Presidential candidate Vidhi Mohan on more resources for international students, what sets her apart from other candidates, and reducing food prices.
Of your manifesto points, which is the most important to you?
It’d be hard to pick one since all the points in my manifesto are really important to me. But I guess I’d pick having more resources for international students since that is a problem that I personally struggle with. International students make up to 43 per cent of the student population. Not only do they pay larger fees but they also have to deal with the struggle of understanding a different education system, a different culture and so many new things. Besides that, finding a job in the UK can be difficult for an international student due to visa issues. I want to create a separate space for international students on MyCareerHub to help deal with that problem. I want to provide structured support to these students so they feel like home here in Edinburgh.
What specifically do you mean by creating a separate space for international students on MyCareerHub? Do you have specific plans?
By separate space, I mean a separate section on my CareerHub itself which features all the companies that sponsor Tier 2 visas and possibly also an option to connect with the international alumni of the university who work in different sectors.
What do you think is the primary concern currently facing students at the University of Edinburgh?
Weather, haha! To be serious, the University of Edinburgh is constantly getting low student satisfaction scores which clearly reflects that students are unhappy and there is a lot that needs to be done to change that. Many students are unhappy with the feedback that they receive and feel that there is not enough communication between them and the tutors.
What are your opinions on the UCU industrial action and the Student’s Association’s decision to support it?
I completely support EUSA’s decision. If the teachers aren’t happy, the university fails as a system. It is the responsibility of each student to support their teachers. If it is a strike it takes for the negotiations to take place, so be it.
In 2017, the University of Edinburgh’s budget surplus was £132,635,000 — larger than that of all other Scottish universities combined. Do you feel this money is being invested wisely, and if not, how would you lobby the university to change this?
Well, the teachers are unhappy and are on a strike. The university is getting low student satisfaction scores which means the students are unhappy too. This clearly reflects that the budget surplus can be invested in a better way. There aren’t enough study spaces across the campus and there needs to be better and more kitchen facilities in the study spaces. I also feel that the university does not have enough scholarships and bursaries for different disciplines.
The university has recently announced its full divestment from fossil fuels. Do you welcome this decision? Do you believe there is more work to be done in making the university more sustainable?
Full divestment from fossil fuels is a great beginning to a very long journey. There is still a lot of work that needs to be done to make the university more sustainable. Living a zero-waste lifestyle is something that we all can aim for. Giving up on heavily packaged products would be a great start to make the university more sustainable.
What sets you apart from other candidates?
I am an international student, a postgraduate student, a female student and a woman of colour. These are some of the minorities that are underrepresented at EUSA and this needs to be changed. This is one of the reasons why I am running for these elections. According to the official website, currently there are 23,750 female students as opposed to 15,873 male students. And yet so far most EUSA presidents have been men. I want to change that and I believe I can change that since I have previous leadership experience from my undergraduate course. All the policies in my manifesto are achievable and nothing is far-fetched. I haven’t made any promises that would be impossible to achieve in future.
What do you think will be the most difficult part of your manifesto to do or achieve?
Making the university reduce the food prices can be quite difficult yet achievable.
What are your specific schemes set out for this matter?
I’d like to introduce cheaper meal deals and a system for collecting points to get discounts to begin with. Giving further discount off bills when students spend a certain limit in a day would also be helpful. Prices are different in different venues and this needs to be looked into.
What are your opinions on the growing student population, do you feel that this correlates with facility availability/teaching quality? If so or not what they think needs to be done about it?
The growing student population can be dealt well if the University makes effective use of the resources. If the student population is growing, then the resources need to grow too. Teaching quality is something that shouldn’t be compromised just to accommodate a large number of students. More study spaces are needed for the growing student population and more support services need to be introduced.
What are your thoughts on the notion that stopping student population expansion does not mean less accessibility for people of different backgrounds?
Stopping student population expansion is a tricky matter and must be dealt carefully. The university must always take care of people from different backgrounds no matter how large the student population is. I guess this is where the EUSA steps in to make sure the student body is diverse and there are equal opportunities for all the students.
Give us your thoughts on the inclusivity/merging of international communities and Scottish/non-Scottish UK students on campus, with regards to the clear divide that many students feel that could be brought together.
The University of Edinburgh offers a multicultural environment with the presence of the student population from not just UK but all over the world. However, there still might be disparities in the opportunities offered to these students and their representation. It is the responsibility of EUSA to make sure the student body is diverse and there are equal opportunities for all the students.
Image: Vidhi Mohan