fewer employment opportunities available in their field. There is a lack of information directly available to creative arts students about specific financial supports available to them.

Comhdháil Recognises:

The need for support and promotion of such an event for creative arts students in all MOs.

Comhdháil Mandates:

The VP for Academic Affairs, VP Campaigns and regional officers to organise a one-day support and networking event for Creative Arts students to discuss and educate artists on issues such as, internships, international opportunities, funding grants. This event should also provide information on tax and finances. 

2022 AA 9: Examination Best Practice

Proposed by the Academic Affairs Working Group

Comhdháil Notes

Following the swift transition to online learning during the pandemic, we saw the flexibility of the sector and assessment practices.

Comhdháil Believes

The accommodations made available should where possible, stay in place to support students with disabilities, caregivers, those completing part-time work etc.

Comhdháil Mandates

The Vice President for Academic Affairs to support officers in lobbying for the expansion of deferrals, flexible repeat scheduling and any other accommodations.

Comhdháil Mandates

Vice President for Academic Affairs and Vice President for Welfare to conduct a review, in collaboration with member organisations on HEI policies and procedures including, but not limited to exam scheduling, repeats, illness support, extensions and provision of feedback, with the intention of creating a best practice framework for assessment in collaboration with other relevant stakeholders.

 

2021 EM (AA) 4: Impact of Mandatory Hotel Quarantine on Students

Proposed by Postgraduate Affairs Working Group

Congress Notes:

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the imposing of restrictions on movement has particularly impacted international students, international researchers and domestic students studying outside of Ireland, North and South.

Congress Further Notes:

With the dramatic rise in the infection rate of COVID-19, those entering Ireland from a designated state will be required to self-quarantine for a 14-day period within a hotel at a cost of €1875. A mandatory quarantine scheme has not yet been introduced in the North/Northern Ireland but is expected to be implemented upon the resumption of international flights, and those entering the North via the Republic of Ireland will be required to self-quarantine for the same period before entering the North/Northern Ireland.

Congress Notes with Concern:

The disproportionate impact that this cost will have on international students travelling to Ireland, North and South to pursue both undergraduate and postgraduate studies and research, and domestic students returning from Erasmus+ and other International mobility programs.

Congress Believes:

It’s vital that students returning from international mobilities or arriving for undergraduate or postgraduate study are not financially, emotionally or socially disadvantaged by the introduction of mandatory quarantine and that supports are offered to ensure they incur no additional costs as a result of this policy.

Congress Mandates:

The Vice President for Academic Affairs, the Vice President for Equality and Citizenship, and the Vice President for Postgraduate Affairs to work alongside the NUS USI President to highlight this issue with respective Governments, and other educational stakeholders across the island.

Congress Further Mandates:

The Vice President for Academic Affairs, the Vice President for Equality and Citizenship and the Vice President for Postgraduate Affairs to work alongside the NUS USI President to lobby for the introduction of practical and financial supports provided by the Governments to address the barriers associated with mandatory quarantine for incoming and returning students, recognising that additional barriers may exist for different cohorts of students. These measures may include but are not limited to facilitating them in on campus accommodation or at an agreed address which could accommodate mandatory quarantining guidelines.

2021 AA NC 2: Fees Sanctions

Proposed by USI President

Congress notes:

That many students are unable to pay their fees by the deadline put in place by each Third Level Institute.

Congress further notes:

That there is no best practice guidelines in place to deal with the issue of late fee payment of students.

Congress further notes:

That in an attempt to encourage to students to pay their fees, they can be locked out of online resources including moodle and emails.

Congress further notes:

That this is resulting in students becoming very distressed, as the sanctions put in place are having a direct negative impact on each of the students’ academics, as students are unable to access upload continues assessments or sit online exams.

Congress mandates

The President to lobby the relevant bodies to set up a sub-group to examine best practice guidelines in relation to sanctions for late fee payment.

 

2021 AA NC 3: Repeat Fees

Proposed by: NUI Galway SU

Congress notes that:

Repeat fees are used by colleges as a source of income and can be a barrier to education.

Congress believes:

Students are penalised enough by having to do a repeat exam and in some institutions by having a cap on the grade.

Congress mandates:

VP Academic Affairs to undertake research on the repeat fees charged across colleges in Ireland, and the impact this has on students

Congress further mandates that:

USI President & VP Campaigns lobby to reduce and abolish repeat fees.

 

2021 AA NC 4: Alternative Admissions

Proposed by: USI President

 

Congress regrets:

The almost exclusive focus of the current third-level admissions route on prior academic attainment.

Congress believes:

That taking into consideration contextual data can ensure that an individual’s true potential for performance in higher education is considered.

Congress also believes:

That such consideration would broaden the socio-economic demographic of the third-level student body; the current admissions system disproportionately advantages applicants from fee-paying secondary schools.

Congress mandates:

That the USI shall support initiatives to create an alternative common admissions route for all publicly-funded third-level institutions where contextual data, including but not limited to socio- economic background, is considered in addition to prior academic attainment.

Congress also mandates:

The President to lobby for state investment in retention activities to prevent disproportionate drop out levels of those from non-traditional backgrounds.

Congress further mandates:

The President and the VP Academic Affairs to lobby for improved information, advice and guidance and careers information at all levels of education.

2021 AA NC 5: Parity for Psychological Doctoral Students

Proposed by: USI Deputy President/Vice President for Academic Affairs

Congress notes with concern:

The disparity in funding between the three primary strands of psychological doctoral courses in Ireland – Clinical, Counselling and Educational/Child with clinical psychology trainees having 60% of their fees covered by the HSE, and a student salary starting at €33,000 whilst Counselling and Educational/Child psychology students pay full fees of between €12,000 and €15,000 per year and carry out a minimum of 300 hours unpaid work throughout the duration of their three years of study.

Congress further notes:

All strands of Psychology are recognized qualifications for Staff Psychology posts in the HSE, meaning that all trainees are eligible for the same staff posts.

Congress also notes:

Trainee Psychologists in all strands receive a salary for the duration of their studies in all parts of the UK.

Congress highlights:

The contents of the Psychological Society of Ireland (PSI)’s Pre-Budget Submission 2021 which asks for just over €1.2 million to fund both of the above sets of trainees.

Congress believes that:

Inequality amongst psychological trainees is deeply unfair and must not continue. All students deserve to be paid a fair wage for any work carried out as part of their education.

Congress mandates:

The USI President and the USI Vice President for Academic Affairs to work with the Psychological Society of Ireland (PSI) to campaign for funding to be introduced to support Counselling and Educational/Child Psychology trainees, in line with the funding available to Clinical Psychology trainees.

 

2021 AA NC 6: Digital & Distance Learning Position Paper

Proposed by: USI Deputy President/Vice President for Academic Affairs

Congress notes:

The change in traditional delivery of Higher Education over the last eight months as a result of the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency, and the quick transition to partially/fully online delivery of most programmes.

