Here are some examples of the brilliant work we have done for our students.
Our COVID-19 Response
2020 gave us some pretty unexpected events and put the Union to the test. We’re proud to have stood our ground in favour of students and their wellbeing. Here’s a quick summary of what we did last summer:
- Transitioned all support and representation services online so students could still access the help they needed, and challenge the University on the changes to assessments and exams in the weeks to come.
- Negotiated students leases for campus accommodation, allowing them to leave their contracts early and return home to their families.
- Our Student Parliament passed a motion to suspend all advertising of external and purpose-built student accommodation providers who did not act responsibly throughout the pandemic in their treatment to students. This meant all advertising was suspended unless they took responsible steps for the welfare of students like allowing them to end their leases early, providing comprehensive health advice and wellbeing support, freezing rent arrears, and more. View the motion in full here.
- Provided a comprehensive FAQ page for students with advice and resources on money and wellbeing. Check out some of our other work here, here, and here.
- Ahead of the resits, provided support for students facing resits in the August exam diets.
Into the new semester, we revamped our entire way of working – holding our first ever Virtual Fresher’s Week programme. We blended online and face-to-face events for students, no matter where they were in the world! With a range of pub quizzes and trivia nights, society fairs and networking events, students were able to still see what University life held for them and settle into the semester. We’ve continued to take this approach and we're SO proud to have achieved the following:
- We held key events like the Watt Welcome Fair and Fresher’s Goes Virtual!
- Foodshop – we had a delivery service available to students living on campus who had to self-isolate. Students would order food from our Union shop and have provisions delivered straight to their door. The packages included basics like toiletries, snacks and other kitchen essentials.
- COUCHELLA 2020 – with measures introduced to students and with 4 hours’ notice, we developed an entire weekend programme to help students manage the heightened restrictions. It inspired an ongoing programme where we took student recommendations on entertainment and resources for hobbies and pastimes to share with other students looking to
- Adapted Geordies and Liberty’s to allow socially distanced socialising!
Free Graduations on all 5 Heriot-Watt campuses
In February 2020, we announced that we'd successfully lobbied the University into letting students graduate for FREE across all 5 Heriot-Watt University campuses! Until then, students were required to pay a fee in order to attend their own graduation ceremony. And with more than 30 graduation ceremonies each year, lots of students were out of lots of money.
It took a number of years and a number of presidents overseeing the effort but finally in early 2020, the June graduations were set to be the FIRST EVER free graduations held at Heriot-Watt. The University also agreed to reduce the ceremony’s gust ticket prices to £10 and abolish the “absentia” fee for students unable to attend on the day.
Thanks to our efforts, Heriot-Watt is one of the first UK institutions to offer free graduations, even in absentia, to students across every campus! We’d like to thank the University for making this happen, and the support offered to us by NUS Scotland’s Free to Graduate campaign.
2nd Annual Mental Health Conference
Straight from the success of our first Mental Health Conference in 2019, hosted by VP Wellbeing Aoife Clarke, 2020's Mental Health Conference was even bigger - this time broadcast globally across all Heriot-Watt's campuses! With flagship speakers spanning the expertise of Heriot-Watt's staff and student community including 2020's VP Wellbeing Laura Stroudinsky, we tackled the issues of resilience and motivation throughout COVID-19: what these terms meant, why they're important, and how to build them. If you'd like to listen to the speakers' input again, check out our video capture from the day here!
Wellbeing Week 2018
In March we ran Wellbeing Week, putting on a range of activities and sessions designed to soothe, support and spoil our students. From our Queer Sex Ed workshop to Women’s Only Zoga (yoga with Zoe) to a visit from our favourite cheeky alpacas, there was something for everyone. Looking after the wellbeing of our students is something we care about all year round, but this was a special opportunity to highlight its importance in the middle of a busy semester.
Fair Food Prices on Campus
At the beginning of 2017, students came back after the winter break to find the University had removed student pricing in their catering facilities. Food is part of the education service offered by Heriot-Watt (you can’t study on an empty stomach), and therefore students should get their meals at university VAT free. Students were now claiming they couldn’t afford their favourite meals, so we stepped in. Our petition to the Secretary of the University received over 1,400 signatures and pushed the university to reinstate the dual pricing system.
The Push for More Study Space
The run up to exams can be a hectic time on campus, with everyone looking for the perfect study spot (and usually a plug socket). In 2015, the problem was worse than ever. We launched our Nowhere to Study campaign to raise awareness of the fact that our students needed more space. The University listened, and made some real changes. Classrooms were opened up for study usage and the James Watt Centre received a £4 million refurbishment. The library is also currently undergoing a £6 million revamp and a brand new Discovery and Innovation Centre is on track to open in 2019.