[Written by Jasmine Urquhart]
The evening of the 21st of November saw the final instalment of the Rector Round Table discussions in the QMU. Aamer Anwar started the session by outlining the primary issues occurring on campus.
One of the issues mentioned was the general dissatisfaction amongst staff in all pay brackets, from cleaners to professors, many of whom were concerned that the billion-pound Learning and Teaching Hub development would not only fail to improve the experience of current students and staff, but would also harm current student life. Funds have been cut across the board to make way for the project, which is not expected to be completed until 2019. Anwar added that he was made aware that staff are told not to speak to students about what is discussed between management and staff and wondered why that is the case.
Anwar said that the “disaster” that was Fresher’s 2017 made him aware of the growing issue of new students being stolen from other facilities. He cited that the QMU’s inability to fund advertisement of events was a direct result of the underfunding caused by campus redevelopment. This two-phased project is not due to reach full completion by 2035 – by then the vast majority of current students will not be here to benefit from the £1bn project.
A key issue was that many feel as though they “aren’t getting the full student experience”. Anwar said. He highlighted that the dissatisfaction of international students, who pay extortionate fees only to suffer segregation on campus, is not being properly addressed.
Of the recent revelation that £200,000 would be provided to the Counselling and Psychological Services department, Anwar said that more information needs to be provided on where exactly this money is meant to be going and how long it is expected to last for – one day, one year, or if it would be a lump sum that would be provided for the department to spend as they pleased. He added that, with so many departments being squeezed already to make way for the campus redevelopment, it was not certain if this investment would greatly benefit students’ mental health at all.
An issue raised by Rector Anwar (a human rights advocate) himself was with the University’s management and their alleged involvement in the funding of Saudi war crimes through BAE Systems (a key employer of graduates). He said that this relationship doesn’t do anything to promote the University’s status as world leaders and proposed that a policy on ethical business should be in place so as to prevent the funding of horrific affairs.*
Students and members of the campus community then submitted their queries and concerns. Among them was the issue of late assignment submission: currently, if a student submits an assignment one minute after the deadline, they will suffer the same grade point penalty as a student who submits an assignment 11 hours late, as both of these assignments would have been submitted on the same day. Anwar seemed perplexed at this logic and made a note of this concern.
Another issue was the question of the freedom to explore other subject areas: one student requested to attend lectures in a different subject area to his assigned degree path but was declined without good reason. Anwar agreed that the University needed to be more open to allow students to take more than one course of lectures if they wanted to broaden their horizons.
On the astronomical pay of senior staff, he said that a small cut in pay of even £20,000 for each staff member wouldn’t be felt if they were already earning six figure salaries. If these pay cuts were to occur, real change could be felt across campus, and struggling Unions such as the QMU would be able to promote their events and achieve the development they so desperately require.
Personally, I wholeheartedly agree with this proposal: if senior staff truly cared about doing a good job on campus, then they shouldn’t be deterred to fulfil their duties by a relatively small pay cut that could really instigate positive change.
After a student and committee member of a struggling GUSA club highlighted the distress of having to run weekly training sessions despite funding cuts, Anwar said that all GUSA clubs needed to be funded, regardless of their success.
Overall, many of the issues brought up in the discussion stemmed from a general lack of funding in all areas. Although the billion-pound Learning and Teaching Hub will greatly benefit this university in time, its tendency to suck funds out of other areas is making all current staff and students suffer the consequences. It remains to be seen if this seemingly campus-wide dissatisfaction will deter future students from attending this world-class institution.
However, being a Glasgow alumnus himself, I feel that Anwar really has our best interests at heart. This gives us a glimmer of hope that he can be a strong advocate for our needs and will be a good bridge between the upper echelons of senior management and the general student population.
One-on-one surgeries and another series of round table discussions will be held this semester. In the meantime, students are invited to complete the survey at aamerforglasgow.uk.
* After consulting the SRC on this issue, GUM has been assured that the Rector’s accusation is baseless.