Monday, 2 March 2009

February 2009

Hello everyone – February has proved to be a busy and winning month! There have been some fantastic achievements by members and WMANUS Officers…please read to find out more...

The first week of February was riddled with snow a number of planned meetings and training sessions were cancelled due to campus’ being inhabitable and shut.
On the 4th February I worked with the officers and staff team at Sutton Coldfield College. I delivered a great training session to both officers and students around a number of areas – officer and staff roles, campaigning and lobbying. Sutton Coldfield College is merging with Matthew Boulton College September 2009 – which will give the combined college over £30, 000 students. The current officer team are keen to have representation for all students across all of their sites, spreading across the whole of Birmingham. The officers are now planning for September 2009 and are looking at reviewing their structures to fit the new college. They are keen to represent all students regardless of campus, course or background.

I made my second visit to RNCB Hereford (Royal National College for the Blind) in early February; the college are looking at their structures and want to engage a larger number of students. They are now working on an action plan to begin reviewing their current constitution after the Easter holidays and have a new one in place by September 2009. RNCB Hereford raised money for Children in Need and is now planning for Comic Relief in March.

In last months blog I wrote about FE Sexual Health Campaigns at Walsall and Newcastle-under-Lyme Colleges, in collaboration with the sexual health charity Brook in Birmingham. I am pleased to say on the 09th February Walsall College hosted its first Union led Sexual Health Campaign “S.A.S Sex & Students”. The picked an ideal spot in the College (St. Pauls Campus) reception where they were visible to students and staff and able to “guide” students towards the stool. The offices and students had written a petition which they are going to use to Lobby their corporation, principle, primary care trust and MP’s requesting better sexual health facilities in Walsall College and the Walsall Community. The officer and students did a fantastic job and got over 280 signatures in support of the petition. Brook in Birmingham sent two representatives who assisted with the event had had their own stall – between them they gave out over 500 lubrication sachets/condoms and information leaflets also a small number of home Chlamydia testing kits. Brook was surprised by the uptake and interest of students and they ran out of condoms an hour before the event was due to finish. Walsall College held and equally successful S.A.S event at their Shelly Campus on the 10th February with equal success.
Newcastle-under-Lyme College held their Sexual Health Campaign on the 12th February – I have had a detailed update from the officer team and the event was a huge success. Their event had more of a valentines twist than the event at Walsall College, Brook representatives were also present and helped with the day. Officers sold roses and the proceeds were donated to The British Heart Foundation, they also made and gave out Valentines goodie bags and condoms. They report the event was busy all day and the student radio hosted a special sexual health radio show with information about sexual health and a ‘dedicate a love song’. A love note wall was put up for students to leave messages for their loved ones.
Both colleges are currently evaluating the campaign days, the next stage will be to review the evaluations and decide if the campaign was successful enough to run in all WMANUS colleges. If you would like any information about the campaign or would like to run it in your union then please contact me – or 07837-059-588.

It was the third time lucky for out WMANUS and Newman catch up meeting on the 13th February (damn snow!). It was fantastic to finally catch up with Pete and Cath and of course to discuss future WMANUS-Newman action. Newman had a busy term before Christmas – comic relief, the continued UCU/UCA Pay Dispute, Holocaust Memorial Day and HEFCE’s changes in re-sit costs. We spent some time discussing Staff-Student Protocol – Newman Students Union are in the process of writing a protocol to implement by September 2009, Staffordshire University Students’ Union has already kindly passed on a copy of theirs – if anyone one else would like to help please email me:
The Great Higher Education Funding Lobby on the 18th March is on the end of everyone’s tongues at the moment, and so it should be! Newman will be sending a number of delegates to the event – would you like to? WMANUS is putting on a free coach for members! 35 seats have been taken already so if you would like to reserve some spaces then please contact me ASAP: 07837-059-588 or
The lobby such an important event, David Blunkett, Jon Cruddas and Paul Farrelly have already been confirmed and this influencing opportunity is one not to be missed! You can find all the information you need about the event, lobbying pack and agenda on officeronline:

WMANUS had its first Exec meeting of 2009 on the 16th February, here is a brief overview of each officer’s activity:

