Welcome Email to Groups

Dear Student Groups!

As it’s my first day in the job, I thought I’d take the opportunity to introduce myself. My name is Ollie Cosentino and I’m the new Vice-President Activities and Development having taken over from the wonderful Fliss Cross.

For those of you that don’t know, the VPAD is a full time elected officer (along with 6 other full time officers) who is tasked with the specific job of overseeing the running of all the Guild’s student activities including Student Groups, Volunteering and other one off events that happen through the year including the Guild Awards in March every year. The job also covers another side; in developing student’s employability prospects through working with the Guild’s Jobzone and the University’s Careers centre.

I’ll be completely honest with you from the start, I am ridiculously excited to get going with the year and to get working with as many of you as possible. I have spent the past 2 years being involved with numerous societies and other guild activities and I can honestly say that it’s been the best part of my university experience. It can sometimes be very clichéd, but what you do outside of your degree is what makes the difference and as you’ve all been elected onto your respective committees, you probably know that already. So for me, to have been elected into this position and to be given the opportunity to help you guys do what you do, is an honour.

I want you all to know that as your VPAD, I want to be there for you and your student group as much as possible. If you ever feel there is an issue that is affecting you or your group that could do with my assistance then please don’t hesitate to get in contact. Student Development are of course there for any day to day issues you may have including finances, paperwork and all that jazz. But for anything else that is causing issue, I’m your man.

First things first, I’ll be working hard over the coming 2 months to ensure that the welcome weeks go off with a bang for your groups. We’ve got some really exciting things happening before September that you may be aware of that will help with just that. Including a shiny new Guild website, which is on track to help sign up loads of excited new members and help you manage your group much better. As well as this, I plan to launch a big student group promotional push (SocietiesFest), giving you maximum exposure to as many different students at the uni at the time when you are most able to attract them to your group. So, plan your events as you would do usually and I will hopefully be in contact very soon regarding how you can get on board with this!

Throughout the year, I’m also going to be looking at Guild Volunteering and the impact it’s having on both you as students and the wider community. The big aim is to make it more appealing and rewarding for you, and as you’re already a volunteer it’s something that will most definitely affect you! Another manifesto point that I ran on was to get your groups more funding to run bigger and better events. I’ve already been looking at new methods of fundraising, taking it away from the traditional cake sale, to new bigger levels of income. As you know, we’re in difficult financial times and this calls for different innovative methods to attract investment. I also want to tap into the numerous alumni that your society is likely to have and look at ways to attract them to invest back into you. And for the newer groups among you, there’ll always be Guild alumni that will want to give back as well.

As well as this, I’ll be taking a few other things on including continuing the work on reforming committee training (which Fliss has pushed forward with by synchronising the AGMs, ready for it being launched in February/March). I’ll also be looking at making the day to day running of your group a lot easier, something which constantly gets flagged as something you’d like to see. This includes working with the university to try and get deadlines for paperwork down to the bare minimum so you’re free to put on as many amazing events as possible with as little fuss. I’m also going to be looking at strengthening the links the Guild has with the Uni careers centre so that you are best able to transfer the skills you have attained whilst involved with your group into the real world (amongst many other awesome things!)

So, that’s it from me for now. As I said, feel free to ask me any questions or just introduce you and your committee (I’ve included loads of contact details below so see there for more info!) I’ll be around the guild throughout the rest of summer, so if you’re around then please say hi to me and the new Sabb team. We don’t bite…

And as I’ve mentioned, myself and Student Development will be in contact soon about welcome week(s), so keep a regular eye on your society email accounts over the coming summer months.

All the best,


My Contact Details:

Email: VPAD@guild.bham.ac.uk

Twitter: VPAD: @Guild_VPAD / Personal: @OllieCosentino

Office Tel: 0121 2512340

Facebook: www.facebook.com/bhamguild.anddevelopment


Other Officer Contact Details

President – David Franklin – President@guild.bham.ac.uk – @Guild_President

VP Welfare – Katherine East – VPE@guild.bham.ac.uk – @Guild_VPW

VP Housing and Community – James Robertson – VPHC@guild.bham.ac.uk – @Guild_VPHC

VP Sport – Jimmy Hughes – VPS@guild.bham.ac.uk – @Guild_VPS

VP Democracy and Resources – Leander Jones – VPDR@guild.bham.ac.uk – @Guild_VPDR

VP Education – Simon Furse – VPE@guild.bham.ac.uk – @Guild_VPE


Anti-Racism Anti-Fascism Officer – Hannah Skolnick – ARAFO@guild.bham.ac.uk
Community Action Officer – Sean Farmelo – CAO@guild.bham.ac.uk
Disabled Students’ Officer – Amy Connelly – DSO@guild.bham.ac.uk
Ethical Environmental Officer – Alice Swift – EEO@guild.bham.ac.uk
Ethnic Minority Students’ Officer – Sacha Hassan – EMO@guild.bham.ac.uk
Home Students’ Officer – Joe Sewell – HSO@guild.bham.ac.uk
International Students’ Officer – Saara Pokki – ISO@guild.bham.ac.uk
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Queer Students’ Officer – Rachel Foreman – LGBTQO@guild.bham.ac.uk
Satellite Sites Officer – Adam Smith – SSO@guild.bham.ac.uk
Women’s Officer – Kristina Ilieva – WO@guild.bham.ac.uk

