SRC 2013 interviews VP Education: Dan Paris

Published

Louise Wilson

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Paris has no experience within the SRC, but his involvement with SNP Students as National Convenor has meant he is well-known across campus. His manifesto is shaped by his political ideologies, particular in light of fees and creating a more democratic relationship between students and University management. In three words, Paris describes his focus as: “education for all”.

Guardian: Your campaign and manifesto is much more politically focuses that the other candidates. Why have you chosen this specific focus?

Paris: I think there’s a bit of an issue with the way the SRC is seen by a lot of people, which leads to quite a lot of disillusionment. I think we can see that from the fact that some positions are uncontested. It’s almost as if we’re just picking between bureaucrats, whereas I think if we’re going to have an SRC, if we’re going to pay people to represent students, we should be taking position on wider issues. I think that the SRC can actually play a useful role if we do that, especially when you consider we’re a non-NUS university, there’s actually a real need for the SRC to do that. I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily a political manifesto, but it is taking a stance on policies, which I think is an important thing to do because the role is partially to do with influencing decisions taken through the year, but it’s also to do with education policies on a national level.

Guardian: You also mention the Fair Access in the Legal Profession campaign, which has already been campaigned for but didn’t get out of the water. How do you plan to do things differently?

Paris: It’s an important campaign and it’s not an easy campaign to win, and I’m under no illusions about that. But I think that student representatives should be taking on these sorts of issues. It’s not actually that difficult initially to solve, there are several solutions for this. I think the SRC should get really involved with the campaign, to put pressure on the university to support it, and to put pressure on the government to support it. Glasgow SRC shouldn’t have to campaign by itself, but as part of a wider campaign and movement. It can actually, I think, be a successful campaign. I think it’s really important as well because law has got this reputation of it being a very middle-class profession, and all the people going to the same schools working for the same people that their dad knew, and no other profession has the boundaries, the barriers, that law does. It’s a practical and a moral issue, it’s something that needs to be tackled.

Guardian: Can you tell me a bit more about how you plan to build on the schemes for wider access?

Paris: Glasgow have actually done some really good stuff on widening access and the fact that there’s 800 places going to be funded over the next 4 years is a good step forward, but it’s something that I think we can always work better on. It is not necessarily providing spaces specifically for people from deprived backgrounds, but helping them getting there in the first places and helping them to retain them. Now summer school is something which has been proven to be effective in doing that, it’s the one thing that I think we should have a real focus on and try to set a target to increase take-up.

The other thing that I propose is having a mentoring scheme, which links prospective applicants with existing students. We should just make it a lot easier for them to understand the basic stuff like how to fill in applications, what you could be doing to put in your personal statements before you get here, but also what is university like before you get here, what is the workload like, how is it different from school. These sorts of things can really help people when they’re applying and when they get here. It’s also something that can be advantageous for students to take part in it, it’d be really worth the experience. It’s something that would make them more employable in the future, once you’ve done that sort of volunteering work.

Guardian: You mention wanting to work towards a more democratic structure for the running of the University – what about the existing structure do you believe is undemocratic and how do you plan to target this?

Paris: The governance review is being discussed in Scottish parliament right now, and that was a really interesting report we’ve done that how the university court and senate structure could be more democratic, and have more of an input from staff and students. That’s something that can be done at the national level and it’s something the universities are quite resistant to. I think we need to really strongly indicate to the university that it’s not something that they should accept begrudgingly, but engage with to the best of their ability.

I think there’s been a bit of an issue where there’s been a move towards a lot of business interest – which is fine to have, there is a relevance there to see how university should be run, but university should be primarily about learning. I think the best people to make those kinds of decisions are the staff and students here.

Guardian: How will the involvement with School Representatives and College Convenors be improved in order to, as you state in your manifesto, shape the SRC’s agenda?

Paris: The key thing here is just to make sure that the basics are done, in terms of having regular meetings and actually following stuff up, and ensuring that concerns are taken to the levels that are necessary. To be honest, I think it’s just something that anyone who gets into the job should be capable of doing. It’s part of the job, an important part of the job, and I don’t want to downplay it, but it’s something that should just be expected to be done and I think that if the VP Education isn’t doing that then that’s up for the rest of the SRC to really take issue with.

Guardian: What would you like to see for the redevelopment of the Western Infirmary site?

Paris: It’s really good to see the university moving forward, and in the current financial climates that it’s trying to expand in terms of the services we offer. I think the important thing is just that there’s as strong a student and staff influence into the process as possible.The SRC should be shaping that process, the consultation period should be as widely engaged with, with the actual entire population. It should be about what do they want to see, rather than what people in the SRC want to see, what university management want to see.