James Hilsdon WMANUS LGBT Officer:
- Charlie Cosham who was job sharing the role of LGBT Officer with James has stood down, however James is happy to continue and take the role on board himself.
- Walsall College are organising a FE LGBT Liberation Workshop which James is going to deliver.
- James is contacting all FE members to arrange Liberation Workshops.
- Warwick and Coventry Universities ran a collaborative LGBTQ History Month campaign, this included: film screenings, sit in’s, debates, guest speakers and the Terrence Higgins Trust.
- James will be contacting all members to discuss LGBT Conference and check everyone has registered delegates.
- Unite – LGBT & Union collaborative campaigns for working students, this is an area James is looking into.
If you would like to contact James regarding the LGBT campaign then please email him:

Sanjay Singh BEM Officer:

Sanjay co-opted into the role of BEM Officer at the WMANUS Winter Conference in December, he is new to the role but has lots of fantastic ideas:
- Working with schools in the West Midlands to encourage young people from low social and economical backgrounds to enter higher education. He is keen to use the election of Barak Obama as an example that anyone can achieve anything. Sanjay will be contacting members to discuss ideas and find out what you already have in place.
- Work with members BEM officer to set up a network.
- Sanjay will also be the WMANUS delegate for the Black Students Conference later on in the year.
If you would like to contact Sanjay regarding the BEM campaign then please email him:

Hollie Jones Womens Officer:
- Students Parents Launch – Hollie attended the event and will be making efforts to work with members around student parents.
- To work in collaboration with Mature Students Officer Kate Lawrence around Student Parents.
- Re-claim the Night North – made efforts to organise a coach for members, very little response from members despite the coach being free.
- Hollie is going as the Womens Delegate for Birmingham Guild of Students to the Womens Conference next month.
If you would like to contact Hollie regarding the Womens campaign then please email her:

Kate Lawrence Mature Students Officer:

Kate co-opted into the role of Mature Students Officer at the WMANUS Winter Conference in December, and she is getting really stuck into her role already:
- Kate has a number of concerns over the definition of “mature” students? She has a great deal of evidence from a number of different definitions from Universities, Students Unions, LEA’s and student support services.
- A letter has been drafted to go out to all WMANUS members to consult unions and mature students over this problem.
- Chris Milne, WMANUS Non-Port Officer, will be working with Kate on this campaign.
- Kate and WMANUS Convenor are in the process of contacting NUS for support and guidance on this issue,
- Kate will be working in collaboration with Hollie Jones, WMANUS Womens Officer on Student Parenting.
- She will be the WMANUS Delegate for Mature Students Conference later on in the year.

Does anyone have any policy? Definitions Union/University of “mature student”? Any contributions will really assist WMANUS with this campaign.

If you would like to contact Kate regarding the Mature Students campaign then please email her:

On the 26th February I attended the NUS Welfare Network day in Coventry – this event addressed some important issues facing students, many of which are going to be raised at Annual Conference in April (not long now!).
I attended a work shop around Religion on Campus ran by Chris Brill from the Equality Challenge Unit ( – the ECU supports the Higher Education sector with its mission to realise the potential of all students and staff regardless of their race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion and belief or age.
I gained a great deal from this session – did you know there were over 170 distinct religions and there is currently no distinct legal regulations for Higher Education Intuitions to monitor religion on their campuses? Chris spent some time talking of how to engage student of religion and a number of West Midlands delegates gave good examples of how they /could engage on their campuses:

Ralph Hayward from Staffordshire University Students Union stated that is was very rare of students coming to the advice centre for anything other than practical advice or Haram of university fees. Staffordshire University also have a number of diversity working groups which included religion on campus.

The ECU is making speedy progress in this area they have met the following organisations to discuss religion on campus:
- DIUS and NUS to assess extremism on campus
- Held a religion and belief meeting with stakeholders
- Met with Equality and Diversity Practitioners
- Faith Organisations
- Student Faith Organisations
From these discussions the ECU have identified 3 key areas: dress, institutional timetabling and contractual hours, and facilities and services. There research found students unions do not accommodate a number of religions during welcome/fresher week programmes and Gregorian calendars are not suitable for students of Jewish and Muslim faiths. Prayer facilities and accommodation were at the top of facilities and services lists grievances from students – in some institutions prayer rooms are used as exam locations and are out of service for weeks at a time during exam periods, and mixed halls of residence proved problematic for a number of religious groups. Dress – this issue has featured in the media on a number of occasions in recent years, particularly over female Muslim students wearing burqa on campus in relation to security and also Health and Safety issues for Muslim students on health placements. FE colleges face number of issues around common room security - “No hoodies” rules have caused some problems with students feeling unhappy that hijabs and burqas are allowed but hoods and hats are not.

