OUSU Council has passed a motion to grant graduate students a new Charter, outlining their rights with regards to the University.
The proposals, which will be put into action in the new academic year, was proposed by Paul Rollason and seconded by Ingrid Frater, OUSU Vice President for graduate students.
The motion noted, “Graduate students are often unaware of what rights and entitlements are guaranteed to them by University rules and regulations…[and] that graduate students with complaints and problems don’t always know what action they are entitled to take.”
The Charter will collate information, including course objectives, rent increases, college advisers and searching for private rooms.
Rollason , who is a graduate student himself, said of his proposal, “The motivation for the charter was basically the impression I was getting that a lot of graduates aren’t happy with their experience of the University or that things aren’t as they expected. They are willing to put up with a lot for the sake of being able to put Oxford on their CV.”
He added that he had been inspired to take the cause of graduate students after reading an article on the matter in the Guardian, in which two Oxford alumni criticised their graduate student experiences.
The students, former recipients of the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship, described “a frustrating academic experience” in an “outdated academic system”, where advisers “spend more time avoiding emails than supervising students”.
It went on to argue that ”DPhil students struggle to have supervisors read their dissertations before submission, and poor supervision is the rule, not the exception.”
Rollason added, “There is no transparency or accountability in anything the colleges or faculties do and students have no idea what they are entitled to or how to go about making sure they get it. This seems to result in tremendous apathy from the graduate populace, who don’t see any point in complaining or trying to make things better.”
Frater explained, “I would agree that a lot of the time information is clear and students do know procedures but because graduate students sit between their departments and college, the structure is a lot less clear for grads than undergrads.”
According to Rollason the key issue of concern is often to do with rent. He said, “My college’s graduate rent went up 14% last year, in spite of protests and agreements reached in previous years. The rent is going up by another 5-14% next year and they won’t tell us the exact amount until the end of this term (so I’ve heard, but no announcements have been made at all by the college).
“No one is willing or able to protest because they now realise their views don’t matter. I think there is also an implicit threat from colleges that rocking the boat will not make your life as a student easier.”
The charter will be accessible to MCRs and on the OUSU website. A similar charter, introduced a year ago, already exists for undergraduates.