Our student union has been facing a lot of criticism recently. When the news of the Student’s censorship hit the national press, suddenly other complaints about EUSA and the way it is run started to circulate through the student body. Admittedly, most of these complaints were us stingy students complaining about bar and café prices, but some of the more serious issues, like those addressed by Cameron Taylor, have more weight.
But many on the Facebook page ‘Are You Happy With EUSA?’ seem to be blaming the whole organisation for the mistakes of a very small group of people, and students seem to be forgetting all the good things EUSA have been doing for them that have not been exciting enough to hit the press. As the Student’s front page celebrates, the latest EUSA triumph was the huge success of the TEDx talks hosted by the University of Edinburgh and EUSA last week, with hundreds of people watching it live in the Teviot Debating Hall, the five live streaming venues and online.
The Kings Buildings shuttle bus was extended this year so students could catch a bus in time to get to a 9am lecture, as well as extending the bus schedule into the evenings and weekends. This change has been implemented in time for students making use of the new Murray library to study in Kings Buildings longer and still be able to catch a bus back.
One of the major issues taken up with the university by students around exam time (and one very often promised earnestly by the hopeful sabbatical officer candidates around election time) is the need for EUSA to help provide more study space. There will soon be much more space available in the David Hume Tower for personal study, which EUSA helped to prevent becoming extra teaching space. This isn’t the only change that has been made to help students’ personal study, with a refurbishment of a computer lab in Hugh Robson having been agreed and an extension for the library’s opening hours over the summer as the postgraduate dissertation deadlines arrive currently being looked into.
The referendum last week was our annual reminder that EUSA takes some important issues such as political support and ethics through its student body democratically. Although the number of students voting in these referendums is only a small proportion of the student body, with under ten per cent using the online votes to contribute their voices to the university-wide issues, some of the changes, like the student-owned housing co-operative project, free WiFi to all university accommodation and making FreshAir radio more accessible, will make a big difference to students.
EUSA have also worked in collaboration with the university to fix fees for international students. This means that international students at the University of Edinburgh will no longer face unregulated fees that rise unpredictably year after year; rather, they will know before they start their degree programme exactly what they can expect to pay. The change will be introduced at the start of the academic year 2014/15, and it is impossible to quantify the difference it will make to international students studying at the university.
Aurora Adams, International Students Representative at EUSA who ran the campaign, told the Student, “I think this is an example of exactly how EUSA can be an effective fighting force. This campaign was particularly great because it got so many students involved, and because it was fought on a lot of fronts – with the International Students Action Group and other students directly putting pressure on the University with the petition and protest, James McAsh presenting the case really well at University Court, and then of course the Parliament event where MSPs showed their support. Basically, I’m just really proud of this campaign – I think we all should be.”
It is campaigns like these that actively demonstrate that EUSA can be a positive force acting in the interests of the student body.
However, even with all these campaigns affecting students’ overall academic experience, Vice President Academic Affairs Andrew Burnie said he believes that “The most important thing EUSA does is the Advice Place and the professional support they offer individual students. I take some recurring issues that they raise to the university but the best work is their individual case work.”