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The final part of a long-term project to improve the way you’re represented at UCL has been completed. In 2019 we launched a democracy review which led to the introduction of new forums to discuss and debate ideas and policies, helping you make change happen. In 2020 our focus turned to the roles and responsibilities of those you elect to represent you, and this week a new structure and set of responsibilities for the officer team was approved by the Union’s Executive. 

We know that we can represent you more effectively and make it easier for you to make change at UCL. And we need to make it easier for you to hold those you elect to account, and influence their actions. We also know there’s more we must do to improve the support available for liberation officers – students who work tirelessly to represent the views of those often disadvantaged in their experience of UCL.

Since the last full review of the Sabbatical and Part-time Officer roles in 2015, the responsibilities carried by each role have become significantly heavier, and at times, more constrained by a continuously growing list of obligations. Some Sabbatical and Part-time Officers have taken on detailed casework as part of their work, creating a legal risk as well as an emotional burden over and above the responsibilities they were elected to carry out. We also needed to address the issues raised in our recent Governance Review which highlighted risks to compliance with the 1994 Education Act. The Act states that major Union office holders (Sabbatical Officers) must be elected by all students, rather than a self-defining group. Ultimately, we needed to refocus the roles of elected students on representing you, making sure they’re structured to deliver the most amount of student influence on UCL.

What we’ve done

Last term, we commissioned the governance consultancy MiraGold to lead a consultation on representation at UCL. They worked with students, current and previous elected officers, and the people at UCL that students and officers are seeking to influence. MiraGold are experts in their field and focussed around Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion. They invited all students to take part in the consultation, through surveys and focus groups in term one this year. Their research report was presented to the Union’s Leadership Team in December and was developed into a set of proposals for the Union’s Executive Committee, made up of elected Sabbatical and Part-time Officers, to consider. 

On Monday 18 January, after an extensive Union Exec meeting in which the proposals were discussed, debated, and modified, a new Officer structure was unanimously approved. 

The decision made at Union Exec means that:

  • We’ll introduce a new role to the Sabbatical Officer team - an elected, full-time, and paid Equity Officer.
  • A new Equalities Unit, made up of trained and specialised staff, will be established in the Union, to provide more support for campaigns, casework, and student-led projects to tackle racism, discrimination and harassment, and provide the support our liberation officers have lacked in recent years.
  • The Women’s Officer and Black and Minority Ethnic Students’ Officer positions will become part-time positions and work alongside other part-time liberation officers like the Disabled Students’ Officer. The new Equity Officer will take on any responsibilities of the current full-time liberation officers not carried forward into the part-time positions.
  • The roles of the Sabbatical Officers will be streamlined, and the team will go from seven to six full-time posts, but because of a rebalancing of responsibilities, sabbatical officer roles will become more manageable.

Introducing the Equity Officer and Equalities Unit enables us to give the part-time liberation officers the support they need to make substantial change to the way students experience UCL. Tackling discrimination, decolonising our curriculum, improving the accessibility of campus, being actively anti-racist. The additional resource made available by this change enables us to introduce a trained and specialised staff team and support structure for our liberation officers, supporting all student-led efforts to achieve equality at UCL.

Making the Women’s Officer and Black and Minority Ethnic Students’ Officer roles part-time is a significant decision. The current experience from those communities at UCL, and globally, demonstrate why these Officers are and will always be necessary, and why, most importantly, they need to be robustly supported. We’re confident in the work that has gone into making this decision; the research, consultation, scrutiny, debate, and democratic vote to implement the change give us a good foundation to build on. We’ve created a structure that will ensure that our liberation work is sustainable, fully supported, and sets us on a positive path for the future. 

During this process, we also revised the roles of other Sabbatical Officers. The Welfare and International Officer will become the Welfare and Community Officer. The Democracy, Operations and Community Officer will become the Union Affairs Officer. The Activities Officer will become the Activities and Engagement Officer. Details on the changes to the Sabbatical Officer team are outlined in the table below.

What happens now

These changes will make a difference to everyone at UCL. They’ve been approved in time for the March 2021 Leadership Race and the new Officers will start in post in July 2021. With your help, the new Officer team will hit the ground running, and continue the essential work of student leaders at UCL - helping our entire community recover from the impacts of Covid-19 with students at the heart of every decision. 

We’re always looking for ways to improve and make life better at UCL. Your feedback on the way you’re represented has been crucial to getting us to this point, and your continued feedback throughout your time here will help us continually grow. Keep sharing your ideas, keep feeding back, keep telling us when we should be doing more for you. It really does make a difference. 

If you’re interested in taking on a full or part-time leadership role next year – let us know. We’d love to hear from you.

New Sabbatical Officer Structure

Sabbatical Officer role Key UCL Issues and Committees Union responsibilities Part-time Officers they support

Activities and Engagement Officer

Employability and Careers
Student Experience Committee
Global Engagement

Chair of Activities Zone
Student Development
Global Engagement and Partnerships

Arts Officer
Sports Officer
Societies Officer

Education Officer

Academic Policy / Regulations
Libraries and Study Spaces
Teaching, Learning and Assessment
Student Fees
Academic Board
UCL Council
Education Committee
Additional education-related sub-committees and working groups
Nominations Committee

Chair of Education Zone
Rep Network
NUS delegation lead

Faculty Reps

Equity Officer

BME Awarding Gap
Equity and Inclusion
Student Support and Wellbeing Support
Student Experience Committee

Supporting Student Communities and Networks – BME, Women’s, LGBT, Disabled Students
Educating Students about Equality and Inclusion Issues – e.g. Black History Month, International Women’s Day, LGBT History Month

BME Students’ Officer
Disabled Students’ Officer
LBGQ+ Officer
Trans Officer
Women’s Officer

Postgraduate Officer

Academic Policy / Regulations
Doctoral/Research Education
Libraries and Study Spaces
Academic Board
Education Committee
Research Degrees Committee

Vice-Chair of Education Zone
Postgraduate students issues

Faculty Reps
Research Students’ Officer

Union Affairs Officer

UCL East / Satellite sites
UCL Finances
UCL Council
Finance Committee (Observer)
UCL Estates
Sustainability Steering Group
UCL East Operations Board
Health and Safety Committee

Commercial Services and Strategy
Communications and Engagement
Democracy (Elections and Referenda)
Union Events
Union Finances
Union Governance
Chair of Union Executive
Union Strategy
National policy issues

Sustainability Officer

Welfare and Community Officer

Accommodation / Housing
Mental Health
Student Support and Wellbeing
International / Immigration
Student Experience Committee

Advice Service
Student wellbeing
Project Active
Chair of Welfare and Community Zone
Local Community Relations
Supporting Student Communities and Networks – Mature and Part-time Students, Students with Caring Responsibilities, International Students’ Network

Mature & Part-time Students’ Officer
Officer for Students with Caring Responsibilities
Accommodation Officer
International Students’ Officer
Community Relations Officer