Hi Postgrads! I’m Jim, your outgoing Postgraduate Students’ Officer. As a Postgrad myself, I’ve been through the same journey you’re going through right now - I’ve been daunted and excited at the same things and now as your elected Postgraduate Students’ Officer, I’m here to support you through it all this year.
I represent your interests at the highest university level, in meetings with the Provost and senior leaders at UCL. This year, I worked on expanding nursery and childcare provisions for postgrads who are parents and carers, creating tailored careers advice - particularly for international students, greater security over our PGTAs’ rights and responsibilities, and encouraging more Postgraduate participation in clubs, societies, and activities.
Also, we all know that the coming academic year is going to be quite different from what we expected a few months ago. The most important part of my job was to ensure that your perspective and your voice drives all decision making at UCL.
Us Postgrads make up the bulk of the student population with a 55% majority. At the Union we’re committed to providing something for our large Postgrad community. For 125 years, we’ve been the place where more happens for UCL students and part of that has been realising that Postgrads and Undergrads can have very different university experiences, and therefore very different needs.
All of the Union’s services are available to all Postgrads, but there are some services that are specific to us. For example, PG-only Project Active sessions run every week - they’re beginner-friendly, flexible around your workload (you just go whenever you want to and just pay for that session) and they’re inclusive to everyone. I would suggest giving some of the sessions a try if you’ve got an hour or two to spare.
A lot of students feel that joining Clubs and Societies would be an insurmountable time commitment. However, this is never the case. I was an active member of numerous clubs (Film Society, Barbell Society, and Live Music to name a few) and balancing this with your academic commitments is not only not as difficult as it may first seem, but also guarantees an infinitely more fulfilling experience at UCL. You can join as many clubs and societies as you want. I joined seven societies in total and found that you don’t need any experience, giving as much or as little time as you want; you’ll always be welcome. I agree with my Postgrads peers who join societies; it gives you an enriching experience, creates a community, and stretches your interests and skills in a way you can never do with your degree alone. Above all, the friends you make through societies are honestly friends for life, so much so that I was the best man at the wedding of a close friend who I met through a society!
As noted above, this academic year is going to be unprecedented, so we are including a no-cost social membership for all our clubs and societies, so you can still engage, whether locally or remotely, in all the social and friendship-building activities that our clubs and societies have to offer.
If you’re looking for something more closely aligned to your academic discipline, then we’ve got a range of Academic Societies aimed at building communities in departments and faculties. Led by students, but supported by the Union, this is a chance for you to socialise with your peers so you don’t have to go through your entire academic experience alone. An added bonus of Academic Societies is the help you get finding careers with career workshops and events.
As a PG student, you’ve also got the power to shape the elements of the university that affect you and having your voice within faculties and departments is key to improving the quality of support and research at UCL. You can have a say in the decisions that will affect your time here by becoming a postgrad or research student Academic Representative. You can also have your say by contacting me on the things that matter most to you. I also send out a monthly newsletter - full of updates on everything postgrad-related at UCL. Feel free to reply to me with any thoughts or questions you have anytime.
And it's not just the university you can change. The Union is for students and led by students and you can get involved with making it as good as it can possibly be. Twice a year we elect students who will run the organisation, and this year you can do it too, or you can vote for the students you want to do the job for you. The first round is in October, so keep an eye out for it!
As someone who has done an undergraduate degree, worked in the middle, and then returned to do a Masters's course, the university is a unique experience to try new things and discover so much. You’ll never be able to try Scuba Diving or learn a K-Pop dance routine as easily as you’ll be able to at UCL, so don’t let those opportunities go.
Truthfully, there's more to the Union than we can cover here, so keep in touch with us via our monthly PG email (you're automatically signed up) or any of our social media channels. As I'll be leaving the role in the next few days, you can also contact my successor, Vicki, if you need anything at [email protected]