So, how does your Union and University cater for students of faith? Are your welcome weeks suitable for all? Does your University offer enough Kosher and halal food options in its catered halls? If you would like a copy of the ECU presentation or would like to discuss religion on campus further please contact me:
I am going to be meeting with Sanjay, WMANUS BEM Officer, to discuss religion on campus - lots of little things can make your campus more accessible for students of religion.

Ed Marsh, NEC Block of 12, referred to the after lunch plenary as “the graveyard shift”, sometimes this is the case; however the debate focused on a very hot topic – Students & Alcohol. The panel consisted of Graham Wood, Commercial Operations Manger Sheffield University Students Union, Damien Gallen, assistant to MP Sally Keebs, Paul Smith, Executive Director of NOCTIS and Ama Uzowuru, NUS Welfare. There was much agreement on the panel:
100% support of responsible drinking across student movement both commercial and representative.
Students should not be blamed and used as scape-goats for anti-social behaviour and irresponsible dirking when it is a national issue.
Drink related anti-social behaviour is having a massive impact on communities.
Student Union venues are safer environments for alcohol consumption than high street competition.
The Government needs to adopt a mandatory alcohol pricing index for supermarkets.
Three things need to change: 1. Perception of students and alcohol
2. Retailers must be responsible for sale prices
3. Students’ Unions must have alcohol debate

There were also a number of disagreements on the panel and amongst the floor:
Initiation Ceremonies – will they ever stop? Are we driving them underground by introducing policies? Its not just sports teams who have “drinking problems” – it’s an issue for a wide range of students outside sports team culture.
Students Unions depend on commercial funds to operate – should students unions move away from commercial funding? Universities should increase block grants? Aren’t Student Unions supposed to be about representation not drinking?
Pricing in Union bars – can we out price supermarkets? Is it ethical for Students Unions to sell drinks as low a £1 a pint? Students Unions don’t offer enough non-alcoholic alternatives – how can NUSSL influence and change this?
Have students called for action around responsible drinking? Is this Government led? What do students want – cheap beer vs. responsibility? What role does alcohol play in the 2009 student experience?

What’s the opinion of your Union? What do your students think about responsible drinking? What is your relationship like with your community and local business’ when it comes to drink related anti-social behaviour? Have your sports teams driven initiations underground? – These are the questions you need to find the answers to – WMANUS is keen to work closely with members around this issue. If you would to discuss this area further or would like some assistance with an alcohol debate then please contact me:

The Sexual Health and Students Unions session was delivered by Rowan Harvey from the Terrence Higgins Trust. Before I go into more detail here are some interesting yet scary facts about the West Midlands: Between 2003 and 2007 number of new diagnoses of:
- syphilis rose 226%
- herpes rose 17%
- genital Warts rose 15%
- chlamydia rose 14%
- gonorrhoea rose 36%

Now you have either had a turn in your stomach or are thinking what your Union can do about Sexual Health provisions in your institutions and local community – below is a list of things you can do to improve provisions:
open dialogue with LA’s/Councillors and Primary Care Trust Chief Executives
Involve your MP, AM and MSP
Survey your members and involve this in your campaigns
Engage with patient involvement and mechanisms

The Terrence Higgins Trust is also willing to come onto your campus and assist with awareness days – for more information visit

Higher Education Funding – Staffordshire University Students Union Billion Pound Debt Website:
Staffordshire University Students Union has really excelled with Broke&Broken, President Fiona Wood explains:

The website has been commissioned by us to one of our own graduates (Rich Bishop) and is designed to show a cumulative debt figure across the national student community in real time. As each student signs up and adds their debt, the figure automatically increases, giving anyone looking at the website a snap-shot of the national situation regarding student debt. Interest is also added with the figure constantly updating as interest is calculated. Students can add their debt via the website or via a facebook application, adding a face to their debt giving the campaign a visual human element. The aim is to see how long it takes for the national figure to reach...and more than likely exceed...£1bn! This should only take around 40,000 students based on the average student debt of £20k”

Visit the website – / get your students involved and let’s see if the West Midlands can help rack up the debt and hit the £1 billion pound target!

