By Peter Jenkins
The Strathclyde Student Congress took place in the Court Senate Room in the Collins building on February 1st. The event allowed class reps the opportunity to voice students’ questions and complaints to Strathclyde University principal, Sir Jim McDonald.
McDonald preceded the Q&A session with a speech where he described the class reps as ‘a very important proxy group’ for students’ opinions, as well commenting on the result of last June’s EU referendum, and how he intended to insulate students from the potential repercussions of Brexit.
This issue was addressed by the opening question, which asked whether a ‘hard Brexit’ or an independent Scotland, as a result of a second independence referendum, would affect tuition fees for international students.
McDonald responded that Strathclyde ‘wants EU students, and to be part of a connected European community’. He added that Strathclyde is working with several European universities through Horizon 2020 -described on the European Commission website as ‘the biggest EU Research and Innovation programme ever’ – and that the university intended to maintain these connections.
Despite negative reaction from the class reps towards the new 11-week semester, McDonald stated that there was no chance of a quick reversal to the previous 12-week system. The principal argued that the switch allows students to take on seasonal employment, while also bringing the schedule into line with that of other local universities. He was also keen to point out that the change had come about because of student feedback which indicated that the move would be popular, as well as noting that the previous Student Union had been a proponent of the new system.
Also on the agenda was a problem regarding visas for PhD students from abroad, who often find that the need to extend their visas to complete their research jeopardises their education. This was answered with assurances that the university is lobbying to have students removed from the ‘immigration count’, while also stating that 96% of visa applications from PhD students are accepted.