What was the academic officer even doing?

By Tamaki Laycock (Academic Officer)

Hi everyone!

Here’s a little recap of term 1

Meetings I’ve sat in on

  • University Teaching Committee
    • http://www.york.ac.uk/about/organisation/governance/sub-committees/teaching-committee/
  • Standing Committee on Assessment
    • http://www.york.ac.uk/about/organisation/governance/sub-committees/sca/
  • Senate
    • https://www.york.ac.uk/about/organisation/governance/senate/
  • Arts and Humanities Faculty Board, Social Sciences Faculty Board, Sciences Faculty Board
    • https://www.york.ac.uk/about/departments/faculty-boards/
  • Architecture Consultancy
    • Discussing the future development of university grounds and how students will be put at the heart of it
  • Learning Spaces Working Group               
    • http://yorklearningspaces.blogspot.co.uk/2016/05/the-learning-spaces-working-group-takes.html
  • Student Partnership Working Group
    • Discussing and developing the student partnership agreement, looking at ways students and the university can work together to create a better community
  • Various Pedagogy meetings
    • https://www.york.ac.uk/staff/teaching/themes/theyorkpedagogy/
  • Department Rep meeting
    • Fortnightly meeting with the department reps, to discuss updates, ideas, actions. Have had a guest speaker at each one, to engage reps with people they usually wouldn’t have contact with
  • Faculty Forums for the 3 different faculties
    • Run by our faculty reps, a forum for reps to discuss issues and ideas within their departments with other departments in their faculty
  • Meeting with as many departments as possible, and as often as they want to see me
  • Officer Group meeting (Part Time Officers and Full Time Officers)
    • Discussing ideas, actions, events, etc.
  • Trustee Board Meeting
    • Governing board of the Student Union at York – every charity has a board of trustees for the development and accountability of itself
  • Course Rep training
  • Whatever else people invite me to, which turns out to be plenty
  • Library committee
    • https://www.york.ac.uk/about/departments/support-and-admin/information-services/committees/librarycommittee/
  • IT Committee
  • TEF advisory group
    • https://www.timeshighereducation.com/news/teaching-excellence-framework-tef-everything-you-need-to-know
  • HR & Audit Trustee subcommittee (I chair it!)
    • HR & Audit part of Trustee board, mentioned above


Conferences I’ve been to

  • Addressing Social Mobility and BME Attainment Gap in the Russell Group
  • Quality Matters – hosted by the QAA
  • Yorkshire Universities Group
  • NUS Higher Education Zones
  • SU 16 (NUS)
  • Lead and Change (NUS)


Achievements for this term

  • Library has ordered coloured overlays for easier reading, and is in the process of working out how to lend them out to students
  • Created faculty open hours, and will be continuing them to next term
  • Library has agreed to a YUSU library board, where students will be able to see notices about academic achievements, and useful information
  • Started the process of getting reps onto VLE pages, for students to have easier access to their student reps
  • Successfully lobbied for a kitchenette in the Spring Lane building, as well as designating some bathrooms as gender neutral. Also working on coloured panelling on the walls of the lecture theatre to break up the white space as the brightness of the space has caused students headaches
  • Set up working groups on various topics, such as Athena SWAN, Lecture Capture..
  • Argued against Sunday exams, which would affect working students, carers, and more


Reps achievements

  • Psychology – successfully pushed for a noticeboard within the department to allow for greater awareness of events
  • Archaeology – set up a google doc sheet for resources that are an issue to obtain, and sending it to the department’s library contact on a weekly basis to prompt a report on the resources
    • Argued for the introduction of electronic submission of assessment for the department
  • History – asked department for more advertisement on how to get books in the library, because there is a lack of awareness of booking key texts or using requests. The department will be showing a slide to all years to make sure students are aware of the options
  • Sociology – Collating student testimonials to help convince the department why they will benefit from lecture capture
  • History of Art – was able to get librarian for the History of Art department (in the Minster Library) to request a space heater for the library reading room
  • Environment – organized extra sessions with lecturer and PhD student to help those struggling with economics content
  • Lang & Ling – organized a mixer for second years who hadn’t been abroad and third years who had to meet and discuss
  • Health sciences – got three stripes for PGDip cohort, alongside a graduation ceremony which they were not entitled to previously
  • Computer Science – helped organize informal study sessions in the weeks leading up to exams and open assessments, open to all CS cohort, with post grad teaching assistants present to answer questions
  • Philosophy – set up a study group for joint students
    • Working on arranging a book fair for students to pass on old books to new students


There were more achievements, but please contact your reps to see what they’ve been up to this term!


Things that are in the works/much more long term than just my year

  • Accessibility. As the university is expanding and putting effort and resources into new buildings and designing a larger campus, temporary fixtures to help accessibility are not as favourable to the university because they aren’t sure which buildings will have to be taken down, and when. As we move forward with building plans, there needs to be a focus on making sure that students (who should be at the heart of all expansions) have their needs properly met. That will rest on future Academic Officers as well.
  • Timetabling. This was a much bigger issue than I expected it to be. Even if you separate exam timetabling from normal timetabling, both are unique in themselves because of how they’re run.
    • For exams, it’s the lack of suitable space for examination, as well as the shorter period of exams in the winter that make for a tight squeeze and difficult decisions when it comes to how many exams will be had in how many hours/days. At standing committee on assessment, a discussion was had on how the university will move forward. They will be investing in a new system, as well as exploring other room possibilities. Adding an extra week to the spring term exams was brought up, but that calls into question accommodation lets, and more.
    • For non-exam timetabling, the size of the university versus the size of the student body is a problem. The new Spring Lane Building is a sign of progress in terms of having a dedicated teaching block, but there is still a long way to go to make sure students can get to their seminars and lectures on time without having to trek across campus in 10 minutes. As campus gets larger in the years to come, this will be another point to push.


Next term

  • Work around the NSS, and policy proposal
  • Supporting students during exams, extending Keep Your Cool from last year
  • Promoting elections


This is just a bullet point blast through of this term. If you want to ask any questions feel free!


Have a wonderful holiday xxx


Tamaki Laycock

Your Academic Officer