President
Alec Edgecliffe-Johnson

 

 

I represent your views by campaigning to make our overall university experience better. During your time here, think of your students’ association as your second home. Edinburgh University Students’ Association's services provide you with food, drink and supplies, great places to meet friends, a fantastic programme of events and professional, confidential advice. If you need anything, I can point you in the right direction, be a sounding board for ideas, and help make your time here the best it can possibly be.

Email me at president@eusa.ed.ac.uk 

  • Fri 07 Oct 2016 12:41

     

    By Alec Edgecliffe-Johnson and Patrick Garratt

     

    This week Edinburgh University joined a growing list of UK institutions in raising fees for prospective rUK students from £9,000 to £9,250 - you can read the Students' Associations' official statement here. Fortunately, the Students’ Association has successfully lobbied the University to ensure that this rise will not affect current students. Therefore, unlike Oxford, Cambridge, Exeter, Durham and multiple other Russell Group Universities that have raised fees for both current and incoming students, the University of Edinburgh will apply the fee increases to rUK students from the 2017/18 term only.  

     

    The Students’ Association has also successfully lobbied the University to raise its bursaries in line with the fee rise. Effectively, this means that bursary recipients, on whom this fee rise would otherwise have the largest impact, will not be adversely affected by this fee increase. The Students’ Association will ensure that the University honours this commitment.

     

    Despite the University’s decision not to impose fee rises on current rUK students, and to increase its bursaries to absorb this fee rise, we are incredibly disappointed that the University has made this decision. This was an opportunity for the University to set itself apart from other institutions, but instead, beginning next year, it will offer some of the most expensive undergraduate degrees in Europe.

     

    Why Fee Increases?

    The University has raised fees for current and incoming overseas students multiple times over the past four years to cover the rising cost of undergraduate education. The current average cost of an undergraduate degree at the University of Edinburgh is roughly £10,500, and fees for EU/Scottish-domiciled, and rUK students do not cover that cost.  These costs are passed on to overseas students, who must pay for increasingly expensive degrees. This year, incoming overseas students are paying extortionate fees between £16,700 and £29,600 based on their academic discipline, and next year, prospective students will be paying even more, between £17,700 and £32,100.

     

    However, fees are not the only means of covering the costs of undergraduate education. The University also receives funding from the Scottish Government to cover some of the difference. This situation has now changed, reflecting a troubling attitude towards the Higher Education sector from the Scottish and UK Governments.

     

    Wider Governmental Context

    Unlike English and Welsh universities, Scottish Universities are only permitted to raise fees for rUK students with the permission of the Scottish Government, and the increased fees cannot exceed the maximum amount charged by English Universities - currently £9,250. The Scottish Government has now granted this permission, foreshadowing further real terms cuts in funding to universities within Scotland.

     

    As a result of this expected funding cut and the University’s decision to hold fees steady for current rUK students, it will in fact be losing income in real terms over the next few years. However, the issue is deeper than that. The Scottish government is reducing its funding for universities as a direct result of the UK Government's efforts to create a market in higher education.  The UK government would like to see the financial burden of studying at university imposed upon the individual, rather than funding higher education through public funds.

     

    National Demo  

    This deepening commodification of Higher Education imposed on us by the UK Government must be resisted. The Students’ Association will be mobilising all students for a national demo on the 19th November, where students in Higher Education and Further Education across the UK will stand together with academics and support staff.

     

    We don’t need a government that continues to place the financial burden of studying upon individual students. We don’t need a government that creates a climate of mistrust of overseas students.

     

    We need a government that commits to a fairly funded Higher Education system.  We need a government that provides maintenance grants for students from low-income backgrounds.

     

    Come and march with tens of thousands of students to send a clear signal to the government that the current situation is unacceptable, particularly when the future of Higher Education is profoundly unclear.

  • Tue 12 Jul 2016 16:36

    What follows are a few thoughts on the psychological and social impacts of the recent referendum.

