Amelia Durkin is a third-year law student running for VP of Education. The job is not easy. The Vice President of Education for the Students’ Union has to coordinate with both academic staff and student bodies, they advise the Board of Studies and they coordinate with the Programme Representatives. But Durkin says that she is up for the challenge.
One of the key things that made Durkin run for the position is the impact of disruptions. “I have been talking to friends across different courses and I think we are all left with the same feeling: ‘I’m not getting my money’s worth.’” She adds that educational facilities and the feedback process have long been a difficulty in the students’ life: “This is my chance to do something about it.”
Durkin is running on a platform based on her connections with other City students. Although some of the points in her manifesto could point to a higher focus towards CASS and City Law students, she explains that she actually knows that the same things are happening across different schools.
“The feedback process in CASS and Law is terrible, you can write 3,000 words and barely get two lines in response, but this happens across City. I’ve had people from engineering talking to me about the same problem.” Durkin says that if she wins, she will try to implement a feedback scheme, in which lecturers will have to write a minimum word count, for all university courses.
Another problem recurrent in the university is the involvement of personal tutors, she says. “They act like they are just ticking a box.” Durkin thinks the figure of a personal tutor could be a very positive one for the students – both form an academic and a personal point of view – but that, at the moment, they are not reliable. “A lot of them don’t even bother replying to emails.” She remarks that it could also benefit more academic staff and people at the mental health service. “They can help to take some pressure off those services.”
Sports is also hugely important for Durkin. She is one of the netball captains, in a season where the girls are winning games after games. She says getting into the team during her second year helped her to be more confident. It has also given her the leadership skills needed. “I think I am a logical but approachable captain, I set boundaries, but my girls know that I will always be there for them. Making sure they know you’re there for them but you’re also an advocate for them.”
For Durkin, sports is a massive part of City and students who choose to be part of a team shouldn’t be penalised. As a VP of education she wants to change how they are treated. She is aware of some of the changes to help accommodate both their athletic activities with their studies, such as have Wednesdays afternoons off, but she is not sure how well that has been implemented. “If a student has to go away for a game, they should be granted absent cards, and not suffer repercussions in their studies.”
Unlike other candidates, Durkin has promised to pay more attention to care experienced students. “Currently, we’re all under the same department in the university, and the Students’ Union doesn’t have representation for us as it does for LGBTQ or disabled students,” she says. “There needs to be more of a community, and there needs to be someone who helps us represent our academic interests.”
She knows all too well about this. From a very young age, Durkin had social services involved in her life, and they still are today. Her mother survived a domestic abuse relationship, which left her with PTSD, unable to care for her daughter. Durkin’s grandparents became her carers. She says that this situation has taught her about adversity. Whether it’s having a disability, being discriminated against because of your religion, or your sexuality, Durkin says she knows how it can impact student life. “I understand what adversity feels like, what it is like to be someone who doesn’t fit into a box.”
All of this, her netball experience, her involvement in the care system, even her works in the mentorship program, have provided Amelia Durkin with the skills necessary to be a candidate in the race for VP of education. “I know City from a lot of different perspectives, and I know how to adapt to different types of people. I’m comfortable with having difficult conversations.”