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First VPS Blog 2012-13! A Fresh Start

Hi blog readers, thank you for taking the time to read my first blog as Vice-President (Sport) (VPS) 2012-13. I intend to update this with news and progress of my year in office at least once a month for your viewing pleasure.

My tenure as VPS began over two weeks ago now, and already life as a Guild sabbatical officer has been extremely busy. However, this is something I expected. After four long weeks of training, which included BUCS (British Universities and Colleges Sport) conference 2012 in Exeter, I feel perfectly set to begin what promises to be a fruitful year in office. BUCS Conference was informative and an excellent networking opportunities that allow me to meet and make friends with other sport and activities sabbatical (and non-sabbatical) officers across the nation’s other students’ unions. In addition to this, I also attend NUS LASI (Leading Active Student Involvement) training hosted by Glamorgan University with Ollie Cosentino, Vice-President (Activities and Development). Again, this was informative and great for networking. Finally, on the training/introductory front, I have had a number of meetings with university (as well as Guild/UBSport staff) for the purposes of getting to know key figures I will be working with in the coming year as an individual and as a sabbatical officer team.

I’d also like to make a point of congratulating my predecessor Tim Smith for a excellent year as VPS in 2011-12 and thank him for providing me with a great, informative handover. Best of luck for the future Tim!

In terms of my other activities since being in office…

Sports Forms/Mini Forums: 

I have worked with Sports Development in the Munrow Sports Centre to organise and arrange the UoB sports clubs sports forums/ mini-forums for 2012-13. The exact details can be found here. I believe this aspect is a crucial part of my role because it is the most direct contact I will have to get a sense of the general feeling of sports clubs/Guild sporting societies. I have also created a brand new seventh category of mini-forum new this year specifically for the club captains of clubs that will be particularly effected my the New Build Sports Centre. This will give me the chance to give the necessary attention to detail on this issue which I believe is needed so that I can represent the views of Birmingham’s sports clubs in the design of the construction as well as other aspects at managerial level where many of the key decisions are made.

Sports Ball:

Believe it or not, with the sports ball still over ten months away I have already had my first meeting regarding its detailed organisation and planning. In the coming weeks I will be visiting potential venues and deciding on one. From there, I shall be working to build a timeline of tasks which will lead to (hopefully) a brilliant ‘Sports Ball 2013′!!

Guild Sports Night:

I have organised the dates of all Guild sports nights for 2012-13. As one in every four pounds of a Guild Sports Night ticket goes towards ‘Sports Ball 2013′ I am looking to make them even more popular than ever with special events at as many of the nine dates as possible. All details of 2012-13 Guild sport nights can be found here.

Manifesto Points:

Of course on top of the representative element of the VPS role, there is the element of change that one would like to bring. Details of what I am seeking to achieve on this front can be found here. I have had positive meetings regarding the healthy eating/diversity in a new Joes menu and I’m soon to be visiting the university central kitchen. I’m also having plenty of meetings with UBSport officers regarding my plans to increase participation in terms of my plans to help improve the UBSport’s ‘Try Sport’ programme, sporting volunteering publicity and the ‘Active Universities’ national Sport England scheme. I also pledged to maintain and improve further where possible the communication between the Guild of Students/UBSport which I intend to do by hard work, effort and graft (or VPS dedication as I have termed it). Finally, I will act as a ‘critical friend’ to work to get the best value in sport at Birmingham for students in light of the £9,000 tuition fees that take effect for new students in September. This is a broad ambition, but nonetheless very important. It will no doubt be the case that events will happen throughout the year that will change the priorities of my manifesto points. However, with a touch of luck, I can get a significant chunk done.

Vice-Presidential Duties:

In addition to my remit of sport and acting as a ‘critical friend’ over in the Munrow Sports Centre, I have the role of being a Vice-President of the Guild of Students. On this front I have attended my first SOG (sabbatical officer group) meeting, first trustee board meeting (as an observer) and generally been learning the ins and outs of Guild political leadership as a sabbatical team. All good on this front and actually something I’m looking forward to this year.

