As a team of students, we were elected by the student body on the basis of a manifesto, which you can find detailed below. Throughout the year we will be trying to fulfill the manifesto by running campaigns and asking for students to get involved, as well as staff to help us with realising the objectives of them. We want to restore trust between RCA students and RCA management this year, and can do so by encouraging a collaborative and transparent relationship going forward. This means more consultancy of student voices (current students, as well as SU) in decision making, restored communication lines and closing important feedback loops.
Campaign: Ensuring Student Satisfaction is improved
Student satisfaction at the RCA is at an all-time low, with high numbers of students filing group complaints, going into fee strikes and voicing their frustration in surveys. Student’s concerns are not being handled sufficiently and issues take too long to resolve. Through facilitating regular Senior Management Team/Student Forums, we will address issues directly with decision makers with the aim to repair and rebuild the student/management relationship. We want to establish systems that hold the college accountable to follow through with the jointly agreed actions in accordance with concerns students have raised. This will pave the way for a more collaborative and transparent link between students and Senior Management.
- Improve our student rep system so that student feedback is responded to quickly and effectively
- Set up meeting with VCO to improve meetings and touchpoints throughout the year
- Access and publish College’s student survey data, and work with the College on timely responses.
- Make meetings more effective through training student reps and supporting them in creating campaigns and pushing for change.
Campaign: Effective Communication
This past academic year has seen many failures in communication from the college to students, where students have been given short notice, unclear and insensitive messages. We want to work with the college to push for a review and improve their communication process.
- Work with the college to create a better communication system whereby student voice is heard & messages are clearly communicated
- Push the college for an internal review of their communication methods and making sure everyone (staff and students) are on the same page.
- Set up live student Q&A sessions with key staff on important issues
- Update the student body more frequently on our work
- Ensure the college sets up student focus groups around key issues & invites the SU
Campaign: Overhaul Student Complaints Process
The Student Complaint process at the RCA has been proven ineffective this past school year. Even though a large amount of the student body has voiced their dissatisfaction with the college’s handling of education during the Covid-19 pandemic, the process to voice these concerns to Senior Management through a formal complaint was too time consuming and intimidating. Currently, the panel who decides on the validity of student complaints is made up of internal RCA staff with no external, neutral members - this must be reevaluated. As the student dissatisfaction at the RCA remains high, it is important to include the student voice in decision making processes more efficiently. If this fails, straight-forward and fair complaint processes must be welcomed by the College and handled in an efficient way which doesn’t intimidate the students.
- Establish a student complaint log book that is shared with the college & Student Union
- Work with the college to improve the student complaints process - keeping to their guidelines and making them clearer, timelines for responses, abolishing any conflicts of interest
- Work with the college to improve the academic appeal process - simplifying the process and shortening the time required.
- Propose that the complaint panel would include RCA-external members
- Work with the college to make the complaint and academic appeal process easy to find, simple to follow up and less intimidating.
Campaign: Funding & Scholarships
As the College fundraises for a large sum endowment fund (to provide College Scholarships) the SU wants to be a key stakeholder in the consultative process creating the scholarships. We will advocate for additional funding that assists current students who are financially struggling to continue their studies regardless of their financial circumstances. We will endeavour to press the College in setting up scholarships for international students, as a way of attracting students from diverse backgrounds, cultures and talents.
- Work with EDI officer to oversee the implementation of Black Student Scholarship
- Ensure the Opportunities Fund remains in place and is put out in a timely matter (prior to the WiP Show and/or Degree Show)
- Ensure Back on Track fund remains in place and becomes more accessible
- Ensure the annual report has a section about financial student support that is given - how much / how many students
- Set up a meeting with Director of Development and Alumni Relations to discuss possible Alumni Scholarships funded by Overseas Chapters (e.g. China)
- Achieve a Scholarship fund targeted towards attracting and supporting international students from diversified backgrounds and nationalities.
Campaign: Better educational experiences
The college is currently creating its next five-year Strategic Plan (2022-2027). We endeavour to participate in the design of this strategic plan, ensuring that it values qualitative improvement over quantitative growth. As student numbers increase, we want improved tutor-student ratios, better student learning/practicing conditions, more studio/workshop access, and an overall more enriching student experience.
- Pushing for improving student satisfaction as Strategic Plan point
- Ensuring that student voice is part of the Strategic Plan
- Formal programme feedback sessions conducted by the SU via a form/survey
- Establish guidance for how faculty and Reps work together on the curriculum framework
- Set up meetings with Deputy Vice Chancellor to learn more about Flexible Academic Model (Team)
- Create channels for students to directly feed into improving their experience through a RCA and RCASU survey
- Ensuring that RCASU society events as well as RCASU events & talks are in line with the objective of enriching student experience.
Campaign: Access and Inclusion
Working closely with the RCASU Equality and Diversity Officer, and responding to the EDI survey, we are committed to actively engage with international students, marginalised students at the RCA, to hear their specific needs and advocate on their behalf, raising issues connected to discrimination, accessibility, career opportunities etc. with the college’s management regularly, and ensuring positive improvements.
- Work with EDI Officer and Student Network Groups to recommend actions to the college on a regular basis, and lobby for these changes to be made
- Advocate for more diverse counselling services for students of colour, international students etc.
- Ask the college to consider an outsourced counselling service on top of what is already offered, so students can have counsellors who work out of hours, with different languages, different ethnicities and life experiences.
- Collaborate with the college, Trade Unions, and SU to ensure that the college’s anti-racism project meets its targets and is consultative of student voice.
Campaign: Lobbying the Government
We will continue working with SUs and pressure groups to push the government to acknowledge the special circumstances on art and design schools, and financial ramifications the pandemic has imposed on students. We will commit to campaigning for free education, and against the severe cuts the Government has introduced for Art & Design courses. We will press for a nationwide universities bailout, to allow Universities to reimburse pandemic-affected students, and pressure RCA Management to do the same.
- Working with Pause or Pay UK, Liberate the University, Red Square Movement etc in setting up meet ups and planning days for key organisers in the student movement across the UK.
- Continue to push for de-marketised education on a national level, and a nationwide bailout for students who are affected by Covid-19 and industrial action.
- If there is any industrial action we will campaign for students to be reimbursed for lost teaching time
Marnie Hamilton studied Visual Communication and is from London. She is serving her second term as a SU Co-President and on the side she runs a safer space event series, DJ’s and does some graphic design.
Yon Yi Sohn is from South Korea but studied and worked in the US, Hong Kong, and New Zealand, before coming to London for a MA Painting at RCA. She has served as a SU student trustee since August 2020. She likes getting involved and working to bring out positive changes. She also enjoys walking and people watching.
Anna Karoline Mueller from Germany, and did the MRes Fine Art & Humanities at the RCA in 20/21. She has been engaged in the student protest and advocating for a tuition fee reimbursement (i.a.) for the online-based education in 2020/21 via RCA Action. In her practice-led research, she explores the landscapes of the Capitalocene.