So, there I was, sat at work 3 years after Graduating University with my 2:1 degree in performing arts and Education studies. 3 years after I first really got heavily involved in anything to do with the student movement. 3 years since I took the decision to not follow the PGCE path and instead to chase a career in the Higher education sector working and supporting students. 3 years later…and what have I actually done?! What has lead to me sitting in this particular office In Warwickshire, starting this blog?!
Lets rewind back 6 years, before I had even been to one lecture, a fresh faced, blurry eyed “fresher” who liked to think he had life experience gained from a brief, yet entertaining, year of full time employment in the motor trade!
During my first week of University I was on the look out for a job to help keep my head above water with the rent and bills, and I wouldn’t accept anything less than being a barman in my new students’ union, hoping this would be my way to making new friends in a new city, so far from home!
Bold as brass, I walked in on the second day of freshers week and, call it confidence, call it cockiness, call it what you will, asked for a trail shift on the bar. To my surprise, I was told to come back next week in a black shirt and jeans and to start at 6pm. I have never looked back since.
Working behind that old, sticky, rather smelly and did I mention sticky, bar in my SU had its ups and downs. Balancing the uni work, assignments and my hours behind the bar to keep the money flowing proved difficult at times but it had its perks also. Cheaper than cheap drinks, an abundance of social activities, and some of the best friends I could ever have wished for.
A year soon passed by and despite all the social activities, and drunken nights out, I learnt a thing or two about a Students’ Union that I had previously just taken for granted. It was here that I learnt about the true meaning of ‘Not for Profit’ organisations, the importance of representation, the welfare office and its services, how all the money that was made through our outlets, bars and coffee shops, was then ploughed right back into the services students in the university needed, and used every day of the week. I learnt about the staff that make everything possible behind the scenes, I found out what our Elected Sabbatical team really did on a day to day basis instead of just the nights out and I knew I wanted to be a part of it.
Fast forward to a cold night in March 2010, the SU bar is a lockout with a queue of about 60 people outside, I’m exhausted, I have a terrible cold but my whole body was a buzz with butterfly and excitement. It was the elections results party and I had just spent the last week putting myself out there to the student body, hoping to secure enough votes to be the next Education and Welfare Vice President.
Midnight hit, the results came in, and I wont lie to you, everything got a bit patchy after that! I had somehow managed to win the election, drink more of the union bars ‘staff cocktail’* than previously thought possible now the only thing between me and my new office, was passing my degree!
It was during this first year as a Sabbatical officer that I realised I didn’t want to do my PGCE after all. I remember the moment, it is what this entire blog is named after! Nick Clegg Signed a pledge, A pledge that won a large number of students over (Including myself), that pledge was to oppose any rise in tuition fees. He lied. I was angry, no amount of ‘Staff Cocktail’* was going to calm this VP elect down!!
June soon rolled around and I was in office, My self and the other two elected offices, along with the staff team had been preparing for a National demo in London due to take place in November 2010. (It was during this demo I got that rather to the point photo!)
I had spent hours and hours of my time talking to the students, gauging their feelings to the rise in tuition fees (Proposed to go up to £9000 a year), the cuts the university was due to see from it HEFCE funds, the pay freezes the teaching staff were seeing and how the services they were using were being scaled back to free up money.
I had used this information when I met with local politicians, MPs and the university senior management, to be sure that when these people were talking about funding for students in HE it was being put to use in a way the my students would benefit, it was being used to help Widen Participation, support those who were going to be hit the hardest with any fee increase and give those who needed the money to help them finish their degree. I had a passion burning inside me, and I knew this was what I wanted to do!
Between then and now…I was elected for a Second year between 2011 and 2012. Then in September 2012 I took up a staff position in Warwickshire working for a Students’ Union four times the size of the one I had come from, with ten times the budget and twice as many students!
So now you have a flavor for who I am and what I do. I hope you enjoy reading my blog, my posts will be a mixed bag of things, from old events I’m looking back on, to new things that are happening, to my own ramblings about things that have ground my gears recently! I hope you enjoy them, and feel free to comment, and share.
* The ‘Staff Cocktail’ Was quite a strong yet very cheap beverage. It was more a pint of alcohol and sugar mixed with ice and a splash of Lemonade, topped off with some more alcohol than it was a cocktail. It went by the name ‘BazzaLad’ and most dentists wouldn’t recommend it! It has also since been adapted by the bar management team, the alcohol content reduced the ice content increased and is sold for £3 a pint…while it might not be as strong as I remember it, it will still rot your teeth…and your insides pretty quickly!
EDIT: 31/10/14 Since posting this I have left my post with Warwick SU and took an 8 month role with the Careers and Employability team for the University of Chester. More recently I have started a new role with the University of Chester’s Marketing and Recruitment team.