Jamaican Welcome Dinner:

On Monday 23rd July I was fortunate enough to attend the London 2012 Olympic Games Jamaican Track and Field Welcome Dinner along with Guild President, David Franklin. Overall, there were 400 attendees. What was delightful, amongst other things, was the fact that every single table had at least one member of the Jamaican team on in. On my table there was Jermaine Gonzales who was a top man and was down to Earth. In fact, one things that I particularly impressed by with the Jamaican athletes generally was how down to Earth they were. At the end of the day, despite the global fame of Bolt, Blake, Powell, Campbell-Brown etc they are all simply focused on training hard and trying to be the best they can. In addition to this, I had the humbling experience to sitting next to 91 year-old Tommy Godwin, winner of a bronze medal in the 1948 London Olympic Games. A truly inspiring man, who’s words of wisdom reminded me why I love sport and competition so much.

BUCS West Midlands:

At BUCS Conference 2012 I was elected BUCS West Midlands student vice-chair, with Ali Burr (Vice President Activities at Coventry Students’ Union) being elected as chair. We are currently in the hand over process from last year’s student chair (Tim Smith). I am very much looking forward to representing the West Midlands region of BUCS (there are eleven regions altogether!). More details on this can be found here.

I am feeling extremely positive about the coming year and the friendly working relationships that I have already development with Guild, University and UBSport staff, as well as with students and my fellow sabbatical officers only adds to my hopes. You will find my ‘VPS profile’ in the Munrow staff corridor. This is part of my drive to get myself as known as possible across campus this year in order to represent students even more effectively. If you ever have any thoughts, opinions, comments or suggestions please get in contact or come and visit me in my office (on the second floor of the Guild).

On a closing note, please give a listen to this BurnFM Sport interview of me by the excellent Alistair Cresswell. I’m very much looking forward to working with BurnFM, as well as all student media (Redbrick and Guild TV).

Once again, thank you for reading!

All the best,

James Hughes

Vice-President (Sport)



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My leaving message to all student groups – thank you everyone!

Dear all,

This is the last email I’m ever going to send as your Vice President (Activities and Development) – a very emotional moment for me!

I can’t even begin to describe what a brilliant support you have all been to me in what has turned out to be a very challenging and difficult year. Even though you may not know it, seeing the passion, dedication and hardwork every single society committee member puts into their role is truly inspiring, especially as you’re all acting so selflessly to improve the happiness of other students, often at the detriment of your own degrees! I really hope you’ve had the same fantastic experience that I have being a society committee member, or that you will do as your year goes on. I know I learnt so much and the society members of the groups I was involved in became a real family to me.

I know the Guild isn’t the easiest place to navigate: it’s hard, it’s frustrating, it makes you do risk assessments and there are never enough rooms. However, remember what it does offer – meeting like-minded people and giving students the opportunity to run what they want for other students and that’s amazing. The trials and tribulations of the Guild will only make you stronger and it is such good experience for dealing with the “real world” when you leave. Thank you for being patient with it and persevering for the good of students.

I’ve truly enjoyed getting involved with many different society activities and events this year. From Strictly Brum Dancing, to Sky Diving, to a miscellaneous gala for indoor activities to seeing the drama groups perform in Edinburgh, it has been fantastic working with you all. I’ve really enjoyed all of our student group forums and miniforums too! Thank you for putting up with me really and make me feel so welcome. There have been so many times when I’ve been made to feel part of your groups. Thank you also to the people involved in making my leaving book full of photos and to GTV for the cuddly toy angry bird

This year has been the toughest of my life and there have been many times where I don’t think I could have got through it without you guys being there to remind me why it was all worth it. Having said that, despite it taking over my life, I highly recommend running for an Officer position, especially VPAD. Please stay in touch – my email address is fliss_cross@hotmail.com

I leave you in the very capable hands of Ollie Cosentino for next year. He’s going to do a brilliant job and, Ollie, it’s been a pleasure handing over to you!

All the best for the future and whatever you all decide to go on to do.
I can’t thank you enough,


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Guild Council Leaving Speech Video

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Trustee Board Report (2.7.12)

My final report to the Trustee Board, a snapshot of my year.

Vice President (Democracy Resources)

This year the VPDR has had many victories, improving the lives of students and changing the face of the organisation. With nearly £50,000 saved for students with the new Joe’s + loyalty card we are demonstrating value to our members better than ever before in our Venues department. Moreover, we are welcoming two brand new commercial outlets into the building, with Santander already open and Costa Coffee due to open at the end of July. With Costa especially, we have secured nearly £250,000 of external investment into an underused space, while at the same time creating a service which will be useful for hard to reach demographics such as postgraduate and international students.