Elections – good luck to all candidates and I look forward to meeting the new Executive’s over the coming months! In the meantime if there is anything WMANUS can do to help then please let me know –

WMANUS Spring Conference – provisional date is TUESDAY 5TH MAY, conference call will be out in the next few weeks, time and place to be confirmed.

What’s coming up in March?

Womens Conference 3rd – 5th March – Hollie Jones and I will be attending and a full report will feature in next months blog!

Varsity Staffordshire VS Keele 11th March – the clash of the titans will be hosted by Staffordshire this year but who will win?

Great Higher Education Funding Lobby 18th March – get registered, get there and make a difference! (Please contact me about travel ASAP)

NUS & UK Borders Agency International Students and Immigration Thursday 19th March – Birmingham

Annual Conference 31st March – 02 April Blackpool – get registered, contact me for coach details and make a difference.
Conference documents, including candidate manifestos can all be found here:

Well there we are, another month in the life of the WMANUS Convenor. Next months blog will also contain mini reports from Exec members so you can get a full picture of WMANUS outcomes! If you have any questions or would like to discuss anything in this blog then please, please contact me / 07837-059-588.Sophie KettellWMANUS Convenor 08-09

Friday, 30 January 2009

WMANUS January 2009

Despite it being February, for those of you who I haven’t seen HAPPY NEW YEAR and I hope you all had a very merry Christmas?

I am not sure if you have heard of an organisation called Brook? Brook is a sexual health charity; they offer free and confidential advice to young people (anyone under the age of 25) across the UK. Penny Barber, Brook in Birmingham’s Chief Executive and former Finance Manger at Aston Students Union, emailed me before the Christmas break, inviting me down to the Birmingham centre to have a chat about sexual health in FE. On the 6th January I braved the snow, ice and blizzards to visit Brook - I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I arrived, Penny gave me a grand tour of the centre; it’s a fantastic space with private consultation rooms, counselling services and space to run training session for both staff and the public.
Brook is partly funded by the NHS and Primary Care Trust, who have both coughed funds to run awareness days in Further Education Colleges across the West Midlands. What a great opportunity for WMAUNS Colleges! As we are all aware colleges are not as well resourced and staffed as Higher Education unions. So Brook offering a FREE, relevant, and engaging campaign for FE Colleges – what a treat!
Following my visit to Brook I have met with Newcastle-Under-Lyme and Walsall Colleges; firstly to brief them, and then help them plan there campaigns. Newcastle-Under-Lyme and Walsall Colleges, we will be trailing Sexual Health Awareness Campaigns at these two colleges, once the events have been evaluated I will be working with other FE members to run Sexual Health Awareness Campaigns.
Here are the dates of Newcastle-Under-Lyme and Walsall Colleges Sexual Health Awareness Days:

Newcastle-Under-Lyme College Thursday 12th February
Walsall College (St. Pauls Campus)Monday 09th February
Walsall College (Shelly Campus)Tuesday 10th February

The officers at both colleges have planned some fun and also political activities for there campaign days, including a Blind Date skit with Chlamydia Cilla introducing Harry Herpes and Sarah Syphilis, a condom tossing competition (excuse the pun) and a petition to lobby there corporations, primary care trusts and local MP’s for improved sexual health provisions in there colleges and local communities. I will fully review of the events in my February blog.

Every month I meet with the wonderful and infamous Emily Cannon. January’s meeting however was very different to any we have had previously – before the Christmas break I was often finding myself stretched, not enough time and with there only being one of me I couldn’t be in two places at once. At this meeting we discussed everything – from what WMANUS’ priorities should be, how I can better use my Exec to how NUS can assist WMANUS more effectively. WMANUS is committed to its members and are evaluating its democratic and operational structures allowing me to plan for the future and for WMANUS to have maximum impact on members. Presently I am action planning the next 6 WMANUS months.
The first WMANUS Executive meeting of 2009 is going to be held on the 16th February at Birmingham Guild of Students –if there is anything you feel the WMANUS Exec needs to address? If you would like a copy of the minutes, or a copy of WMANUS plans? Then please drop me an email: (It may take me up to 7 days to respond to a request).

