Can you tell us a little bit about your role at OUSU?
As OUSU President I’m the lead representative of all students in Oxford to the University, the local community and Westminster. I’m the public face of the Student Union and work to garner student opinion to represent you at the highest levels of the University. An average day doesn’t really exist. I spend a lot of my time working with JCR and MCR Presidents to help them win for students in their colleges and fight attempts by colleges to massively increase rent and other charges, which can force students who are already strapped for cash into further debt. The rest of my time is spent meeting with students, answering their queries, doing work mandated to me by OUSU Council, our democratic student forum that meets once a fortnight and doing other tasks like helping run Freshers’ Fair, the annual OUSU elections and speaking on behalf of students to the local and national press. The work is extremely rewarding and important: with a government that has betrayed students by slashing higher education funding and trebling tuition fees, there has never been a more important time for students to come together and fight for an accessible, modern and world-leading university and wider higher education sector.
In what sort of situation might you be able to help the average undergraduate?
Any situation, really! We’ve got 5 Vice-Presidents, all with specific remits – so it might be that I put you in touch with them – but so far I’ve dealt with everything from colleges trying to prevent their JCR President from meeting all of the freshers, to encouraging new students not to sign second year house leases til the new year so that they’ve time to look at lots of houses and make friends first. We do loads of different things for students: from working to improve the teaching and learning experience in Oxford, to producing an Oxford Guide to Careers in partnership with the Careers Service to help you find a job once you’ve finished your time here.
What do you think is the best thing about being a student in Oxford?
The amazing range of activities people have the opportunity to get involved in whilst here – it’s simply unrivalled. We’ve some of the best sports teams in the country, the biggest range of student clubs and societies, excellent student papers, active political societies and JCRs & MCRs in every college. There are pub quizzes in college bars, the fancy dress parties with cheap booze and ridiculous costumes that we strangely call ‘bops’ and clubs ranging from Babylove to Park End. All of my best memories are outside of the library and set apart from the academic side of life here – get involved in everything you can.
And the worst?
The unrepresentative reputation Oxford and its students have in the national press. Things that happen at every university in the country only ever end up in the press when they happen here in Oxford! ‘Student gets drunk’ is not a story, but add in the name of an Oxford course and college and for some reason it sells. We do so much work to try to make this university truly open to all with the ability to be here, regardless of their background, and the national press does its best to prevent us showing that Oxford has changed for the better. The best way to change the reputation is to not live up to it – so get involved in our access campaign Target Schools instead of joining the Bullingdon Club.
What is the one memory of your time in Oxford that best sums up the experience?
Walking down the High Street after my last finals exam on my way to college to be trashed, with tourists in front of me running backwards and taking pictures because they love students wearing sub-fusc. I got back to college and, as is tradition in Jesus, was drenched with buckets and buckets of ice-cold water (still in sub-fusc) before being dressed up with various things my friends thought appropriate and then given a bottle of cheap fizzy wine to aim the cork at the clock in the quad – legend dictates you get a first if you hit it. After a few hours in the bar we ended up queuing forever for Wahoo, despite it being only 10pm… only 10pm and the club’s ‘one-in, one-out’ – now there’s a true Oxford experience.