From an elections perspective, our Guild Council elections saw a 110% increase from 2010, as well as record turnout in RA and NUS elections. Moreover, our Officer Elections in March 2012 saw the second highest turnout in the Guild’s history with over 6,000 students voting to elect their new team.

Furthermore with another Gold Green Impact, as well as Birmingham’s Best Bar None Award this has been a very successful year which the organisation can be proud of.

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Guild Council Leaving Speech

You can watch it by clicking here.

Or read the full version here…


Good Evening Guild Council,

First of all, thank you for coming and thank you for staying. Getting Guild Councillors to come to Guild Council has always been surprisingly difficult, and something I’m yet to come up with a solution to. It’s difficult to know where to begin with these speeches; I’ve got so much to say, and comparatively little time to say it. So according to my good friend logic, which has served me well this year, I will start at the beginning.

The first time I came to the University of Birmingham was on an open day in 2007, back when Zuki was still in primary school, and I remember driving in through East gate with my Dad, glancing over to the left and seeing a building with ‘Guild of Students’ written on the side. I remember registering that it must have been the student’s union and quickly dismissing it with the thought that I’ll never need to go there, that’s not what Uni is about.

Well, 5 years later I can safely say that I was very, very wrong. My first involvement with the Guild was in 2008, when I applied to be the Vice President (Services Environment) on the Shackleton Hall Resident’s Association. Now I wasn’t quite sure what an RA was, as the RA who were supposed to induct us into Shackleton and make sure that we had the time of our lives in halls didn’t really exist. The only recollection I have of the then President was a video of him on YouTube downing a bottle of red wine at an alarmingly quick rate.

But, nevertheless I was lucky enough to pick up one of the flyers posted through our letter box and for once, actually read it. I don’t know why, but it was a decision that changed my life. So I went along to the Guild, managed to find where the Representation Democracy department was (now Student Voice, it used to be up by marketing on the top floor) and handed in my form to the Representation Co-ordinator, only to be told that it was a day late and my nomination couldn’t be accepted. Despite my protestations that nobody else was running I took it on the chin and was told to wait for the by-elections in January.

Luckily I took this advice and after asking someone in this room who became an RA whether it was worth it, thank you to him, I proceeded to boss the by-election and started on my journey in the Guild, even if it was a few weeks late.

That year of 2009 was truly incredible and I had one of the best experiences of my life. As an RA we had to start from scratch as we inherited nothing from the previous committee and began the task of transforming Shackleton into a hall which people were proud to live in and create a community spirit that didn’t previously exist. This all came to a head during the first few weeks of Freshers in September where we poured our heart and soul into making the first few weeks for 350 Freshers the best it possibly could be, and making sure they knew they were in the best hall in the world. I made some great friends during that term and had I can quite honestly say, had the time of my life.

It’s due to my time as an RA that I know how powerful the RA scheme is, and its ability to make or break people’s time in halls and ultimately University. RA’s really are the life and soul of first year and while the scheme has unavoidably undergone some changes since my time, I firmly believe that with the resources available to them, a combination of the right people, with the right motive and enough freedom given to them have the ability to turn (or maintain) the RA scheme as the best thing the Guild does.

I was also involved in my departmental society, this was also made from scratch and through this not only did we organise the customary socials and bar crawls, we replaced what were non-existent student reps on Student Staff Committee’s with elected society representatives and organised a number of talks from key academics in our field.

Moreover I was on Burn FM for a number of years, my housemate and I had our show ‘Sports Banter’ which I seem to remember winning best Sports Show a couple of years ago, although regardless, it was still a good laugh. Blue hooding and helping out with Officer Campaigns followed and then I eventually decided to run for office myself. But, I’ll get to that later.

Throughout this time I also sat on Guild Council in a number of guises, although I honestly had no idea what was going on. I was never involved in any of the politics of the Guild and didn’t really have much of an opinion on what was going on, but I still weirdly enjoyed it. I could count the number of times I actually got up to speak on one hand, I was far too intimidated and didn’t know nearly enough about what was being debated and thought that any point I made would easily be shot down by one of the more experienced Councillors in the room. I suppose the lesson from that is you don’t have to be uber-involved or indeed vocal on issues going on in the Guild in order to do achieve things. So, for those of you sitting there without the inclination or confidence to partake in debate, I know how you feel, I’m one of you and trust me, it doesn’t need to hold you back.

So I suppose this leads me nicely on to why I decided to run for a Sabbatical position in the first place. When I was an RA, I barely knew what a Sabb was, let alone how you become one. Obviously we had our VPHC, Oggy, but it never really clicked that he was part of a wider team and I guess I just wasn’t really that interested.