The week beginning the 12th January saw me all over the place, Newcastle-under-Lyme College for there Refreshers Fair, Staffordshire for Broke & Broken photo shoots and Coventry for the first NUS Higher Education Conference.
Staffordshire University Students’ Union are running a fantastic campaign around the Broke & Broken report. They have began there own photograph lobbying project, where they photograph students holding up a board with there debt – 42 students, 2 hours of speaking with students resulting in £800,000 of debt! Nearly every student I spoke to was disgusted with the amount of debt they were in, many stated that they would reconsider going into Higher Education if they had the opportunity again. Staffordshire Students’ Union have photographed 140 students and the total debt so far is a staggering £2.8 million pounds! It is only the beginning of the Higher Education Funding Review and you need to make sure your students are aware what will be happening in 2009 and 2010... I will be contacting all members to discuss your Broke & Broken action so far and what you are planning for the future very soon.

The NUS Higher Education Conference, 15th- was the best attended conference outside regional and national conferences. It was fantastic to see so many delegates from the West Midlands. Aaron Porter hosted some fantastic debate and the work shops were relevant and interesting. Among the workshops I attended were ‘How to better engage International Students’ and ‘Postgraduate Students’ – both these session really opened my eyes and are areas I would like to see WMANUS working on in the future. Engaging both International and Postgraduate students in student union activity is something all students union struggle to do, but this does not mean they are any less important than the 18-21 full time tradational student. The documents from the conference are available on

Newcastle-Under-Lyme College held a Refreshers Fair on the 13th January – due to WMANUS being in high demand in September we were unable to attend there fresher’s fair. The officer team asked me to run a Citizen16 stall; the students union will be running a campaign day later on in 2009. The fair had a mixture of external and internal services available to the students – including a on the spot Chlamydia testing service and the TA. A number of officers at the college had never ran a stall or spoken 1-2-1 with students. Kristy, the Communications Officer transformed in just 3 hours from standing on the margins to recruiting students to the stall and informing them about the campaign and the students union. Citizen16 was a massive hit with the students at the college and I will be contacting Beth Walker during February for a full update on the campaign and what’s happening next.

Tuesday 20th January will go down in NUS history as one of its greatest moments, despite a few unexpected upsets on the day. Extraordinary Conference 2nd was held in Wolverhampton. The Governance Review passed by a staggering 83% and the first Extraordinary Conference – was it going to be so simple the second time? I was in two minds about the second conference being called, should it be fully debated at annual conference in April? Or should we get it all over and done with, after all it’s been a long road since April 2006 when the motion was carried to reform our national union and it is most defiantly the right time for change. As always the debate was rife – the Black Students and LGBT Campaign made some good points to vote against reform, but conference floor was having none of it. Throughout the debate there was another constant theme – the current unrest in Gaza. When it came to the count over 20 students stormed the stage and proceeded to demonstrate there frustrations, as NUS has failed to give a definitive stance on the unrest in Gaza. As a result, the conference became totally inaccessible, Adam Hyland, NUS Disabled Students Officer, was stuck in the middle of the demonstration – his exit to the lift was blocked. A number of Jewish students also fled the hall in fear. The current unrest in Gaza is a very real and important issue – I sympathise and fully take on board the actions of those who stormed the stage, but I fell it was the wrong time; the conference was to reform NUS and make it accessible, engaging and relevant to all. The actions of a handful of students turned the conference into a inaccessible environment where delegates felt threatened and unable to engage. Wes Streeting and the rest of NEC and NUS staff handled the situation fantastically and the review passed by 95%. The future for NUS is looking bright and it will be fantastic to see NUS back to what it does best – campaigning, engaging and representing students!

Midlands and East Regional Conference was hosted by the University of Derby Students Union on Wednesday 28th February. The conference was poorly attended, but had more delegates than the London Conference who only had seven delegates. There were delegates from Derby, Lincoln and UEA and from the West Midlands Staffordshire, Birmingham City and Newman. Aaron Porter gave a update on Broke and Broken – the report has been well received and for the first time a representative from the national union will be able sitting on the Government Higher Education Review Board, a massive success in itself. There is some great news – a National Lobby on March 18th 2009! I will be contacting Presidents to arrange appointment making with your MP’s and how to register for the event. I am also looking to arrange transport in collaboration with unions across the west midlands. The HE Funding Campaign Strategy will be implementing some important upcoming action in 2009:

- Launch of principles which underpin the NUS alternative
- Publishing of the NUS alternative funding model
- NUS fringing all major Party Political Conferences
- Town Hall Debates (involving local press, schools & colleges, lobbying of MP’s and councillors etc)