Congress believes:

The transition to blended & online delivery, whilst positive in some cases, has brought with it some concerning developments which have the potential to impact negatively on the student experience, such as online proctoring of exams.

Congress further believes:

That the lessons learned from the first semester of the new academic year need to be brought forward in shaping the second semester, and beyond, in order to ensure that students are not left behind by the ‘new’ modes of delivery.

Congress therefore adopts:

The USI Position Paper on Digital & Distance Learning.

 

2021 AA NC 7: Support for Graduate Entry Medicine Students

Proposed by Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union

Congress notes

That currently four institutions; RCSI, UCD, UCC, and UL all offer a Graduates Entry Medical course, such courses amount to around 1/3 of all EU students graduating from Medicine.

Congress regrets
The exorbitantly high tuition fees which range from €14,580 – €16,970 per year for these programs which are not supported by SUSI or HEA Free Fees. These fees present a significant financial barrier to students from lower income backgrounds in accessing these programs while adding increased financial pressure on junior doctors graduating with large debt.

Congress also notes

The motion recently passed by TCDSU Council for TCDSU to work with USI to lobby on this issue at a national level.

Congress recognises
The recent protest by UCD students wherein 70% of the GEM students have withheld their fees in protest to year on year GEM tuition fee increases.

Congress mandates

The USI Executive Team to lobby the Government for increased financial support for graduate entry medicine students.

 

2021 AA NC 8: Parity of Funding for Technological Universities

Proposed by AIT Students’ Union

Congress notes

That the landscape of Higher Education is changing with IoTs merging to become Technological Universities in Ireland.

Congress further notes

The current funding allocation was put in place for the universities from 2006 and on a phased basis for the IoTs in 2009. It does not serve the purpose of the needs of HEIs today with Technological Universities being denied access to the larger allocated pot for Universities and Colleges. The new Technological University sector are expected to play a pivotal role in facilitating access and progression without the privilege of having access to the resources to facilitate this.

Congress notes with concern

Students’ Unions are amalgamating their structures in becoming one entity for the new Technological Universities, with the respective Unions lobbying for their own sustainable funding framework to fund their services. Furthermore, with the TU sector not being given access to the larger allocated pot of funding this can only regress the Unions potential and opportunity to grow. Higher education funding is needed in a sustainable and equitable manner that will guarantee wider participation and fairness of access.

Congress therefore mandates

The USI President, to use their seat on the respective boards to lobby for equitable funding for Technological Universities to deliver on the provision of services the students need.

 

2021 AA 1: Hidden Course Costs

Proposed by the Academic Affairs Working Group

Congress notes: That many students are required to pay additional costs, on top of the student contribution/tuition fee. This includes but is not limited to materials fees, field trips, uniform costs and medical costs. These can range from 10s to 1000s of euros/pounds.

Congress further notes: In many cases, there is limited information provided to students in advance of enrolment on the additional costs that they will be required to pay throughout the course of their studies.

Congress believes: Hidden additional costs serve as a further reminder of the marketized Higher Education system that students across the island are being subjected to and may further inhibit students from progressing in their education particularly where these costs are mandatory.

Congress mandates: The USI President and Vice President for Academic Affairs to lobby key stakeholders, including the Higher Education Commission when formed to require institutions to provide full transparency of all additional costs within their colleges to prospective students.

Congress further mandates: The USI Executive Team to support MOs in raising awareness of additional course costs within their own colleges, and in lobbying for the reduction or abolishment of all additional costs. The USI Executive Team to support NUS-USI members in ensuring that colleges in the North continue to comply with CMA requirements around publication of additional costs.

2021 AA 2: Placement & Work-Based Learning Strategy 2021-2024

Proposed by Academic Affairs Working Group

Congress notes: The important role that placement and work-based learning plays in many students’ education.

Congress further notes: The significant value that quality placement opportunities can have for students, but that they can also create pressure on students academically and personally.

Congress notes with concern: The negative impact that COVID-19 has had on the placement experience of many students.

Congress therefore adopts: The Placement and Work-Based Learning Strategy 2021-2024.

Congress Deletes: 20 AA 12 AA 19 10 2018 AA 3

2021 AA 3: Clarity on Postgraduate & International fees

Proposed by Postgraduate Working Group

Congress Notes: That the cost of individual postgraduate courses, and courses for non-EU students is dictated by the institution delivering the course.

Congress Further Notes: The current lack of clarity on how these fees are distributed after payment.

Congress Recognizes: That the creation of the Department for Further and Higher Education, Research Innovation and Science (DFHERIS) has created potential for a focus on current postgraduate issues across campuses.

Congress therefore Mandates: The USI Executive Team to lobby the Department for Further and Higher Education, Research Innovation and Science (DFHERIS) and the Higher Education Authority once formed to ensure greater transparency from institutions on the setting of international and postgraduate fees and how this money is used by institutions.

2021 AA 4: Lecture Record

Proposed By TUDublinSU

Congress Notes Not all HEI’s have a policy in place for the recording of online lectures.

Congress further notes The Covid-19 pandemic has caused many difficulties for students when learning remotely. Lecturers refusing to record lecturers has caused additional difficulties for students experiencing internet connectivity issues and outages.

Congress regrets That students have been put at a severe disadvantage academically this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic and under additional stress as a result

Congress further regrets These disadvantages are hindering the progression of students’ education already without lecturers refusing to record lecturers refusing to record lecturers and making their education even more challenging.

Congress mandates The VP AA officer to provide support and resources to MOs who are looking to lobby to implement lecture recording in their institute.

2021 AA 5: Summertime Placement Funding

Proposed by the Academic Affairs Working Group

Congress notes: That many students who undertake placement as part of their course are required to have undertaken a certain number of practical placement hours/weeks in order to meet the professional requirements of the programme.

Congress further notes: The difficulties that many students have faced in securing and completing placement as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This has been the case across many programmes including but not limited to; nursing and midwifery, social care and allied health courses.

Congress notes with concern: That many students, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, will not have completed the required placement hours/weeks in order to proceed in their course and may need to undertake placement over the summer months.

Congress regrets: That in most cases, students undertaking mandatory placement over the summer period will not be paid and will be limited in their ability to work part-time, further inhibiting their ability to support themselves financially during their studies. Those on placement in healthcare settings, or with vulnerable service users may also be unable to work part-time whilst on placement.

Congress therefore mandates: The USI Executive Team to lobby the Minister for Further & Higher Education, Research Innovation and Science and all other relevant Ministers to secure financial support for students undertaking unpaid mandatory placement over summer. This should be in addition to USI’s ongoing efforts to secure financial support for all students who undertake placement as part of their course.

Congress also mandates: The USI Executive Team to also lobby for the provision of suitable accommodation for students undertaking mandatory placement, where needed.

Congress further mandates: The USI VP Academic Affairs to work with local SUs to lobby for non final-year students to be permitted to progress in their course with required placement time owing.

2021 AA 6: Position on Proctoring

Proposed by The USI Vice President for Academic Affairs

Congress Notes : That many students have been forced to complete assessments, including examinations, online due to the pandemic that the world is facing. Due to these assessments having to take place virtually, the standard invigilation procedures can not take place.