The seed was planted when a former Redbrick editor, and a guy in the year above me on my course, Nick Petrie decided to run for President and asked me to help out. All the campaign meetings were very confusing, I wasn’t quite sure what the parameters were for elections, or what the position did. I have to say though that I had a great 2 weeks campaigning and it’s through that that I realised what Officer’s do and how we’re able to change the student experience here at Birmingham. So I began to think…maybe I could do that? Obviously I didn’t decide there and then but as I went into my third year I actually began to take the idea more seriously before finally deciding to take the plunge and risk it.

I’m blessed in that organisation is one of my strong points so I set about putting together a team and a campaign that I thought might stand a chance in an election. Now there was a lot of talk about the makeup of elections after the most recent Officer elections in March, and while I know that nothing is perfect, running in the elections takes very similar skills to being a Sabbatical Officer.

You need organisational skills, and the ability to inspire others. You need to be creative and come up with innovative solutions to any problem that may arise. You need the ability to speak to people of all different backgrounds on many different levels. You need the ability to answer your critics and counter arguments that may come your way. And finally you need to be tough and be able to put in long hours for weeks on end with very little food and very little sleep.

If you can’t meet those requirements for two weeks, you most certainly won’t be able to meet those requirements for 12 months. Rightly or wrongly, that’s the way it is, and I’m of the belief that the intensity of elections is actually a good thing and prepares you for what is a very demanding year in office. It isn’t easy, and it shouldn’t be easy.

So, I was lucky enough to win my election against some very credible opponents. Both Chris Richardson-Wright and Chris Nash would have been great VPDR’s and both made the Guild a better place during their time here.

So, for those of you who have read my Guild Council reports or my blogs you’ll hopefully know about the work I’ve been doing in order to achieve the pledges upon which I was elected. But, for those of you who haven’t I will briefly enlighten you.

With the introduction of the Joe’s Plus loyalty card, over the first two terms alone we have saved students £40,000 by making Joe’s Plus prices some of the cheapest in Selly Oak. Interestingly a pint of coke is our best seller on the card, which is something I certainly wasn’t expecting. Obviously myself and Mark have done some work on modernising the first version of the card, to turn it into a smart card with data capture technology which will show us who is using Joe’s, when they’re using it and what they’re buying. This information will allow us to tailor our offers more specifically towards different demographics of students and hopefully allow us to cater to more of the non-traditional cohort of students.

Plans are being formulated to roll the card out to other outlets, with Zest being the first one this term, and Selly Oak is now set firmly in our sights. Apart from this the next major challenge for the card will be making it better value on club nights, where we get thousands of students through the door, while not putting at risk one of the Guild’s major revenue streams which allows us to fund great services such as the SHAC and Jobzone.

One of my main gripes and a real motivator behind running to be an Officer in the first place is the Guild’s website. It’s no secret that out of date is an understatement and a new one is sorely needed. I have really enjoyed getting to grips with a replacement, but I have quickly found out that creating a fit for purpose website is not an easy task. We have been working in partnership with NUS Digital, as one of five pilot union’s with the vision of moving over to a completely new, all singing all dancing web platform in the very near future. Now I know working with the NUS doesn’t inspire confidence in some people, and my favourite nickname for the new website so far is definitely ‘SkyNet’ after the Terminator series, but let me assure you it won’t take over the world and turn our nuclear weapons against it. Not yet anyway.

The amount of work and money gone into this project by the NUS is quite phenomenal and they have a lot riding on it, which is why I’m quietly confident it will turn out to be a success. We have had a unique chance to shape the project how we see fit and I can’t wait for it to go live, hopefully before September. I’ve accepted the fact that despite all the time I have put into it, I won’t be around to see it launched and while this is obviously disappointing I’m sure the new guys can take all the credit for what will be a huge improvement on what we’ve got. It won’t be the finished article in September, it will be the first phase of a 3 step plan, but I’d rather do it right, than do it quick, as I’m sure this is a project that will benefit many students long after I’m gone.

Continuing on the positive note I am also proud of a number of other achievements during my term of office, some have been popular, some maybe not so. But one of my favourite quotes that I have tried to apply this year is ‘good command decisions get compromised by bad emotional responses.’ Not the fluffiest of phrases, yet something in the VPDR role that is essential to get by.

The first two elections of the year, for Guild Council and RA positions saw record turnout in both, with the Guild Council elections showing more than a 100% increase on last year’s figure. Additionally for RA elections we made the tough call of putting them online for the first year ever, not easy from a sentimental perspective, however essential for the future prosperity of democracy in halls. While the increase we saw was not as much as I hoped, it was in line with when we first moved Officer Elections over to an e-ballot and I’m confident it will open up elections to more and more residents and allow us to achieve record turnout year on year going forward.