In addition you still need to be visible on your campuses and continue to lobby your MP’s! They were moaning there mail bags were empty, lets fill there mail bags up!
Susan Nash, NEC Block of 12, delivered a fantastic presentation covering Elections – local and European. A number of delegates were unaware of the impact students can have on elections, one hall of residents could sway a vote away from far right parties… NUS has produced a Elections Pack 2008/2009 you’ll find everything from standing in the elections yourself to monitoring student electoral registration at your union.
The Report & Plan session and feedback from Sarah Burton, from Castle College Nottingham, one of the Midlands and East National Council Observers and Rowena Boddington, from UEA, of our NEC Observers, was a very informative session. I asked the NEC a number of questions on your behalf – at Annual Conference 2008 a motion passed for NUS to create a new website, which is more affective and accessible for officers and students, to be launched in February 2009. Rowena stated that the website development is considerably behind schedule, and will not be launched until June 2009. The NEC were aware of the delays in October/November, yet still have not informed the membership. I asked Dave Lewis, NEC Treasure, the following question:
“The website has been behind schedule for a number of months – why hasn’t this been communicated to your membership? And what financial impact does the delay have on members?”
Dave apologised for NUS letting students down and not meeting the agreed launch date, “this has put the national union to shame”. He also stated concerns over no cultural change and that more training is required. The main implications of such a delay are reputational damage, inaccessible resources and a national effect on members. Dave stated NUS will be making an announcement to members with the new launch date.
A delegate from Derby University Students Union asked a question, in response to the protest which occurred at Extraordinary Conference 2:
‘Why are Gaza liberationists seen as anti-Semitic by members of the NEC? And why has NUS not made a definite stance on the situation in Gaza’?
Richard ‘Bubble’ Budden, NEC National Secretary, gave a brilliant response: the NEC voted in support of a motion to end all conflict and violence in Gaza and call for a cease fire. The NEC is not going to support a motion which causes unrest on campuses – preventing integration and multi-faithism. NUS does not want students to feel its national union is against them.

Well there we are, another month in the life of the WMANUS Convenor. Next months blog will also contain mini reports from Exec members so you can get a full picture of WMANUS outcomes! If you have any questions or would like to discuss anything in this blog then please, please contact me / 07837-059-588.

Sophie Kettell
WMANUS Convenor 08-09

Monday, 13 October 2008

July - October

Wow, I can't believe how quickly the last 3.5 months have gone! Firstly let me apologise for the time it has taken me to get this blog up - it has been a roller coaster of moving from Stoke to Birmingham, budgets, meetings and freshers fairs and now I can finally take the time to sit down and reflect on the last 3 months...brace yourselves lol

I am going to blog in statemented form, just stops me waffling on:

Women's Campaign:

Hollie Jones, Birmingham Guild of Students VP Welfare, is our Women's' Officer, she has filled the boots of Laura Sadler who has returned to her studies. Hollie and I have met on a number of occasions to discuss regional activity - there's allot in the pipe line! Re-claim the night events, including London (22nd November), Birmingham (January 17th) and Manchester (19th February) where WMANUS will be organising women and chaps (if permitted) to attend and show the west midlands support of an equal society.
Last week we attended Abortion Rights Public Meeting in the House of commons on the 7th October - this meeting identified the fight pro-choice campaigners and organisations are facing when the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill is represented to MP's during the Reports stage later on this month. There are some restrictive amendments which would turn back the clock and a number of amendments which will improve and extend women's rights. I was moved and equally appalled by a speech made my Dr. Audrey Simpson FPA Northern Ireland - I never realised it was illegal to have an abortion in Northern Ireland, they are not covered by the 1967 Abortions Act, women who are victims of rape and incest have no rights at all. When the bill gets presented at the end of October it really is the "last chance saloon" for Northern Irish Women, they can't wait another 40 years, another generation of women, who do not have equal reproductive rights.
Hollie Jones and I have written to EVERY MP in the West Midlands asking for them to support progressive amendments and reject the those which will deny women the right to choose - you need to write to your MP's and lobby them also - I can help with this .
We have organised the first WMANUS Regional Women's Reception on 20th November to be held and Birmingham Guild of Students, this is a FREE event for all women's officers and interested students where we will be looking at the future of the women's movement and whats going on at individual unions across the region! If anyone is interested in attending then please email - invitations will be sent out asap please get them to the relevant women in your union and spread the word among your students!

