Jacqui Marshall, Interim Chief, Operating Officer:
The University of Exeter is enjoying a sustained period of exceptional success. We are ranked solidly in the top ten in the main UK higher education league tables, we continue to strengthen our international reputation, and were recently named as The Time and The Sunday Times Sports University of the Year.
These remarkable achievements have been attained against a backdrop of unprecedented change within the Higher Education sector. In essence, Government funding for every university is becoming a thing of the past, with the onus now solely on each institution to be responsible for their own funding.
Why should this matter to our students? Quite simply, for Exeter to achieve its global ambitions and continue to enhance its standards and reputation- which in turn enhances the value of your degree across the glove- then we need to ensure that our strategy and long-term financial planning match that ambition.
This is not a simple task- but the rewards are worth it. Exeter attracts some of the very best academic staff and students not just from the UK, but worldwide. They come because of our outstanding reputation and our place on the global stage.
In order to reinforce these standards, we need to adapt and evolve to the changing landscape. This includes transforming the way we deliver services to meet the expectations that are rightly placed upon us from students and staff alike. It also means developing courses and programmes that compete with the best in the world, so we can continue to attract the brightest mind to our University.
Our Transformation Programme will ensure that we have the very best staff focusing on the right places, doing the right things. Becoming more efficient in our services means we can hire more world class academics, proactively respond to the changing face of the sector, and most importantly, continue to invest in the areas that our students and staff care most about.
The Guild and the University’s Library and Culture Services agreed to work together to create a stronger single combined music offer for students at our Exeter campuses. It was felt that it would be beneficial to bring two separate offices together and it was agreed that the Guild was the right place to manage student-focused extra-curricular activities.
Students are now much closer to decisions that shape how the service runs and what it offers and they are now actively involved in delivering music at Exeter. Staff in the University Music Office had the option to join the Students’ Guild, though some chose to take up the option of voluntary severance from the University instead. The Guild also had an additional budget of 72k to fund these services.
This has been a good example of the University and the Guild, both management and sabbatical team, working together in a student led way to enhance the student experience.
Dom Self, Former ExTunes Vice-President:
Last term the University cut all support staff for music as part of its staff streaming process. It also reduced the amount of funding music receives from the University. Four members of staff lost their jobs and consequently all of their responsibilities were dumped upon myself and five other students, with hardly any prior warning, during exam time. The cuts themselves, but also the way they were handled, have made a lot of students involved in music incredibly angry.
Many of us didn’t see the need to cut music at all. Last year the entirety of the programme- the largest extra-curricular music programme in the country- only cost £100,000. This covered some staff’s salaries, society grants. a tuition programme, maintenance and purchasing budget for equipment, and insurance for equipment and events. Given how many millions of pounds the University likes to tell us it has just invested in a new building/sport facilities/research, it is laughable that they couldn’t find the money to retain the small music budget or keep the Music office open.
The Music Office staff weren’t just people who sat at a desk and rarely communicated with students-they went above and beyond, sacrificing evenings and weekends to support us. In return for their phenomenal work, the University shut their office, cut their jobs, and then prevented them from speaking out or even setting foot on University premises due to contractual clauses.
We took over the ExTunes committee in the hour following staff redundancy announcements. We were told everything was up in the air and that all the things previously done by the Music Office were now our responsibility- distributing funding, looking after equipment, running the Music Learning Programme, managing booking systems, policing music card memberships. We were a new committee of six student volunteers all in full time degrees now expected to do the work of four members of paid staff. We were told music would merge into the Guild, but no-one was able to tell us when the new Guild staff would start, or what their responsibilities would be.
While individually a couple of Guild staff- Matt Bate and Gareth Oughton- were very reassuring during this time, the Guild did not offer enough support, and the University completely discarded the issue and offered zero help. Communication was terrible, and often the behaviour of the paid staff was appalling. I was personally ambushed on campus in grad week, when I had been drinking, and was asked to make logistical, promotional and financial decisions about Music at Exeter without access to any emails, notes, society accounts, or consultation with other committee members.
The University loves showing off the success of our music societies and is very happy to publicly give money to high profile musical projects- such as Big Band playing at Montreux Jazz Festival this year, or Semitoned’s USA tour. Yet it also cut the music degree in 2004, ignored huge student protest about changes to facilities in 2013, deliberately misled music students in meetings about changes to the teaching day this year, and announced the cut to music on the penultimate day of term two, via one of the Sabbs, which seemed like a very cynical move to squash student remonstration.
I still love music at Exeter, and am really enjoying the practical side of playing in various societies. That said I have had to step down from my role on ExTunes committee due to the ridiculous amount of stress it was causing. I feel incensed at the situation and how it was dealt with. The University foes not seem to care about the wellbeing, opinions or interests of its students.