Staying on the elections front, the most enjoyable two weeks of my year was definitely the Officer elections. Seeing them from a different side admittedly wasn’t as fun as being out on campus every day, however the buzz and excitement that elections bring is matched only by the first few weeks of the year. As I mentioned, elections aren’t easy, but I hope all who took part in them, whether as a candidate, campaigner or voter enjoyed them as win or lose, it’s a worthwhile experience for everyone involved.

One change I bought in this year, was giving students an extra 72 hours to cast their vote, by opening ballots on the Friday, as opposed to the second Monday. This worked very well at the University of Nottingham last year. Unfortunately their model didn’t quite fit ours and I feel that opening earlier lost us the momentum that opening at the beginning of the second week gives us. While I don’t regret trying it, if I were here next year, I would revert back to the second Monday in order to get that momentum back.

A new feature that I introduced was Unlock Democracy’s VoteMatch module, after a successful maiden year at Leeds University. For some reason this was branded as a major change, despite the fact that the e-voting system remained exactly the same and VoteMatch didn’t force voters to do anything. Trying to give voters an extra tool to scrutinise candidate’s policies is an idea that many students were receptive to, although some question what right I had to introduce such a feature and to them I’ll say I wasn’t given a mandate to submit motions, anyone can do that, I was given a mandate by thousands of students to lead policy on democracy and oversee it’s execution. And I don’t mean that in an arrogant way, I mean it in a way that Officers are elected to make decisions, which they do year on year, except this year every time an Officer makes a decision we’re berated for not bringing it to Guild Council, and unless you want Guild Council to meet on a daily basis, Officers will have to continue to make decisions without Guild Council input. The role of Guild Council is to scrutinise us for those decisions and to set policy that guide those decisions.

Anyway, that little rant over. I firmly believe that Vote Match is a good idea, and will be standardised in student union elections up and down the country in just a few years. The first time you do anything, you’re always going to make mistakes, and mistakes were made with Vote Match, but having learnt from those I believe a much more effective module can be put to use in the future, now we know what to expect and what to change.

Looking at the elections picture as a whole nobody was more disappointed than me to receive less votes than last year, but put in a national and historical context over 6,000 votes is still an achievement to be proud of, and with a drop in candidate numbers it was always on the cards.

Moving back over to Resources, this year we have welcomed a new bank into the building in the shape of Santander, replacing HSBC that were with us for more than 30 years. This meant we had to move the SHAC a year ahead of schedule, however it is now in much larger premises that is going to be essential for it to grow and become a self-sustaining lettings agency. Moreover, over the summer the common room is going to be completely redeveloped and turned into a social learning space with an infamous Costa Coffee and University IT cluster.

While inviting Costa into the Guild caused much debate amongst some students, the project is going to turn an underused space into a much more valuable space for a much more diverse range of students than currently use the Common Room. External income streams such as these are invaluable to student’s unions, when the national trend is moving away from the traditional reliance on over the bar sales. As a Guild we cannot afford to be complacent and open ourselves up to risks we may regret into 5 to 10 years, and if that means taking the tough decisions now, I’m more than happy to take the fall in the short run. For the dance groups who will be relocating, I think you should know that Fliss Cross has tirelessly fought your corner and deserves a lot of credit for ensuring that your brand new dance studio is fit for purpose and will be ready in time for the new academic year. While it was a project where we often disagreed on a best way forward, I’m delighted that myself and Fliss have come up with a solution where everybody’s needs are met.

Anyway, I’ve rambled on for a while, but instead of taking a turn to negative town, I wanted to talk about about things I’ve achieved as an Officer, rather than what I’ve not.

Everything that I’ve spoken about would not have been possible without the help and support from everyone here at the Guild. And before I talk about the Officers my first thank you goes to the unsung heroes who make the Guild what it is. That’s right, the big, bad shady staff. The rumours, speculation and outright lies that have been circulated this year about staff members makes me so angry and the audacity of people to go off hearsay and often third or fourth hand information to spread untruths about people who work at the Guild is naive at best and despicable at worst.

The passion and expertise of our staff members never fails to impress me and it’s been an absolute pleasure coming to work every day, knowing I get to work with people who are as passionate about improving the student experience at Birmingham as I am. I know they don’t get a right of reply, but thank you for everything you have done for me this year, and next year’s team are lucky to have you.

To the Sabbs, my colleagues and friends, sharing this year with you has been an absolute pleasure, and while I would like to run through your individual qualities and describe how I’ve enjoyed working with you, as you know I’m not an overtly emotional person and in a stereotypical bloke sort of way have trouble with feelings and other such confusing things. While we couldn’t have predicted the things that have happened this year, many of the events have bought us closer together and I’m delighted to have made 5 lifelong friends who I’m going to miss terribly once our year is up.