Higher Education Funding Broke & Broken:

We all know that the price of Education is unfair, upper class solutions to middle class problems just aren't working for the modern student. Many of us support the fight for a fairly funded education system... However NUS launched on the 2nd September the Broke & Broken Campaign. It was great to see delegates from Newman University College, Keele, Birmingham Guild of Students and Staffordshire University SU there!
The report issued by NUS is a gooden, there are some true and scary statistics in there which only make me more concerned about the possible lifting of the cap in 2009/2010 - you can find a copy of this from
I attended a large number of freshers fairs, as you can imagine. throughout September and the start of October, many of which I doubled up with a member of the NEC. Naturally I spoke about West Midlands and all of the great campaigns we run around Hidden Course Costs, ARAF and LGBT movement, why its so important to get involved in your union and also Broke & Broken. So many students were shocked to hear the possibilities and concerned over siblings who will be going to University in the next couple of years. (BCU Students were brill - whole generation of activists I recon!).
The West Midlands Area NUS has a history of running big, strong and relevant campaigns, and is serious about a fairly funded education system, a day of action is in the planning stage - where will be using visible Higher Education Funding is no different. On the 3rd of October representatives from across the region attended our regional meeting, we discussed what as a region we want to do to demonstrate to the public, local MP's and your principles and Vice Chancellor that the West Mids measures to influence MP's, VC's and principles, to demonstrate to the public why a fairly funded education system is needed and to gather students to support the common cause! As they say "strength through Unity"! So keep your eyes and ears peeled for more info it will be coming very shortly!
Bill Rammell is saying his mail bag and inbox are empty - get lobbying him and your local MP's!

FE - your the future!

Whilst a Sabb at Staffordshire University I felt distant from WMANUS, we didn't really have a great deal of contact and the whole "what are we paying for" debate was a regular at FTO and Exec. meetings...
One thing which I soon discovered when I started as convenor was that FE intuitions need so much support in there development, engaging students and democracy! So I have been putting in allot of hours with my FE unions - City College Coventry, Stourbridge College, Dudley College, Walsall College, RNCB, Hereford and Worcester Tech have all be great and I have really enjoyed working with them all so far - lost of work around constitution review, year plans and how to widen participation and making the union accessible for all students.


ARAF groups and activists have been fighting the likes of the BNP and other far right extremist political fractions since the 1950's - you'd like to think that 50 years on, in our now diverse and multi-cultural Britain that racism and fascism are far gone - could I be anymore wrong!
After the freshers fair at Staffs (Bubble our stool was th best!) I attended the NORScaf peace in the community vigil in Stoke-on-Trent on the 20th September. This gathering was to counter act the BNP's National Demonstration, for an overview of the event visit, originally planned for the 9th August the BNP's "Anti-Muslim Campaign", as they liked to call it, was launched in Stoke-on-Trent. The demonstration by the BNP was also in memory of Keith Brown, a BNP activist who was killed in 2006 in Longton.
Wes Streeting and Fiona Wood, president at Staffs SU, made fantastic speeches to the hundreds of peace supporters at the vigil along with ARAF MP's and members of Stoke-on-Trent's community. It was fantastic to see the solidarity, and as always I found myself rather emotional during the whole event. After the rally we marched through the streets of Hanley, SOT's town centre - after a few run in's with the police, because after all "Who's streets? OUR streets" supporters most defiantly demonstrated SOT's desire for a racist and fascist free city!
Tom Marley, WMANUS ARAF Officer and I have met on a number of occasions and will be publishing, online, the West Midlands Area NUS' ARAF Guide! (Very exciting) - this guide has been written by Tom and contains all the things needed to run engaging and vibrant ARAF events and campaigns on your campus' and also how to get involved in events your area!
The Stoke-on-Trent Mayoral elections and European Parliament elections are taking place at the end of April 2009 - I am currently working with the officer teams at Staffordshire and Keele Universities, Stoke and Newcastle-Under-Lyme Colleges to plan a day of action in April. If the SOT Mayoral elections follow the same pattern as the recent council elections, where I am sad to say the BNP gained 09 seats, then SOT will have a BNP Mayor - I doubt I need to expand on the consequences of such a disaster...
WMANUS full supports a equal and diverse society, where all members can live, work and study in a safe and free environment - West Midlands Area NUS fully supports the ARAF Campaign and we are looking forward to showing those who are racist and fascist that not only SOT's communities but students from across the region want them out of the city.
The TUC has a great history of ARAF activism - I have met with them and arranged some FREE ARAF Activist training days, which will be ran in partnership with WMANUS after the summer break. Details will follow shortly.