Congress Further Notes : Academic Integrity Procedures must still be followed to ensure that all assessments are taken fairly and that these assessments are an accurate reflection of the work that all students have put in.

Congress Also Notes: HEIs are currently looking into getting all online examinations fully proctored through different proctoring software like Examity etc.

Congress Believes: There are a range of concerns related to proctoring of assessment including but not limited to privacy, mental health and accessibility associated with the use of proctoring software.

Congress Mandates: The Vice President for Academic Affairs, working through the National Academic Integrity Network to investigate proctoring and produce a paper outlining uses of Proctoring, how it relates to Academic Integrity and the impact it has on the student experience regarding assessment.

Congress Further Mandates: The Vice President for Academic Affairs and Regional Vice Presidents to work with MOs to compile a picture of current uses of proctoring in assessment and to use this, and the work of the National Academic Integrity Network to inform the development of position papers and/or statements in relation to proctoring

2021 AA 7: Equality of access to Postgraduate education and research for Non-EU residents

Proposed by Postgraduate Working Group

Congress Notes: The difficulty non-EU citizens face in pursuing postgraduate research and education in Ireland, such as higher fees and additional costs in the form of visas, resident permits and healthcare.

Congress Recognizes: This places multiple new pressures on non-EU citizens who come to Ireland to continue their education that they may not have been previously aware of.

Congress therefore Mandates: The VP for Postgraduate Affairs to work with the VP for Equality and Citizenship to lobby the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science (DFHERIS) on equal access to postgraduate education and research.

Congress further Mandates: The VP for Postgraduate Affairs to work with the VP for Equality and Citizenship, VP for Campaigns and the VP for Academic Affairs to organise an information campaign highlighting the additional costs of pursuing postgraduate education and research if travelling to Ireland as a non-EU researcher.

2021 AA 8: Clarification to the USI Postgraduate Workers Rights Charter

Proposed by Postgraduate Working Group

Congress Notes: There is a widespread practice at Irish Universities of demanding that Postgraduates carry out teaching or related academic duties without remuneration. The USI Postgraduate Workers Rights Charter represents USI’s commitment challenge to this exploitative situation.

Congress Further Notes: The existing USI Postgraduate Workers Rights Charter works at cross-purposes to the campaigns of several grassroots groups of postgraduate workers who are campaigning to improve the working conditions at their respective universities.

Congress Recognizes: That exploitation is most effectively challenged with a collective voice, and that these divisions weaken the campaign for postgraduate workers rights.

Congress therefore Mandates: The VP for Postgraduate Affairs to coordinate between the different campaigns currently carried out by USI and postgraduate workers and to further develop the Postgraduate Workers Rights Charter in a democratic fashion.

2021 AA 9: Anonymous Marking

Proposed By Institute of Technology, Sligo Students’ Union
Amended by:
University College Cork Students’ Union

Congress notes Anonymous marking is the correction of examinations by a lecturer without knowing the learners name first hand.

Congress further notes Leaving Certificate students entering into third level education will have already had their leaving Certificate examinations corrected anonymously.

Congress also notes The change to online learning as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic has led to i) an increase in the use of Continuous Assessment and ii) an increase in the use of the VLE (virtual learning environment) as an assessment platform, which has resulted in a decrease in the amount of assessments marked anonymously.

Congress Believes Anonymous marking may reduce the perception of bias marking be it accidental or otherwise.

Congress Therefore Mandates The Vice President for Academic Affairs to assist MOs in lobbying for anonymous marking within their own HEI.

2021 AA 10: Making the Most of Micro-credentials

Proposed By USI VICE PRESIDENT Academic Affairs

Congress notes: The increased attention being paid towards Micro-credentials across the worldwide Higher Education sector. Micro-credentials are defined by the European Commission as: “a proof of the learning outcomes that a learner has acquired following a short, transparently-assessed learning experience. They are awarded upon the completion of short stand-alone courses (or modules) done on-site or online (or in a blended format).”

Congress further notes: That the Irish Universities Association (IUA) recently secured funding through the Human Capital Initiative to lead a sector-wide project on the development of an Irish framework for Micro-credentials.

Congress also notes: That USI recently joined the Steering Committee of Higher Education 4.0, a Human Capital Initiative funded project between the CUA partners (IT Sligo, GMIT and LYIT), a project which will include the development of several micro-credential programmes.

Congress believes: That micro-credentials will play a huge role in the future of Higher Education in Ireland over the coming years, and students must be at the centre of these discussions at a national level in order to ensure that they act to widen access to education on a short-term/flexible basis, rather than as a further symptom of marketisation.

Congress therefore mandates: The USI Vice President for Academic Affairs to keep abreast of developments in micro-credentials nationally, and internationally, engaging with the European Students’ Union and other international stakeholders as appropriate. The Vice President for Academic Affairs to inform student representatives and students on micro-credentials through the development of policy papers and briefings on micro-credentials as appropriate.

Congress further mandates: The Vice President for Academic Affairs to seek to ensure students views are represented in the development of national initiatives in micro-credentials through their seat on the Higher Education 4.0 project, and through seeking representation on the IUA Microcredentials project.

2021 AA 11: USI Further Education & Training Strategy 2021-2024

Proposed by The USI Vice President for Academic Affairs

Congress notes: That the Further Education & Training Strategy 2018-2021 is due to expire at Congress 2021.

Congress believes: That the development of a new standalone Department for Further & Higher Education provides a platform for USI to greatly increase its’ activity within the FET sector and develop the structures for effective representation of students/learners within this sector so that it can be an effective and respected voice for the entire tertiary sector.

Congress therefore adopts: The USI Further Education & Training Strategy 2021-2024

2021 AA 14: Subsidies on Textbooks

Proposed By NUI Galway Students’ Union

Congress Notes: Students year in year out are forced to buy textbooks as part of their core reading lists. These are generally only relevant to the student for one year. These books can range in price from €10 anywhere up to the €100 mark. This adds an extra barrier for students to access education as it is another major expense on top of accommodation and equipment. Some of these books cannot be bought second hand due to a specific code on the inside which is used for course work and assignments which means it cannot be stocked in the library. These libraries already have limited resources.   This year students have been forced to do their entire course predominantly online with limited access to their library, study spaces and other areas on their campus which they are paying for through their tuition and levy. The libraries across the country are doing all they can in terms of providing a click & collect and scan & deliver service but for some students, this is insufficient due to the lack of books and the slow turnover. During this pandemic, there has also been a limit in students purchasing second-hand books which normally reduces the costs of books. Students who cannot afford these books are at a disadvantage in their degree to those who can afford it.

Congress Commends: All the work that is being done by the USI and MO’s on the “Education for All campaign”. In the year that’s in it, this is one of the campaigns that has been pushed the most and engaged students.

Congress Mandates: The USI Academic Affairs Officer to work with MO’s to lobby the Department of Higher Education, Innovation and Science to secure subsidies for students who are paying more than €50 a year for books.

