Spotlight: What Your Officers Are Fighting for During the Coronavirus Pandemic
This week, we’ve caught up with the current Science, Engineering and Environment Officer, Ade, to find out what he has been doing to advocate for students during this crisis. Ade can truly say that he has a mandate from students – not only is he the current SEE Officer, he is also the incoming SEE Officer, meaning that his policies were popular and his campaign wide-reaching enough to get him elected twice.
Ade is also an international student, who first came to the UK four years ago to study at Salford. As such, he has been taking on work related to the welfare of the University’s international students since the start of his tenure as SEE Officer. The urgency of this work has become apparent during the current pandemic, as COVID-19 has both exacerbated issues faced by international students across the country and created new problems for them.
For example, the coronavirus lockdown has adversely affected businesses worldwide, disrupting the incomes of many international students and their sponsors. Restricted by the terms of their visas – which allow for just 20 hours of work per week – internationals find it comparatively harder to supplement COVID-triggered shortfalls with casual work, should they so choose. Many of Salford’s international students have also returned home, to ride out the crisis on familiar turf, with family. They now face – on top of the universal hardships of a global pandemic – uncertainty regarding when they should return to the UK, as well as the added stress of navigating online learning and assessments under (in many cases) significant time differences with the UK, uncooperative broadband, and no way to make overseas phone calls when dealing with time-sensitive issues. More abstractly, the ‘value for money’ of international
students’ study experience has decreased, as due to COVID-19 they have been unable to experience the UK as they may have originally planned.
Ade’s work has focused on Salford’s International Crisis Fund (ICF), the purpose of which, according to its section on the Money Matters webpage, is to “help international students who are experiencing a crisis that has arisen as a result of a significant and unexpected event that could not have been predicted in their financial planning.” This, as specifically stated on the webpage, includes the coronavirus pandemic. If accepted, students could receive up to £2,000 per academic year for a maximum of three years.
Ade’s campaign for the University to relax eligibility criteria for applications to the International Crisis Fund has yielded impressive results – most notably, students no longer have to show evidence of a financial crisis, provide 6 months of bank statements, or to have paid 75% of their tuition fees. Ade’s work has also been crucial in raising awareness of the ICF among staff – who have thus been able to refer increased numbers of students – and among international students themselves. The impact of this campaign is clear; compared to their expected frequency during this time of year, applications to the ICF have increased at least threefold. Furthermore, due to the conversations the University has had with Ade, they are highly likely to permanently retain some of the changes made to the ICF application process.
Ade’s campaigning on behalf of international students during COVID-19 has been centered around the slogan: “We see you, We hear you, and We are here for you.” He wants to make sure that all Salford’s internationals feel like their opinions are being heard, and that they can count on support from their Students’ Union. Recently, Ade also appeared in an International Student Q&A with Jo Purves, our Pro Vice-Chancellor, International and Regional Partnerships, to ask the important questions on behalf of Salford’s international community. During this Q&A, Jo also emphasised how integral international students are to the “fabric” of the University, detailing the measures which have so far been taken to contribute to their wellbeing.
In Ade’s own words, “The work I have been doing and will continue to do is very dear to my heart, as I can only imagine the extent of the challenges faced by international students during COVID-19. Every time I go to work, albeit by the click of my mouse, I ask myself: what’s the one thing I can do to make the student experience better for international students? And then I go ahead and do everything in my power to make that happen.”
Ade’s inbox is always open – if you would like to ask for his advice or discuss any issue with him, please do get in touch at A.Oni1@salford.ac.uk.
If you wish to apply to the International Crisis Fund, please contact Money Matters at firstname.lastname@example.org.