Despite things you may have read and other antics that have occurred this year, you’ve got some fantastic Officers there who have done some brilliant things for students, and don’t let anything that’s happened this year overshadow that.

Very quickly as well I’d like to commend some Non-Sabbs who often don’t get the recognition they deserve. This year we’ve been lucky enough to have some fantastic ones and I’d like to thank

Jen Kirk, Noorie Karimbocus, Vicki Royle, Kelly Rogers, Emily Halford and Mikayla Jones who have all done a sterling job in their respective roles. Additionally I’d like to thank Johnny Dolan and Rob Sassoon for their work with Guild Council and other things this year. They’ve been very able Chair’s and a pleasure to work with this year.

Anyway, I think it’s time to wind this up, I’m pretty sure I’ve gone over my time limit. All in all I’ve had a fantastic year and made some great friends along the way. If you’re out there and considering running for an Officer Position in the future please do it, it is without doubt one of the best thing you can do during your time at University, it’s a decision you won’t regret.

Additionally, it’s very easy to stand out the side house and throw stones at it, but’s it’s much harder and much more rewarding to build the house from the inside brick by brick.

So, in the words of Jed Bartlet, do what is hard, achieve what is great.

So thank you to the Guild for everything it has given me, it is with great sadness that I will finally be saying goodbye and it’s been a pleasure to be your Vice President (Democracy Resources) this year. I hope I have done a little bit of good along the way and wish you all the very best of luck for the future.

Thank you for listening.

Hugo Sumner

Vice President (Democracy Resources) 2011/12

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Manifesto Summary

Hi blog-fans,I thought I would take this opportunity to go through my three main manifesto points and evaluate some of my successes and failures in these areas this year. In addition, I realise I haven’t blogged comprehensively for a while, so at the bottom please find a few areas that have been keeping me (very) busy since March. Happy reading!

My Manifesto…
To create and deliver a 2nd Sports Fair

We did it! As a VPS-elect before officially taking office, I attended focus groups with a sample of club captains whereby we discussed the possibility of this, and agreed that the beginning of Semester Two in January would be the best time to hold a 2nd Fair. With this backing and evidence backing up the importance of Fairs to numbers of participants in sports, I convinced the staff team at UBSport that a 2ndSports Fair focused on participation would have the necessary demand, and consequently they supported me financially to hold the event, and dedicated staff to help me.

Over the sports mini-forums in November, I pitched the Fair to all sports clubs. Tthose who had participation wings to their clubs attended and boosted their social clubs as a result. Some clubs even developed new ‘participation pathways’ within their club, for example Women’s Basketball with their social 3rd team, and Lacrosse with their ‘Get Into Lacrosse’ sessions.

The Fair itself was a success. We had over 700 people attend and a number of clubs and UBSport schemes do well as a result of it. Whilst the time of year and the short lead time didn’t help, the main criticism is that it wasn’t promoted well enough. With better promotion, the fair could grow as big as the ‘Get Involved’ societies fair held each year, and that is what we’ll aim for it to be.

The hugely positive thing is that this is now scheduled in as an annual event, and will (I hope) be my major legacy I leave as VPS 2011/12. A number of recommendations to make it bigger and better for next year will be passed on to my successor, James Hughes.

More big sporting events on campus
When campaigning I genuinely believed that this was achievable; big sporting events are delivered regularly by other Universities, so why not here? Unfortunately, as at the elite level our setup is focussed on overachieving ranking-wise in comparison to our facilities and funding, aside from the annual Xpolosion event there has previously not been the desire nor the ethos to really create regular sporting spectacles.

I then had a choice; to go it alone in trying to deliver some big sporting events, helping the clubs do it themselves, or do a large piece of work throughout the year to change attitudes and ethos, and enable there to be a fundamental change for 2012/13 with a Big Events strategy with both staff and club buy-in. I chose the latter in order to make significant and sustainable change.

Through the mini-forums and work with staff members, we have agreed frameworks within which clubs and staff can work together to make these events huge, and tie them up in one easily recognisable strategy. The key is consistency, with a core brand being well-marketed and events being at regular times. The added extra which has transpired this year is a deal signed with UniSport Online, who will live stream six of our home matches next year, meaning even people revising in the library can keep an eye on the action. Our student media groups within the Guild will also have opportunities to get involved as a result of this.

I didn’t completely give up on this year: fixtures were better promoted through use of social media and posters. The enhanced linkages between clubs due to the mini-forums and social sec networks meant that, particularly at the latter end of the year clubs were supporting each other in numbers, cheering our teams on to success.