Congress Further Mandates USI Academic Affairs officer to lobby for more Open Educational Resources and e-books to be used on reading lists rather than formal textbooks

2021 AA 15: Learning Analytics

Proposed by University College Cork Students’ Union

Congress notes As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been an increased use of informal learning analytics (LA), consisting of descriptive, predictive and prescriptive analytics, as well as increased discussion on the implementation of LA, within Member Organisations.

Congress further notes Although LA can be used to support student learning and highlight students in need of support, there are also many issues which can arise if LA is not used with students’ best interests in mind.

Congress also notes LA are relatively new, with the term Learning Analytics only emerging in 2011 (National Forum, 2017) and many MOs will not have formally engaged with them previously.

Congress believes There is a need for informed student representation in ongoing discussions around LA.

Congress mandates The Vice President for Academic Affairs to inform student representatives and students on LA through the development of policy papers and briefings on LA as appropriate.

Congress further mandates The VPAA to ensure students’ views are represented in national discussions on LA.

2021 AA 16: National NFQ Level 9+ Stakeholder Forum

Proposed by Vice President for Postgraduate Affairs

Congress Notes: Many issues exist within research and taught fields at Level 9 of the National Framework of Qualifications, and above.

Congress Further Notes: No dedicated platform exists for relevant stakeholders to meet and discuss relevant topics and issues so as to identify solutions.

Congress Mandates: The USI Executive to lobby the Department for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science for the creation of a Stakeholder forum for all involved in programmes at Level 9 and above in the National Framework of Qualifications.

2021 AA 17: Back to Education Allowance Reform Strategy Paper

Proposed by The USI Vice President for Equality and Citizenship

Congress notes: That the Back to Education Allowance Reform Strategy Paper (2018 AA 2) is due to expire at Congress 2021.

Congress believes: That the commitment to review the BTEA in the Programme for Government allows for an opportunity to address the current shortfalls within the current BTEA. Given the current economic climate the BTEA will allow for greater support to students returning to education.

Congress Adopts: The proposed Amended Back to Education Allowance Reform Strategy Paper

Congress repeals: 2018 AA 2: Back to Education Allowance Strategy (Had no effect as the policy had not been renewed in an earlier session)

 

EM (AA) 20 – 3: COVID-19: Protect our Students

Motion proposed by CITSU Congress notes with concern:

The impact Covid_19 has had on students due to the closure of campus, adjustment of assessments, introduction of online exams and all other adjustments that have occurred as a result of government restrictions during this unprecedented time.

Congress also notes with concern:

The impact Covid_19 has had on the mental and physical wellbeing of students throughout the nation as a result of unprecedented pressure to undertake exams under new circumstances, as well the effects of adhering to government restrictions.

Congress therefore mandates:

That the Union of Students in Ireland needs to support students and MO’s with regards to the exam appeals and repeats process to ensure that it is fair to all students who have been negatively affected academically as a result of Covid_19.

Congress also mandates:

That the USI Executive Team protects all students throughout this time to ensure their needs and concerns are heard, supported and advocated for when engaging with national stakeholders in Covid_19 related committees and to work to undertake research amongst third-level students on how Covid_19 has impacted their experience to inform their lobbying on this issue.

Congress also mandates:

That the Union of Students in Ireland needs to advocate to protect students on return to college by working with the HSE to ensure safety measures are adhered to

 

 

 

 

 

 

EM (AA) 20 – 6: On Internet and Infrastructure Access for Distance Learning

Proposed by NUIGSU

 

Congress notes

 

The significant challenges the third level and FE students have faced in response to the COVID-19 global pandemic. Students are experiencing significant strains on their mental, physical and financial health currently.

 

Congress further notes

 

With the move to online learning and assessment in recent months, students have faced significant barriers to accessing their education due to internet access, adequate study devices, family commitments or separate work/study space.

 

Congress also notes

 

Educational resources in general are increasingly moved online, from course learning materials to assessments. Regardless of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, access to reliable, affordable internet connections is a key barrier to equal access to education.

 

Congress believes

 

With the likelihood of a move to online and blended learning for the coming year, students are going to need significant software and hardware resources to engage to the best of their ability.

 

Congress mandates

 

The VPAA, in consultation with the regional officers, to undertake research on the extent to which proper access to adequate internet and study devices has impacted students’ academic activities.

 

Congress further mandates

 

Following research on the impact of access to adequate internet, The VPAA and regional officers lobby to expand access, through subsidies and other actions where possible and relevant.

 

20 AA (NC) 2: Accreditation for Participation

Property of the USI Executive Team
Congress recognises:

The importance of student participation in extra-curricular activities such as clubs & societies, Students’ Unions, volunteering and civic engagement during their time in college, and the benefits that engaging in such activity brings about in terms of the overall personal development of the student.

Congress further recognises:

The continued promotion by Students’ Unions of students getting involved in these activities, and the associated advantages which can be conferred on students who have been active in these areas when seeking future employment.

Congress notes:

The development of modules and recognition within programmes which exist in some Higher Education Institutions to accredit students for their involvement and participation in these activities, in order to facilitate, recognise and encourage their nonacademic as well as academic development whilst in college.

Congress therefore mandates:

The Vice-President for Academic Affairs & Quality Assurance to research best practice across Higher Education Institutions in this area, with a view to developing USI policy on Accreditation for Participation which may be presented to the appropriate College bodies by Students’ Unions who wish to do so.

 

 

 

20 AA (NC) 4: Student Nurses and Midwives Campaign

Property of the USI Executive Team
Congress notes with concern:

The considerable problems experienced by student nurses and midwives while on placement. The issue of the grossly unfair trainee wage imposed on them. Exploitative graduate programmes, emigration, working 39 hours a week, bullying and lateral violence and burnout are emerging as other key concerns.

Congress applauds:

The research done by USI Officer Board into the issues experienced by student nurses and midwives while on placement.

Congress acknowledges:

 

From the research conducted by USI that it was found that 51.8% of student nurses and midwives feel that placement has had a negative impact on your performance in aspects of your study. 57.3% feel placement has had a negative impact on physical health while 51.9% feel placement has had a negative impact on mental health. 81.9% feel that working as a nurse or midwife led to burnout as a result of working long hours during placement.

92.5% have thought about emigrating when they qualify as a nurse or midwife.

49% have experienced bullying or harassment while on placement while 18.3% have been bullied into working longer hours while on placement. 47.9% have considered dropping out of college as a result of a negative experience while on placement. When asked “what aspects of being a nurse and midwife would prompt you to emigrate?” 72.3% said payment was the key issue.

Congress notes with concern:

The Vice President for Campaigns and USI Officer Board to strive to work with the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) the relevant trade union to mobilise students on a campaign on the issues of: pay, emigration, bullying and lateral violence.

Congress mandates:

Co-operation between the Union of Students in Ireland (USI), students’ unions, student nurses and midwives and relevant trade unions on the remuneration and treatment of student nurses and midwives while on placement.

