I can’t believe it has reached the end of the year already; and with that, the end of another academic term at the UON.

I’d like to take the time to congratulate all those students who have completed another semester or an extremely dedicated trimester. You are one step closer to reaching your goal.

For those PhD students who have completed the confirmation process:  well done – amazing job. This is the first step in your journey as an expert thinker in your field. It is a long and hard journey, but getting past this first step will help guide you and you will find the skills you picked up here will come in handy come the endpoint.

Lastly, for those postgraduate students who have completed their final term of studies – be that a graduate certificate, a masters degree or the illustrious Doctor of Philosophy, my warmest congratulations to you all. A postgraduate degree reaffirms that lifelong commitment to learning and you will find the skills you have gained during this time invaluable throughout your professional working life.

It’s at this point that I should state that this is my last term in NUPSA, having been one of the lucky students to have (almost) completed my PhD. I originally became involved in NUPSA in 2015, partly to help out a former president, but also because I was interested in learning more about the postgraduate student body at UON. During this time, I have had the opportunity to meet with our amazingly diverse cohort of students, and to learn about your student experience, the areas for improvement that you would like to see, and all the things that could help future students at UON.

Advocacy, which is what this improvement of student experience is all about, is what we at NUPSA spend a lot of our time and energy on. A lot of it happens ‘behind the scenes’, so I’d like to mention some of the ways we have worked with UON to help improve the student experience overall.

This year we have taken a significant focus on student consultation as a body overall. We can’t represent students well unless we engage with you, and NUPSA has done a fantastic job consolidating the postgraduate student voice. NUPSA will continue working hard on this. It is important for UON to ensure better student consultation with the student entities, student representatives and body occurs, so that the student experience is factored into every decision.

In terms of general student issues at UON, we have advocated strongly for clearer policy in respect to postgraduate space requirements, as NUPSA believes that all HDR students should have access to a desk for their work. NUPSA has also applied for a new space which would look to incorporate a new social space, study space, safe space and environment for our clubs and societies to utilise. We are pleased to say that the wheels are in motion and I would encourage you all to strongly emphasise the need of this kind of resource for postgraduate students.

We have strongly advocated for greater online student engagement, and have taken some small steps toward that end – we are working to ensure NUPSA workshops are available to our online peers. We are pleased to see that UON is also looking to improve the online student learning experience. However, we would like to continue to work on improvements in this sphere.

We have identified that student’s location of study can effect equity of access to resources. NUPSA believes that regardless of your location of study, you should have equal access to resources (such as library spaces), to ensure you receive the same student experience as peers at all major UON campuses.

I’m really proud of all the hard work NUPSA’s President elect has done in the mental health space and NUPSA would like to see training of all HDR supervisors in Mental Health First Aid training. It is recognised that postgraduate study can contribute to an increased burden on mental health, and this training would go a long way to help students in their study, and to ensure appropriate support structures are in place.

At a national level, I’m proud to say that NUPSA did not support the government’s higher education bill in 2017. The bill  would have had a detrimental impact on a number of students, particularly those from low SES backgrounds. In this regard, I’m pleased to announce the rejection of this bill and I would personally like to thank the Senators who voted it down.

I’m also very pleased to say that NUPSA supported the marriage equality campaign in 2017 and we are ecstatic that our peers within the LGBTIQ+ student community will soon have the opportunity to marry their loved ones.

We continue to work hard to obtain concession pass for international students – we continue to lobby the relevant bodies to ensure that our international peers are treated equally.

There’s lots of work to do in 2018 for NUPSA and I believe that Ash and the team are excellently suited to ensure that the postgraduate student voice is heard, and that the postgraduate student experience at UON is one of the best. I would like to take the time to thank my mentor Andrew Deane, NUPSA’s 2015/2016 President, who has been invaluable in helping prepare me for this experience. I would also like to thank the Dean of Students, Prof. Jenny Allen for all her guidance and support as well.

I look forward to seeing an amazing NUPSA experience in 2018.

As always, hope you are well.

James

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