For next year, I initially envisaged a grand scheme but due to necessary cut-backs in budgets it is likely that only the six live-televised events will have the full backing of the UBSport staff team. Nevertheless, this is much advanced compared to previous years, and through the work done this year there will also be lots of help at hand for clubs who wish to run and advertise their own big events.

Sports tournaments raising money for charity
Whilst this year there has been one major tournament (Dodgeball) which was a great success, for this manifesto point I regret that I wasn’t able to deliver more this year.

Back in Semester One, Carnival RAG and Dodgeball society teamed up with myself to run a Dodgeball tournament. Thanks to the hard work done by these two groups, this day was a resounding success; we had 20 teams competing, meaning 120 people playing Dodgeball over the course of the day going through group stages and finishing in knock-out finals. To top this off, over £500 was raised for charity.

What this tournament highlighted was the high level of preparation required to organise an event on this scale, however there was nothing stopping us from organising another event in the spring or summer term. Unfortunately, other commitments caught up and I was unable to dedicate the time.

Whilst not raising money for charity, I have been supporting the RAs in their attempts to deliver a Summer Sports Festival. This report is being written before the event, so by Council we will be able to see whether we managed to get it off!

What else I have been up to since March…
To list everything would take forever, so here are some of the key things…

Sports Ball
With 532 attendees this year, Sports Ball is going to be absolutely huge. The event is on 4thJune and the organisation for this has taken up most of my time this semester. Organisation has included: setting up awards panel, setting up criteria and sending out nomination forms, convening awards panels and deciding awards, collating video and images, overseeing production of video, writing presentations, organising music, writing scripts, ordering trophies, communicating with attendees, organising table decorations, entertainment and extras on the night and I’m sure there is much much more that I can’t think of at this moment in time!

Sports Awards Evening
Sports Awards Evening goes hand in hand with Sports Ball. Being a week after (12thJune) there are different awards presented, and different attendees. This ceremony is much smaller, and aimed at our sponsors and key stakeholders. I have a hand in organising this ceremony, but my main responsibilities are for the script and compering the evening.

BUCS National / West Midlands
I continue work in this area as I prepare to handover to the next regional chair when elected at BUCS Conference in July. There have been a number of issues within BUCS democratic structures recently, with a lot of frustration with lack of consultation and consistency with potential changes which has resulted in much proposed change being side-lined for another year.

I now prepare for our next meeting on 15th June which is a designated ‘handover’ meeting, training incoming sports sabbaticals. This is the first time this has been done in the region.

Now James has finished exams, we have been meeting up and I have been preparing my handover materials. Our VPS-elect will also be playing a role in Club Conference (committee training) on 11-12th June.

New Sports Facility
At the end of last semester, we had a student consultation session where students had their say on the plans for the new centre. This provided valuable feedback, and new considerations to the build. At present, the planning application is in and we hope to have a result by the end of summer. I continue to represent students at various meetings regarding the build.

As ever, thank you very much for reading,

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International Students’ Association AGM!

The International Students’ Association is holding its exciting Annual General Meeting on the 6th of June 5-8 pm in Guild Council Chambers!
Come along for FREE PIZZA and tell us what you would like the association to do for you!

There are 7 Committee Positions up for grabs!

AGM + Free Pizza

To help you choose which one you would like to run for, the ISA role descriptions and skills you will develop in each role have been compiled into a document.  You can access this document by clicking on the link.


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A brief update

Dear all,

I have been very inactive with blogging over a good few weeks.  I apologise for this.

Now that my coursework and everything degree-related is (almost) over, I have been working on many different projects within the Guild.  I will detail them further very soon.

Upcoming events include:

  • The International Students’ Association AGM on June the 6th, 5-8 pm in Guild Council Chambers;
  • A film night on June the 7th by the ISA;
  • The Community Day on June 10th, 10 am – 4 pm, where I am planning on making a “global flag” from Birmingham to the world; where people of all ages will print their hands on a strip of material;
  • The final Guild Council of this academic year on June 13th!

I am currently working with the ISAS on their Welcome events for next year, and am planning on training the new ISA committee in working together – through a team building workshop.  I am also working on Internationalising the Guild project, which would follow the Internationalisation strategy guidelines provided by the NUS.

I also attended the NUS Sections – International Students – Conference on May 9th-10th.  It was packed with elections, motions and debates.  I will indicate my votes and explanations shortly.



P.S. Good luck to all of you who still have exams left!

NUS = National Union of Students; which is the Union of all Unions in the United Kingdom.




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Postgraduate Council Tax Speech!

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Copyright © 2012 Zuki Majuqwana (VPHC). All Rights Reserved.

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