Skip to the main content

With the Student Leadership Elections coming up soon, many people (including me!) may be wondering what a Sabbatical Officer actually does on a day-to-day basis. Ahead of the elections, I joined Welfare & International Officer Aiysha Qureshi on a Friday afternoon to learn more about their role in university life.

Aiysha graduated in Biomedical Sciences last year and was elected to work as a Sabbatical Officer (sabb) after graduating. Her role is to help make sure UCL feels like an inclusive community for all, supporting marginalised students and improving the UCL student support system, as well as representing student voices.

The sabbs’ office was cosy and welcoming, with plenty of posters and tea to be drank. After she took a quick muffin break, I joined Aiysha for her 12 o’clock meeting with Sharon the Union’s Advice and Advocacy Manager and Mark, the elected Postgraduate Student’s Officer. The meeting discussed extenuating circumstances. It was interesting to see how many issues our student leaders have a say on - Aishya was advocating for an easier process to be put in place for students who need to apply for extenuating circumstances, as the procedure is a bit out-dated. Aishya and Mark campaigned for more flexibility as well as a potential change in the procedure, which currently goes through different departments and has no clear organisation. The meeting sounds intense, but it was more of a laid-back discussion and the working atmosphere seemed great.

I was impressed by the amount of influence Aiysha and the other officers had on important university issues.

After lunch, we were given a tour of the New Student Centre and an update on the progress. Aiysha and the other officers were involved in some of the decisions about the new building, including allocating study space and shaping how student support areas would be built. The officers are an important link between the UCL students and what’s going on at high levels in the uni, especially UCL’s future. Complete with helmets, goggles and boots, we were taken round the different sections of the building. The progress made with the building was very impressive. The basement will be used for study space whilst students’ work will be on display on the ground floor, and student support space has been allocated on the upper floors.

Ready for the New Student Centre

Aiysha and the others had pushed for more student support space as well as for the building to be eco-friendly, and it was great to see that their suggestions had been fully taken into account and that their work had paid off. Solar panels will be fixed to the roof and an inbuilt ventilation system using low energy and under floor heating will help keep the new centre’s energy costs low. Being a sabbatical officer means you have influence over the development and vision of UCL, which is a great thing to be a part of and Aiysha was clearly enjoying her role so far.

Aiysha and Sarah’s view from the top.

Following the tour Aiysha had a final meeting of the day as a weekly debriefing on university matters. Potential changes to student fees were discussed as well as a proposed boycott of the NSS. One big topic was the approaching deadline for the UCL Research Strategy, which needs to be updated every few years. Drafts had been made and the final one was due in April. The sabbs have access to a lot of information from the top and nation-wide university reforms. There was also a Facebook group with officers from many different universities, where the changes were discussed – the network seemed like a big family. The officers were informed of changes in the running of the university and other discussions, giving them the chance to input and make suggestions. Aishya’s day finished at 4pm and she headed back home to have a well deserved afternoon nap. It was great to see the ways in which Sabbatical Officers have influence on university life and Aiysha was clearly having a fantastic experience – if you want to help shape UCL, definitely think about applying!


If you think you could be the next Education, Welfare and International, or Activities Officer, let us know you’re interested and we can help you out with more information about the elections process, how to write a manifesto and everything in between. You can also shadow an officer to get an insight into the job, just like Joe did - just let us know when you’re free and which position you’re interested in. 

Nominations to be a student leader are open now.