Ah yes, that word "reform" its going to be a item on every ones agenda this year! National reform so may say should of gone through last year.... But it fell - we now need to look forward and work to ensure all of our members and officers understand the new paper, you can view all NUS materials here
Conference(s) and Annual Conference 2009!! I have spent the last few days going through the new document and feel confident the paper is the right change and by removing jargon Before I go onto speak about NUS and WMANUS Reform anymore I would just like to clear a few things up - at Annual Conference 2008 I voted against the White Paper, for a number of reasons including: no liberation on the trustee board, consultation and terminology. However this doesn't meant that I will be encouraging you to reject the new paper at Extraordinary, langauge, zones and in depth consultation the paper is more accessible, making the national union free from old structures and will return it to what it does best - campaigning, representing and engaging! If you would like to talk about the paper or arrange for me to come down and work with you and your teams to break down the new paper then please ring me ASAP 07837059588 or email

As you are all aware WMANUS has gone for one Convenor to two - however our constitution is yet to be changed! So its not only reform for NUS in 2009 but also WMANUS! I will be emailing all CM's over the next two weeks with some questions and any help will be much appreciated. The first Exec meeting is on the 27th October and we will be discussing WMANUS Reform.

Hidden Course Costs:

Policy was passed at Summer Conference 2008 for WMANUS to continue its work around Hidden Course Costs - I have been working with Oz Hetherington around this area, Widening Participation Officer, and have been collating email address' at freshers fairs and will be getting the first section of the survey out before the Christmas holidays.
This year we will be asking more institutions and including HE students in FE, nursing, teaching and FE students - this will give us a greater insight and more evidence to use when lobbying your VC's and principles!

October and November whats ahead:

27th October Midlands & East Regional Conference Leicester University - okay they aren't always the most productive events but this ones important!! There will be much discussion and debate about Broke & Broken and of course reform! West Midlands we are mighty and need to get our voices heard! Get registered and repersent your students!

31st October FE CAMPAIGNS LAUNCH Derby College - it will be great to have as many of you there as possible! If enough delagtes arew going from West Mids then I will organise some transport! Please email/call me with confirmation! I need to know by Monday 20th October lunch time!

I have a feeling there is going to be some sort of Extradionary activity in the month ahead, I will, diary permitting, be free to give some last minute pre-conference training, as I remember what its like to be thrown in at the deep end - If you would like to talk about the paper or arrange for me to come down and work with you and your teams to break down the new paper then please ring me ASAP 07837059588 or email If you haven't already call for an Extraordinary Conference, to discuss the new proposals. You can find a mock motion at or contact me!

WMANUS Winter Conference 17th November - to be held at Staffordhsire University Students Union 10-4! It is vital everyone attends and send delgates, in the past conferences have been poorly atteneded and with WMANUS Reform on the horizone there are some important decesions to be made about the regions future! I have emailed all of your presidents the conference call so they should be speaking to you very soon!

Regional Women's Reception on 20th November - to be held and Birmingham Guild of Students, this is a FREE event for all women's officers and interested students - Lucy Brookes LGBT Officer Womens Place NUS and (hopefully) Katie Curtis NUS Womens Officer will also be attenging the day! RSVP and for more information email!

LGBT Activists Training Day 25th November - to be held and Birmingham Guild of Students. Register at

Other stuff:

Other than all of the above there will be lots going on within FE - November will be a training month for me! Stourbridge, City College Coventry and Walsall to name a few!

I am going to be working with the Staffs team around E & E and Gender Neutral toilets and meeting with the new, full Keele Sabb team and delivering some training session.

Just a quick thank you to Adam Mason from Keele, he has been doing a fantastic job updating the website for me! I am happy to announce that he will hopefully be joining the Exec. committee on the 27th October and the Exec. meeting.
If there are any issues you would like us to raise at the meeting then please contact me - .

Well there we are, note to self I won't leave it so long next time!

Looking forward to seeing you all soon!

Sophie x x