Congress also mandates:

The Vice President for Campaigns and USI Officer Board to ensure that disputes, negotiations and political lobbying is inclusive of the student perspective on the issue of pay and financial support.

Congress further mandates:

The Vice President for Campaigns to work on implementing a comprehensive evidence based campaign and programme to erase the negative culture of bullying and harassment on placement by collaborating with the INMO, relevant trade unions, governmental

departments, students’ unions, hospitals and higher education institutions.

 

20 AA 2: Next Steps for NStEP

Proposed by the Vice President for Academic Affairs
Congress notes

The National Student Engagement Programme [NStEP], which was officially launched in 2016 as a joint initiative between USI, the Higher Education Authority [HEA] and Quality and Qualifications Ireland [QQI], to embed student engagement practice through championing meaningful staff-student partnerships in Irish Higher Education. The work that has been undertaken so far through the NStEP programme including the roll-out of the class rep training programme, and the creation of National Projects, focused on specific areas within student engagement in Higher Education.

 

Congress further notes

That NStEP launched a new Strategy in November 2019, which sets out its strategic objectives until December 2021, focusing on:

  1. Strengthening the value of student engagement nationally
  2. Developing the leadership capabilities of students in Irish Higher Education Supporting staff and students across the sector to foster a culture of partnership Congress believes

That student partnership is an important model in adopting effective student engagement practice.

Congress further believes

NStEP plays a vital role in ensuring that student partnership and engagement is at the centre of discussions within the sector, and in supporting students’ unions to improve partnership with their respective institutions.

Congress calls for

NStEP to continue to be supported beyond its current funding window of December 2021, in order to ensure that student partnership continues to play a vital role in the student- learning experience nationally.

Congress mandates

The USI President, Vice President for Academic Affairs and other members of the Executive Team continue to support the delivery of NStEP in its current guise, and to lobby for the continuation of its funding beyond December 2021.

Congress therefore repeals

16AAQA 3

 

 

20 AA 3: Quality Assurance – Looking Forward

Proposed by the Vice President for Academic Affairs
Congress notes

The USI policy on Quality Assurance as set out in 09 ED 15, which outlines USI’s principles

on quality assurance.

Congress further notes

The extensive involvement of students within external quality assurance processes in Irish Higher Education, as demonstrated by the long-standing Student Quality Reviewers pool

 

operated jointly between NStEP, USI and QQI, and the centrality of students within QQI external quality review processes.

Congress notes with concern

That in spite of the principles outlined in the aforementioned policy, there is still a notable lack of student involvement in internal quality assurance mechanisms within institutions, as detailed in QQI’s “Quality in Higher Education 2019” report.

Congress also notes

The Student Strategic Advisory Committee structure adopted by the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education, in the UK, to embed the student voice within the work of QAA, as the national quality assurance agency.

Congress believes

That in order to ensure that quality assurance mechanisms are working effectively in favour of the student experience, students should be involved and represented at all levels of quality assurance, including but not limited to, internal and external quality assurance review processes.

Congress further believes

There is scope to further widen student engagement with QQI’s core work – taking into account best practice from other national quality agencies, such as QAA UK.

Congress therefore mandates

The Vice President for Academic Affairs to work with QQI, and other relevant stakeholders, including members of the Academic Affairs Working Group, to improve student involvement in internal quality assurance mechanisms across Irish Higher Education institutions, and to develop further student engagement with QQI’s own work, modeled on the QAA student engagement structure.

 

 

20 AA 4: Wellbeing in Education

Proposed by the Vice President for Academic Affairs
Congress notes

The findings of the USI Mental Health Survey which recommended that consideration be given to embedding mental wellbeing into the curriculum in higher education, in order to ensure that all students had equal access to information on wellbeing within their academic programme. This survey also found that just over half of respondents (51.4%) were involved in activities outside of their academic course, and that those who were involved in external activities were less likely to be extremely severely anxious, depressed or stressed.

 

Congress further notes

The work that has been carried out within the UK Higher Education sector on embedding wellbeing into the curriculum, most notably the 2017 report by Advance HE on embedding mental wellbeing in the curriculum.

Congress believes

That in order to fully tackle the mental health and wellbeing crisis within Higher Education, an all-institution approach must be sought, which takes account of the role that the academic curriculum has to play in supporting the wellbeing of students. Whilst support services are of vital importance in addressing the needs of students, they must not be seen as the only part of an institution with responsibility for the wellbeing of its students.

Congress mandates

The USI Executive Team, in particular the Vice President for Academic Affairs and Vice President for Welfare to lobby the Department with responsibility for Higher Education to initiate work on the area of Wellbeing in the Curriculum through the creation of a national working working group on this issue. The USI Executive Team to support NUS-USI members to explore the area of mental wellbeing in the curriculum within their own jurisdiction.

Congress further mandates

The Vice President for Academic Affairs and Vice President for Welfare to undertake research on, if and how wellbeing and extracurricular activities are facilitated within the academic calendar in all MOs, and to push for this to be considered as part of national discussion on Wellbeing in the Curriculum.

Congress repeals

AA-19-1 and 18-WEL-6

 

20 AA 5: Student Complaints

Proposed by the Academic Affairs Working Group
Congress notes

That all HEIs, as well as other public service providers in the Higher Education sector, including HEAR, DARE and SUSI are required to have an internal Complaints procedure.

Congress further notes

That, if dissatisfied with the response received through the formal procedure, students are entitled to submit a complaint through the Ombudsman.

 

Congress believes

Student Complaints processes can often be time-consuming, confusing and frustrating, leading many students to withdraw complaints they have submitted. To date, there has not been a lot of interaction between the Ombudsman and student representatives meaning that there is a lack of clear information on the Ombudsman process, and how Students’ Unions can best support students wishing to make a complaint through this process.

Congress mandates

The Vice President for Academic Affairs to provide guidance notes for Students’ Unions on supporting students throughout an internal complaints process, and to work with the Ombudsman to develop guidance for students, and for Students’ Unions on the Ombudsman complaints process.

 

 

20 AA 6: Academic Integrity

Proposed by Academic Affairs Working Group
Congress notes

Section 43a of the updated Quality and Qualifications Act 2019 which provides Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) statutory powers to prosecute those who:

  • assist learners to cheat by completing, in whole or in part, any piece of work required of the enrolled learner for their programme of study, or sit an exam or facilitate the sitting of an exam by someone other than the enrolled learner or provide answers for an exam;
  • advertise cheating services;
  • publish advertisements for cheating
Congress further notes

That in preparation for the enactment of this part of legislation, QQI have established a National Academic Integrity Network, which aims to identify and disseminate good practice in dealing with contract cheating, inform a dedicated communications strategy and develop a culture of positive academic integrity within Irish Higher Education. This Network includes representation from all Irish Higher Education institutions, as well as representation from USI, and from a number of Students’ Unions. The Communications Group working as part of the network will be chaired by the USI Vice President for Academic Affairs.

