At a government level (both locally and nationally), policy is where leaders make decisions about how to govern the country (and often includes the evidence they use to back up those decisions), and public affairs is the process by which organisations and individuals influence leaders when taking those decisions. It includes visiting and contacting politicians, as well as campaigning techniques targeted at decision-makers.
Sheffield Students’ Union works hard to represent your views to those people making decisions which will affect students or on things students care about.
Some 383 overseas students gave evidence to the Student Voice department, led by International Officer José Díaz de Aguilar Puiggari, explaining why four months - the current lenth of time international students can stay in the UK after graduation - is not long enough to find a job. They identified trends such as a need for work experience from their country of study, and the fact that the minimum salary for a graduate student to qualify for a visa is too high, particularly if they choose to stay in the north of the UK. This campaign continues: find out more.
The Student Advice Centre, SU Officers and Student Voice department assessed the draft recommended framework for how complaints and academic appeals are handled in Universities.
Student Voice worked with the Muslim chaplaincy, USIC (the University of Sheffield Islamic Circle) and the Student Advice Centre to assess the importance of Sharia-compliant student loans for Muslim students. 154 Muslim students told us that because of the increase in tuition fees, Sharia-compliant student loans were becoming ever more important. We submitted our response to the inquiry and in September the government announced that Sharia-compliant student loans will be introduced over the next three years.
In May 2014 Sheffield SU submitted evidence to the Political and Constitutional Reform Select Committee (a policy group of MPs in Parliament) based on over 2,000 student responses. The evidence suggested that young people would be much more likely to vote if they could do so online. Later that year SU President Ally Buckle and Student Voice staff members Richard Eastall and Eleanor Thompson gave oral evidence to the select committee, expanding on the information you gave and explaining that many students feel let down by the political establishment. All three were quoted in the committee’s final report, which also found that online voting should be considered in general elections.
During the academic year 2013–14, while the Immigration Bill was passing through the Houses of Parliament, we developed the #WeAreInternational campaign, collaborating with the University to promote the benefits of international students to our academic community and to the country as a whole and to welcome them to the UK. You can read about the elements of the Bill we chose to target in the two documents above. We were eventually successful in getting Landlord Visa Checks removed from the Bill.