Sebastian Graves-Read

Candidate for Vice President Education and Democracy

  • Better Personal Academic Tutor system
  • Library provision and space
  • CV workshop and career workshops
  • Democratic accountability review
  • Open door policy

Why vote for me?

My name is Sebastian and I am a masters year law student. I am running for the position of VP Education and Democracy because I feel like my experience in educational leadership and representative roles, such as sitting on the Academic Board with the heads of school and Vice Chancellor of my previous university, have prepared me to represent the educational interests of all students. Being a post-graduate student also gives me a unique perspective for two reasons: I can relate to the struggles of the undergraduates as I was one myself only last year and at the same time I can understand the strain of being a postgraduate student.

In my time as an undergraduate I was a faculty representative for a year and was a course representative for all three years of my degree so I understand the needs and the struggles involved in these positions. This means I have a good perspective which will allow me best assist the entire student academic support structure when issues arise. I have also held other leadership positions, I care a great deal about charity and am a trustee and director of a local charity and held 6 committee positions in my undergraduate degree. I am currently in the committee for Enactus and am helping with the leadership of that society.

The personal academic tutor system could be a very effective one, some tutors are very good and a real support for students but equally some tutors are not able to offer the same level of support. This is an issue that I think can be addressed in several ways, peer mentoring between tutors being one such way to go around addressing it. Raising awareness of the services available to students from the university is one which I think will help streamline the system and relieve some of the pressure on tutors and could be another way to address it.

The library has lots of great study space but quite often during exam season space simply runs out. I want to explore with the university whether when that happens if other space in the university could be used. This could be anything from a set number of rooms being reserved for study to a new area being opened up.

Something I always found useful were CV and career workshops, I want to ensure this approach is built into every course so when students finish their degrees they know how to go about getting a job.

I want to create a review of how democratic representatives are accountable to the student body as a whole and make sure that the work that we all do is transparent and available.

Finally, I want to have a policy where students should feel free to talk with me, if there are issues they feel I am missing or that their course representatives maybe aren’t reporting to be comfortable emailing or coming and talking to me about it.


Questions & Answers Ask me a Question

In your manifesto you state that you want to have an open door policy and that students should feel comfortable approaching you. Surely this is something to be expected from the role and as such shouldn’t need to be stated? If not, do you feel that the union doesn’t currently have an open door policy?

I think it should go without saying, but for many international and postgrad students who are new to the university it may not be obvious. I think making students who are new to the university more aware that the sabbatical officers are people who are approachable is not a bad thing.

This question was also only asked to SebastianAnswered by Sebastian on 21/02/19 16:47

Out of all of the conversations gripping Higher Education at the moment, the concept of "value-for-money" is certainly an interesting one. What does "value-for-money" at Southampton look like to you, and how will you (as VP Education & Democracy) work towards it?

This is a really good question, and one that I briefly mention on my Surge interview. I think there are a number of 'conventional' ways to measure value for money when it comes to the University of Southampton. Quality of teaching is the first obvious one, this is measured to some extend in the teaching excellency framework (a government metric of teaching in HE institutions) and other such metrics. For me to work towards something though it is much more important for me to focus on student satisfaction, how happy are students with what they are being taught, are they achieving what they are expecting and if not why not. I would simply do my best to ensure students are getting the most out of their education here, and help the other sabbatical officers (such as VP Activities) ensure that the extra-curricular societies and clubs that we run are filling out the rest of the tuition fees that we all pay each year.

This question was also asked to Joanne Lisney, Jess Harding, Evelyn HayesAnswered by Sebastian on 27/02/19 16:51

Lecture capture (AKA recorded lectures) are becoming more and more common at Southampton, but there has been little appetite for a universal policy on it. What are your thoughts on lecture capture, and how would you like to see it used at the University?

I think its really useful for a number of reasons, it allows students to revise things they may not have noted down, it means that students who are ill or unable to attend lectures can access the same teaching as those who are able to attend. I think a universal policy has to take all of this into account, and when something works as well as it does without a policy make sure students really want a unifying policy behind it. If they do then it will be a question of how that would look and what students would want to see in it which would more fully inform how I approach it.

This question was also asked to Joanne Lisney, Jess Harding, Evelyn HayesAnswered by Sebastian on 27/02/19 16:47

The focus of all candidates has been exclusively on the remit of the old VP Education role. But SUSU is currently going through a democratic crisis. Elections engagement is dropping from year to year. AGMs, once bustling events with hundreds of people in them, have declined to a handful of people hidden away in the most remote corner of the Café. If elected, it will be your job to fix this. What will you do?

I will start by looking backwards, seeing what used to go well in elections and AGMs, looking to see what changed to make it less appealing and engaging. Part of my manifesto is also about improving democratic accountability, I think if this were to happen people may take the democracy side of things more seriously and engage with the union more. Aside from that I intend to also go and speak to students, understand what they don't find interesting about the Union democracy and finding out how they would be more engaged by it.

This question was also asked to Joanne Lisney, Jess Harding, Evelyn HayesAnswered by Sebastian on 27/02/19 16:44

How would you deal with any backlash from students who do not agree with a decision that you have made, even if students had been consulted in the decision-making process?

I'd explain clearly where student input had been given and then tell the student how they can try and change the decision - I'm open to the fact that at times mistakes will be made so having those students who see them speak up will be really valuable.

This question was also asked to Joanne Lisney, Jess Harding, Evelyn HayesAnswered by Sebastian on 05/03/19 10:48

What sets you apart from the other candidates?

I think a mix of two things - my experience as a post-grad, I understand the struggles of post-grad and undergrad study so will be able to deal with those efficiently. Secondly, my experience in running charities and organisations means that I am the perfect candidate for democracy because not only have I been exposed to Union democracy in the past as an ex LGBT+ Officer, but I have also been exposed to charity governance which is structured in a very similar way. These two things means that I can stick out from the crowd.

This question was also asked to Joanne Lisney, Jess Harding, Evelyn HayesAnswered by Sebastian on 05/03/19 10:51

The union has come under fire this year due to sabbatical staff being unprofessional on their work accounts. In your role you represent 24,000 student's views, not just your own. Would you be able to separate personal and professional social media and feelings?

Absolutely, I already represent a charity and have to be aware of what I post online for reputational reasons. This means my personal account isn't something I am overly opinionated on. I have also been a student officer before which means I have already managed to separate my personal and professional accounts. This is also important in 'real life' so to speak, I think we need some awareness of what we do and say so we don't have more sabbatical officers having to resign for inappropriate behaviour and this is something I'd like to work on if I get elected.

This question was also asked to Joanne Lisney, Jess Harding, Evelyn HayesAnswered by Sebastian on 06/03/19 11:25

How would you handle a disagreement with another sabbatical?

Dispute resolution is something that is quite natural for me, I'm a very open minded person and love a compromise so I would take a step back and understand both sides of the issue and try and find the middle ground.

This question was also asked to Joanne Lisney, Jess Harding, Evelyn HayesAnswered by Sebastian on 05/03/19 10:52


Sebastian has not spent any of their budget yet