Congress believes that

It is only through effective dialogue with students, and the adoption of student-centred learning approaches, that the sector can work towards building a culture of positive

 

academic integrity. It is critically important that positive engagement with students on this issue is placed at the centre of the network’s priorities, and that any student-facing communication that is developed is accessible, proactive and student-centred.

Congress mandates

The Vice President for Academic Affairs to work closely with QQI, other sectoral agencies, and all members of the National Academic Integrity Network to ensure that the work of the National Academic Integrity Network places the needs of students at its’ core. The Vice President for Academic Affairs to work with members of the Academic Affairs Working Group, and members of the Academic Integrity Communications Group to ensure that student-facing communication on this topic is proactive, accessible and student-centred.

Congress further mandates

The Vice President for Academic Affairs, and the Vice President for Campaigns to work with the National Academic Integrity Network to develop campaign resources for local students’ unions to roll out their own awareness campaigns on Academic Integrity.

 

 

20 AA 7: Postgraduate Specific Supports on Campus

Proposed by NUI Galway Students’ Union

Congress Notes:

The lack of dedicated services in relation to mental, physical and financial wellbeing of Postgraduate students across the Island of Ireland.

Congress Further Notes

That services on campus can often be inaccessible to Postgraduate students, with many HEIs excluding PG students from the remit of their on campus initiatives aiming to improve the education experience of students.

Congress Recognises

The increase in the amount of Postgraduate Students reporting poor mental and physical health and significant financial strain.

Congress, therefore Mandates

The VP for Postgraduates to work with the VP Welfare and VP Academic Affairs to research what supports are currently available on campus specifically for Postgraduate Students.

Congress Further Mandates

The VP for Postgraduates, the VP Welfare and the VP Academic Affairs to lobby for a national strategy of support services specific for Postgraduate Students across Ireland.

 

20 AA 9: Learning in a Digital World

Proposed by the Academic Affairs Working Group

Congress notes

The advancements that have been made in digital learning & teaching in Ireland over the last number of years, and the increasing interest in digital delivery of courses including, but not limited to, blended learning and fully online programmes.

Congress further notes

A number of initiatives exploring the field of digital and online teaching & learning have been launched within the sector over the last year, including, but not limited to, the Irish Universities Association’s ‘Enhancing Digital Teaching and Learning’ project, and the Innovative Opportunities Transforming Education’ (INOTE) project being conducted by the Connacht-Ulster Alliance (GMIT, IT Sligo, Letterkenny IT). Local Students’ Unions, and USI have been a key stakeholder in these projects, and other local initiatives exploring the theme of digital learning.

 

Congress welcomes

The work that was carried out by the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Autumn 2019, surveying over 25,000 students in Ireland on their experience of digital learning, and which will publish a national report of the findings in May 2020, as well as providing each institution with their own individual data to enable them to produce institutional reports on the survey.

Congress believes

All of the above initiatives demonstrate the currency of digital and online learning in the current Higher Education environment, but also show that there is still a lot of work to be done in improving the digital experience of students in Ireland, in order to ensure that digital tools are used for the betterment of the student learning experience, and not simply to tick a box.

Congress further believes

Online and blended-learning can provide a flexible route into higher education for students from a range of backgrounds, and for international students wishing to access the Irish Higher Education system from their own home country. However, it is vitally important that students on online and blended-learning programmes are offered equal access to support, personal development and other opportunities that are afforded to on- campus students. This should include access to the free fees initiative and SUSI funding.

Congress therefore mandates

The Vice President for Academic Affairs to provide resources to support MOs in engaging with online students, including support for Students’ Unions who are not currently funded to support their online students and advice on embedding student representation within online and blended-learning programmes. The Vice President for Academic Affairs, President and other members of the Executive Team to work with sectoral bodies and the HEA to put in place further support for students enrolled on online and blended learning programmes, including lobbying for full access to SUSI funding and the free fees initiative for those enrolled on fully online programmes.

Congress further mandates

The Vice President for Academic Affairs to work with the National Forum, and with MOs, to build upon the findings of the INDEx survey, and to call for further action to improve the digital learning experience of students. The USI Executive Team to continue to engage with, and support national projects focused on digital learning & teaching

 

 

20 AA 12: Placement Campaign

Proposed by UCCSU
Congress Recognises:

The huge value that placement in courses has for students.

Congress notes:

That students may face barriers when it comes to engaging in placements from finding a suitable placement, travel/accommodation, financial reasons and others.

Congress Notes:

Many students undergo placements throughout their time in higher education institutions and that several of said placements are outside of their hometowns and away from their institutions. Many students have to source their accommodation for said placements in workplaces and are not paid or reimbursed in any form for said expenses or if they are they, not in a sufficient way.

Congress Further notes:

Previous research was done by USI for Student Nurses, Pharmacy Students and Student Teachers to gather data from those cohorts of students, including information on placement, that has led to the formation of successful campaigns and lobbies. The gap in overall research for all students undergoing placement and the need for the development of a campaign(s) stemming from the experiences gathered.

Congress Recognises:

The need to support students who are undergoing unpaid placements or paid placement where they are receiving less than the minimum wage. This is too little to live on as there is currently a massive disparity with the minimum and living wage

Congress Believes:

All students should be paid when they go on placement and receive at least a living wage and that many students are financially exploited.

Congress, therefore, mandates:

The VP for Academic Affairs and VP for Campaigns to conduct a national survey to gather data around student experiences on all placements.

Congress further mandates:

The VP for Academic Affairs and VP for Campaigns to create a campaign(s) from the collected data on their experiences, included but not limited to, a campaign to lobby for a living wage or, at least, financial assistance for students on placement

 

AA 19 – 5: Postgraduate Funding in Northern Ireland

Proposed By Postgraduate Working Group
Congress Notes:
  • The Postgraduate Tuition Fee Loan in Northern Ireland which only entitles students to £5,500 towards the cost of postgraduate taught
  • Tuition Fees for standard Masters courses in Northern Ireland are set to rise to £5,900, with many other Masters programmes costing much more but tuition fee loans will not automatically rise in line with
  • Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK to cap tuition fee loans for Postgraduate students at £5,500, meaning that students are offered no maintenance
  • That many postgraduate students in Northern Ireland opt for part-time study in order to be able to work alongside their
  • The insufficiency of the current funding system for part-time students where the loan must be split equally across years regardless of whether there are differential fees within the course, resulting in some students being left with a shortfall in their second or third year, which has led to some students being forced to withdraw from the
  • Due to the collapse of the Northern Ireland Executive in 2017, there is currently no Minister in place to approve an increase in the tuition fee loan available to Postgraduate students or to commission any change to the current Postgraduate Funding
Congress Believes:
  • The current funding arrangements for postgraduate students in Northern Ireland are wholly inadequate, providing no maintenance support whatsoever and not covering the entire cost of standard Master’s programmes, or any programmes with higher
  • A review of postgraduate funding in Northern Ireland must be commissioned, in order to improve the support offered to students there and improve the coherency of funding arrangements for part-time
Congress Mandates:

The Vice President for Postgraduate Affairs to work with NUS-USI and its’ members to lobby for a review of postgraduate funding in Northern Ireland with a view to increasing available support whilst continuing to strive towards lobbying for publicly funded education, accessible to all.

