The proverb ‘the more the merrier’ may no longer apply to the University of Newcastle’s student associations, with plans underway to restructure the existing representative bodies to form a singular, whole-of-institution organisation.
Currently, students are split between NUSA (all students), NUPSA (post-graduate students) and Yourimbah (Central Coast campus). Since 2016, these associations have been discussing making the student representation structures more effective, which would result in a new entity with capacity to represent and support the 30,000 students studying on-campus, as well as the 4,600 students studying online.
The whole process has been student-led by elected student representatives, with NUPSA President Ash McIntyre fully supportive of the potential restructure.
“I wrote a proposal to hire an external researcher [Fiona Mundie] to ensure the appropriate research, consultation and extensive planning is undertaken by someone with research experience, the time to commit to it, and without bias towards their own existing entity,” she said.
Following extensive research, including interviews, focus groups and surveys with nearly 250 students, the student associations have unanimously agreed to a best practice structure for a new organisation.
So, what does this mean exactly?
The new organisation will be led by a board responsible for governance and finance, in addition to a Student Representative Council. This Council would receive advice from and support a range of UON student representative assemblies including:
- Campus committees (including a specific forum for online students);
- A Postgraduate Student Senate;
- An International Student Senate;
- Forums for students enrolling in Enabling and ELICOS programs; and
- Autonomous collectives (ensuring representation of special interest groups).
The Student Representative Council will also be informed by three student-led portfolios spanning Education, Engagement & Experience, and Wellbeing & Equity.
How a new association could benefit students
Navigator has reached out to each of the student associations’ respective Presidents, who have expressed the agreed sentiment a new organisation will facilitate a more robust and sustainable structure than the current separate organisations.
“Yourimbah is supportive of a change,” says Yourimbah President Karen Dimmock. “Being a whole-of-institution representative organisation will provide better representation and support for all UON students studying at all Australian-based campuses.”
The aim of the new organisation is to increase efficiency by sharing resources, having a single audit process, and using the combined staff expertise supporting student led activities to their full potential. As such, none of the current services or support to students will be lost, but rather, will provide the new SRC and Board with the capacity to expand current offerings.
According to Ash McIntyre, this means having the ability to support students who are not currently represented or supported with services:
“The new structure proposes a student representative body on all satellite campuses. This means that online and satellite students will have a much more coherent representation and a stronger voice.”
NUSA President Kearnie Kelly says the new organisation will provide more opportunities for students to get involved and develop leadership skills through an improved training program.
“The association will have an improved structure, ensuring satellite campuses are better represented and the president has greater support through additional Vice Presidents. The portfolios of welfare and community engagement ensure greater communication between cohorts to reduce the unnecessary duplication of services and activities and allow for a more coordinated delivery,” Kearnie says.
University of Newcastle students who are encouraged to have their say at the upcoming 2019 AGMs. Members of each of the three existing student associations will be voting on whether or not to form a new organisation on the following dates:
If the vote is successful, the existing entities will remain as they are until the end of 2019, where they will be dissolved for the new structure to come into effect.