Following the announcement that the University will be allocating £260,000 to student bursaries for 2018/19 and 2019/20, we welcome the renewed commitment from Queen Mary to the important issue of student bursaries for students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. We look forward to continuing to work with the University on these issues and we are happy with this successful outcome.
We want to recognise the determination and dedication of those students taking part in the occupation of the Octagon to raise awareness of the cause, their efforts to restore the value of the bursary and whose action the Students’ Union supported (in accordance with policy passed by the student body at our recent AMM) but was not involved in organising or coordinating the occupation. This followed an overwhelming vote by students at our Annual Members’ Meeting in February. The occupation was organised by a group of students and ensured the changes to the QMUL Bursary remained on the agenda for both the University and the Students’ Union for the duration of the campaign.
In addition, much hard work and effort was put into lobbying and negotiating with the University by members of the current Executive Officer team and the Students’ Union, alongside those involved in the occupation. From the start of the occupation, Executive Officers met with members of the occupation and liaised with Security and Estates and Facilities to ensure the continued welfare of all students involved, including access to showers, heating and food.
Students’ Union President Yas Yeahia has said of the news:
“Ultimately, we are ecstatic with the news of securing £260,000 worth of funding and we look forward to working alongside students and the University to ensure we have learned from this campaign and continue to represent the needs of our students. If you wish to ask further questions and hold the Students’ Union to account, please attend the next meeting of Student Council taking place later this month. Check our website for further details. I would also like to recognise the determination and dedication of the students who took part in the #OccupyTheOctagon campaign. ”
Jemima Hindmarch, one of the students involved in the occupation said of the campaign:
“The Occupy the Octagon movement is hands down one of the best things that I've ever been involved with. At the beginning, we thought we would be there for a day at most, and that we would make a spectacle to raise awareness around bursary and pension cuts. In the end, the occupation lasted thirty days, and we won over half a million pounds in funding. Never have I spent so much time working with people who, beforehand, were complete strangers to me, and never before have I been so inspired by the hard work and passion of students on this campus.
I chose to occupy because I know that bursaries are a lifeline to many students, and part of what makes Queen Mary such a uniquely valuable university is the number of people who are able to study who maybe wouldn't be able to go somewhere where they wouldn't get the same financial support. Education is a right, not a privilege, and it is the duty of all current students to protect the diversity of this university for the future.”
The additional funding will be in addition to the formal allocation to bursaries agreed through OFFA (Office for Fair Access) a year ago, and is separate and outside of the hardship fund. Although the proposed bursary changes will continue, the Students’ Union has requested and agreed that a significant proportion of the £260,000 is made available to those students whose family income is in the £15,000-£42,000 bracket for the transitional period of 2018/19.
Further discussions will take place about how the fund should operate, who will be eligible and how students apply. The University will ensure that this is decided in agreement with the Students’ Union and the Students’ Union will sit on the University’s Access Monitoring Group and Steering Group to review agreements going forward. Yas and another Executive Officer will be invited to the Queen Mary University Senior Executive meeting at the end of April, during which the Access Submission will be considered and agreed.
Funding will also be allocated towards research to understand how QMUL may be different to other institutions, which may in future influence and support decisions around student finance, bursaries and access agreements. We will work alongside the University to conduct a joint research project on the impact of bursaries, including data that covers retention, welfare, reasons for withdrawal and extracurricular involvement in activities and opportunities. The Students’ Union and the University will jointly establish the scope of the research.
The Students’ Union has requested that this decision is presented and endorsed by the University College Council.