 

AA 19 – 6: The legal status of a PhD student.

Proposed By Postgraduate Working Group.
Congress notes

That currently PhD students are classified as students.

Congress further notes

That there are many benefits to this status, such as exemption from tax.

Congress further notes

That there are also a range of problems with this student definition. Inclusive of but not limited to; no application of a minimum wage and access to HR in the case of a dispute.

Congress acknowledges

That Ireland and the United Kingdom are an outlier when compared to other European States and our fellow members of Eurodoc.

Congress mandates

The VP for Postgraduate Affairs to continue to investigate options to secure more rights for Postgraduate students by lobbying for a change to the definition of a postgraduate, whether moving to define them as an employee or a hybrid status between employee and student.

 

AA (NC) 19 – 1: Open Access Policy

Proposed by: VP Postgraduate Affairs

National Council notes:

The freedom of researchers to publish wherever they feel most appropriate. The need to increase and improve access to the output of research. The increased digitisation of literature. The increased price of subscriptions and barriers to access.

National Council believes:

Research must be freely available on the public internet, permitting any user ‘free to read’ and ‘free to re-use’ access. The only constraints on open access should be that it is achieved whilst satisfying the principle that authors be acknowledged through citation for their work, and maintain control over the dignity of their work.

National Council mandates:

The VP for Postgraduate Affairs to develop a position paper on open access. The VP for Postgraduate Affairs to collaborate with EuroDoc and other relevant parties to lobby for open access.

 

 

AA (NC) 19 – 2: Career Guidance Review

Proposed by: Vice President for Academic Affairs

National Council notes:

The Career Guidance Review announced by the Minister for Education, Richard Bruton, in early 2018. That this review aims to examine all aspects of Career Guidance, including at secondary and third-level.

That an external Consultancy firm, Indecon, is carrying out this review, and that USI aided Indecon in circulating a number of surveys for Further and Higher Education students, and that USI submitted it’s own written submission in June 2018.

National Council believes:

That this Review is an important opportunity to consider the role of good career guidance for transition, progression, retention, success, and wellbeing.

That the specific focus of the Review on enterprise engagement should not detract from the views of students in shaping the outcome of the Review.

National Council welcomes:

The Career Guidance Review and the number of opportunities provided to gain the views of students, however, it would have been preferable for the Review to be held during term- time.

National Council believes that:

The Review should conclude that career guidance must be considered as a continuous process, and that a National Strategy should clearly link each level of education and each pathway to promote lifelong learning, supports, and informed decision-making.

The Review must include the need to invest in significant resource, including employing more specific Career Guidance Teachers/Counsellors in Schools after cuts during austerity years, as well as resourcing for Careers Offices at third-level.

National Council mandates that:

The Vice President for Academic Affairs should lobby that any National Strategy or approach requires a new agency for oversight and implementation, that can also create best practice and support continuous professional development in career guidance. This agency should also develop, maintain, and support an online resource that can replace or revamp Qualifax and other tools.

 

 

EM 1 (AAQA): Merging Students’ Unions

Proposed by WIT Students’ Union
Congress Notes:

The recent enactment of the Technological University Act has put forward the imminent establishment of Technological Universities in Ireland.

Congress Further Notes:

The merging and restructuring of Students’ Unions will be expected during the process of two or more IOT’s merging.

Congress Mandates:

The Vice President for Academic Affairs of USI to research and write a best practice for merging Students’ Unions document based on examples of third level institutes who have already merged in the past to be completed by SUT+ 2018.

 

2018 AA 4: Accreditation for Volunteering & Participation

Proposed by IT Tallaght Students’ Union.
Reapproved 2021
Congress recognises:

The importance of student participation in extra-curricular activities such as clubs & societies, Students’ Unions, volunteering and civic engagement during their time in college, and the benefits that engaging in such activity brings about in terms of the overall personal development of the student.

Congress further recognises:

The continued promotion by Students’ Unions of students getting involved in these activities, and the associated advantages which can be conferred on students who have been active in these areas when seeking future employment.

Congress notes:

The development of modules and recognition within programmes which exist in some Higher Education Institutions to accredit students for their involvement and participation in these activities, in order to facilitate, recognise and encourage their non-academic as well as academic development whilst in college.

Congress therefore mandates:

The Vice President for Academic Affairs to work with the National forum for the enhancement of teaching and learning in higher education and other relevant statutory agencies to develop a national approach to accreditation to student volunteering and participation in other extra-curricular activity

Congress Repeals

Policy 13 AA

 

2018 AA 15: The Marketisation of Third-Level Education

Proposed by the Vice President Academic Affairs
Reapproved 2021
Congress notes

Efforts by Governments and Higher Education Institutions, both in Ireland and internationally, to create a competitive environment in third-level education, especially in Higher Education.

Congress further notes

That this effort to marketise education damages the ethos of education as a social and public good.

Congress recognises

The USI’s efforts to campaign and lobby for publicly funded education and protect education as a public good.

Congress believes

That in Ireland the student movement is not proactively discussing or raising the dangers of marketisation and commodification of education, and must be better equipped to do so.

Congress mandates

The Vice President Academic Affairs to develop clear policy guidance on the negative consequences of marketisation both locally and nationally, and to work with the Vice President Campaigns to create toolkits for Member Organisations to recognise and campaign against marketisation in their institutions.

 

2018 AA 18: National Student Partnership Agreement

Proposed by: Academic Affairs Working Group

Reapproved 2021

Repeals 17 AA 5

Congress notes

Efforts to date to enhance student engagement in their education through the work of the National Student Engagement Programme, of which USI is a proactive partner.

Congress further notes

The increasing awareness of the concept of students as partners in their education, and developments both locally and nationally to embed the student voice in all aspects of our institutions.

Congress believes that

Developing ‘Student Partnership Agreements’ between Institutions and Students’ Unions is a positive and constructive avenue through which student participation, representation, and engagement can be fostered, while ensuring the ethos of Students’ Unions as autonomous decision-making organisations is protected.

Congress further believes that

There is significant appetite to take a national approach to student partnership. Congress recognises

The commitment by the Minister for Higher Education to work with USI to develop a national approach to the student voice, both through a Framework on Supporting Students’ Union, and through the exploration of Student Charters and Partnership Agreements.

Congress mandates

The USI President and the USI Vice President Academic Affairs to work with the Department for Education and Skills, and all other relevant stakeholders, to lobby for and develop a National Student Partnership Agreement.

Congress further mandates

That any development of a National Student Partnership Agreement should proactively engage students at every stage.

 

17 NC/AA 05: Early Education and Carers Campaign

National Council Notes:

Early years workers and providers are dedicated and passionate about delivering a quality service that focuses on the needs of children and realising their full potential. Workers are paid too little and are struggling to make ends meet. The cost of Early Years services in Ireland are among the highest in Europe, an average of over €750 per child per month. However most early years educators are earning less than the living wage.