     

    1. Us/Them and Negative v. Positive Campaigning

     

    Us/them rhetoric clearly formed the basis of the leave campaign, but the outcome and aftermath have broadened the scope. Many Scottish people now see yet another divide between themselves and their southern brethren. The gulf between younger and older generations has widened. And of course some small-minded people see a clear divide between those born in the UK and elsewhere.

     

    Negative campaigning dominated the election. The remain argument was not predicated on the benefits of remaining but on the dangers and drawbacks of leaving. Equally the leave campaign was not arguing the benefits of leaving. It played to our fears, not to our sensibilities. I have no doubt that campaign managers did indeed, as author and hypnotist Scott  Adams claims, base their campaign content on his analysis of the effectiveness of Trump’s persuasion techniques.

     

    Why do we care about us/them rhetoric and negative slants? Firstly both are antithetical to a truly cohesive community. A community that is essential to navigating the relatively sticky situation in which we find ourselves. Secondly, these modes of thinking may have a significant impact on our decision-making, actions and speech. There will be large decisions to make in the next few years and we need to ensure that our decisions are not influenced by these toxic styles of thinking.

     

    There have been commendable commitments of solidarity with foreigners and immigrants, but we have to keep them open for old and young, leave and remain voters and people from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. We should endeavor to uphold the principles of unity and inclusion, not their selective application.

     

     

    2. Avoid the “Illusion of Knowledge”

     

    News, in the forms that we generally consume it, is not particularly beneficial. It is meant to entertain first, inform second. Our brains have developed to remember and interpret anecdotal “evidence” that stirs emotions, not facts and figures. Many news sources recognise and exploit this and can use it to generate false impressions.

     

    It’s a good time to reflect on the difference between information, knowledge and wisdom. The news, at best, feeds us information, not knowledge and certainly not wisdom. We should ask ourselves what T. S. Eliot asks in Choruses from the Rock:

     

    “Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
    Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?”

     

    No doubt many of the same people that were frantically googling ‘what is the EU’ on the day of the results had been following the news in the weeks leading up to the referendum. They had gorged themselves on information but had neglected to convert it to knowledge.

     

    Rejecting the news is not by any means an excuse to succumb to ignorance. It is a call to overcome the illusion of knowledge that enters our psyche when we think we have a grasp on a subject because we have been inundated with information related to it.

     

    We don’t need a populace armed merely with information, but with knowledge and wisdom. We need a populace that rejects the news in favour of insightful (probably long-form) articles, blogs from respected (contrarian?) thinkers and books. (For a compelling case to limit your news intake see Dobelli's "Avoid News")

     

    3. Opportunities will be less conventional but potentially larger in scope

     

    Any time of dynamic change is an invitation for new ideas and unconventionality. Benjamin Franklin may not be a household name had he been born in a more developed country rather than 18th-century America. The EU itself may not have been possible had it not been preceded by WW2.

     

    I don’t use these examples to draw direct parallels between our situation and these ones. I use them simply to reinforce a truism: when there is uncertainty and restructuring of traditional systems, many barriers to innovation that are present in static systems come crashing down.

     

    We do not and cannot know the UK’s future. However we can be sure that this referendum has made the UK even more acutely aware of its position on a global stage and its problems on the domestic one. The UK will need creators with fresh thoughts and outlooks to shape our society. There may still be hostility toward these ideas (there almost always is) but apathy toward them comes at too high a price at a time like this.

     

    Full disclosure - I voted remain. I have both British and  American passports so you can argue that I am  is not as affected by this decision as some. Maybe, maybe not.

     

 

Objective 1 Accessibility/student welfare: Create a community where all students are engaged and can develop equally

Why? Create an inclusive environment in which all students can learn and develop

 

Objective 2  Communication: facilitate information dissemination and feedback

Why? Allow students to take advantage of and co-create services at the University

 

Objective 3 Student development

Why? Better prepare our students for the outside world and ensure they leave Edinburgh with a clear understanding of their skills