 

National Council Applauds:

The ‘Big Start’ campaign led by SIPTU and the efforts to build a coalition of organisations and groups on the issue.

 

National Council Acknowledges:

A lack of State investment where Ireland spends only 25% of the European average investment in early years services. Lack of empirical evidence to show that early education and carers students and graduates are looking for recognition of the sector and a living wage and if other issues exist.

 

National Council Mandates:

The USI Vice President for Campaigns and USI Officer Board to work with the relevant trade unions, and other organisations, to assess the issues that may exist and to further mobilise students on a campaign on the issues of: pay, work, and recognition of the sector.

 

National Council Also Mandates:

The USI Vice President for Campaigns and USI Officer Board to ensure that disputes, negotiations and political lobbying is inclusive of the student perspective.

 

 

 

17 AA 3: Borrowing model of IOTs

Congress notes

There is a huge crisis in relation to the current financial state of many IOTs across the country. IOTs are not allowed to borrow money in the such ways Universities can.

According to recent reports in the media, currently there are six Institutes of Technology in a vulnerable state.

Congress further notes

This causes huge issues for IOTs regarding progress and helping to advance their status the same way Universities can. This can also come into effect as IOTs cannot borrow money to help with the accommodation crisis, and they cannot borrow money to build.

Congress therefore mandates

The USI President as a member of the HEA board to highlight with the HEA and lobby the government for IOTs to access additional funding the same way Universities can access it.

 

17 AA 4: Student Participation in Governance

Congress:

Repeals 15 AAQA 8 and 14 AAQA 6

Congress notes:

That student participation in the academic governance of their institution is integral to ensuring that the perspective of the learner is embedded and reflected in decision-making.

Congress further notes:

Tertiary-level education is becoming increasingly marketised and competition-driven, with HEI Management engaged in strategic work around recruitment, marketing, and internationalisation. Students are increasingly denied a role in academic governance, creating a democratic deficit in our institutions.

Congress believes that:

Students and student representatives are partners in their education, and should have a key role to play in governance throughout structures in their institutions.

Congress recognises:
  • The experiences of MOs in student participation and institutional democracy is
  • The work to date with NStEP on institutional analysis and academic
  • The work to date with the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning on
  • Congress mandates the President and the VP Academic Affairs:
  • To carry out diagnostic work with MOs to get a broader picture of institutional democracy and student representation in governance
  • To create resources around best practice examples of democratisation and decentralisation of institutional governance
  • To work with individual MOs, as appropriate, to support efforts to improve student participation in academic governance.

 

15 AAQA 7: Technological university supports

RENEWED 2018 – REAPPROVED 2021

Congress acknowledges:

The work, which has been done to date with MO’s going through the Technological University (TU) process.

Congress also acknowledges:

The integral role of Students’ Unions in these MO’s to informing students of their rights and safeguarding them in the TU process.

Congress mandates:

The Regional Vice Presidents to assist in the merging of Students’ Unions involved in the TU Process

 

15 AAQA 10: Cross-border student mobility

RENEWED 2018 – REAPPROVED 2021

Congress believes:

Currently there is very low cross-border student mobility between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland

That education should be free and fairly funded- this also goes for the students who chose to travel over the border for their education

Every student should be able to access support for travel, course costs, maintenance support and studying cross-border should not be a barrier to support.

Congress notes:

In 1996/97, almost one in 10 students in the NI colleges were from the Republic – 9.3%, but in 2012/13, this fell to just 5.5%.

The number of RoI domiciled students enrolled in NI Higher Education Institutions in 2012/13 was 2,835 and the number of RoI students studying in FE institutions in 2012/13 was 3,324.

In 2012/13 only 980 students from NI travelled over the border to study in Irish institutions.

RoI students in NI often have trouble accessing the right information about the SUSI grant which is available to them, which can then lead to financial hardship.

Congress mandates:

VPAAQA to work with the NUS-USI President to explore ways we can increase cross- border student mobility

VPAAQA to work with NUS-USI to lobby the respective governments to provide adequate financial support for students studying over the border

 

14 AAQA 12: Fees for Student Apprentices

Congress notes:

The publication of the Review of Apprenticeship Training in Ireland, and the consistent focus on the importance of work-based learning and apprenticeships as part of the dialogue around the Youth Guarantee.

Congress condemns:

The decision taken in Budget 2014 to impose a new pro-rata Student Contribution fee burden on student apprentices.

Congress welcomes:

The collaboration between the USI and the TEEU in launching the ‘Axe The Tax on Training’ campaign this year.

Congress mandates:

The President, Vice-President for Campaigns and Vice-President for Academic Affairs & Quality Assurance to lobby to overturn this decision in Budget 2015 and reinstate the State contribution to this fee, in conjunction with the TEEU.

09 ED 13: Equity of Access

REAPPROVED 2015 and 2018 – REAPPROVED 2021

Congress notes:

That the introduction of the ‘free fees’ initiative was designed to widen access to further

and higher education for those from traditionally under-represented backgrounds.

Congress recognises:

That while much progress has been made, with an overall participation rate of 55%, there are still a number of socio-economic and non-traditional backgrounds which do not participate in further and higher education at the level of other groups.

Congress welcomes:

Recent moves to broaden the participation rate, in particular the creation of the national office for the equity of access to higher education and the publication of the national plan for equity of access to higher education 2008 – 2013.

Congress reaffirms:

That one of the fundamental principles of the union is that it strives for an education and training system open to all, irrespective of any consideration, including consideration of national origin, ethnic background, age, ability, sex, sexuality, creed, political beliefs or economic circumstances, so that each individual can realise their full potential.

Congress believes:

That in order to uphold and defend this principle, USI must have a co-ordinated policy on equity of access and encouraging the widening of participation in further and higher education.

Congress mandates:

That USI adopts the following principles as its policy on equity of access to further and higher education to be implemented by officer board:

Equity of Access (General Principles)

USI shall campaign for an education and training system open and accessible to all.

All sectors of society should have equal opportunity to participate in further and higher education.

Further and higher education institutions should take all steps necessary to encourage and broaden participation

USI shall build links and work with all relevant stakeholders and organisations to widen the participation rate and address all obstacles that may prevent individuals from accessing further and higher education

The USI education officer shall develop and regularly update a USI strategy for equity of access to further and higher education

Targeted access funding and programmes must be expanded to ensure that all students who come from traditionally under-represented backgrounds are able to access further and higher education

All cuts to the student assistance fund, access offices or strategic innovation funded access projects shall be vigorously opposed by USI

All constituent organisations shall be supported by USI in promoting access within their own institution and in supporting the proper representation of access students through policy development, practice, promotion and partnership

The USI education officer and the USI deputy president/campaigns officer shall develop a public campaign promoting access to further and higher education, highlighting the current obstacles and building momentum to have these issues addressed.