Student Services News

News from the Student Services Centre (Carrington Building)

Author: student-services-news (Page 1 of 48)

Me@Reading Competition

The Me@Reading student portal is one of the main channels allowing students to access important news, interesting articles and details about upcoming events. It’s a ‘one-stop-shop’ for all your key resources, from Blackboard to your emails.

Me@Reading is tailored to you, meaning that you’ll receive all of the necessary information from your department, as well as other relevant content you may be interested in. It’s a great way of making sure that you’re kept up-to-date with what’s going on around campus throughout the year.

We want to know what you think about the portal and how we can improve it. Complete our survey by 21 February to share your ideas and be in with a chance to win some Amazon vouchers! Answer four quick questions to enter the draw and let us know your thoughts.

There’s 1 x £100 voucher, 2 x £50 vouchers and 3 x £25 vouchers to be won!

Winners will be contacted by 28 February.

Personal safety with PC Julie

Winter is in full swing, which means longer, darker nights across campus. PC Julie is back with some advice on personal safety.

Hello everyone and may I wish you all a happy and safe new year!

This month I want to talk to you about personal safety. Universities are often seen as an easy target for those looking to commit a crime – be that theft of valuables from student halls or the library, selling drugs, or assault.

Recently there have been some incidents where students have been harassed on campus, especially females who are on their own late at night. If you’re walking alone in the dark you’re much more at risk of becoming a target of crime, so please protect yourself and reduce this risk by following these tips:

  • Be aware of your surroundings – plan your route in advance, stick to lit pathways and don’t listen to music – you won’t be able to hear someone approaching if you have your headphones in!
  • Avoid walking alone late at night at all costs – if you must walk try to walk with friends, or take an alternative form of transport like the bus or taxi. RUSU’s safe taxi scheme means you can get home even if you’ve got no cash.
  • Save the University Security number in your phone and use their chaperone service – if you’re walking alone on campus you can call Security on 0118 378 7799 (0118 378 6300 in an emergency) to let them know your route and they will track you on camera until you’ve safely reached your destination. There are over 600 cameras on campus and the University’s experienced team can reach you in minutes if you need help.

Since the beginning of the academic year, we’ve also seen an increase in thefts from the Library. Students are still leaving personal possessions on desks while going to the toilet or getting a coffee. We have had laptops and purses stolen, so please do not leave your valuables unattended when studying.

Drugs also continue to be a concern. Last year we had a bad batch of Class A drugs in the Reading area which caused death to users (non-students). Drugs ruin lives and future careers so please be sensible and do not make yourself a victim.

I’m looking forward to 2019 and seeing what it brings. Please do come and say hello to me and other police officers when you see us around campus.

PC Julie Susel

Library Spring Term opening times

Welcome back! We hope you had a wonderful break. Please see the Library opening times for the Spring Term, including amendments to opening times over the Easter break. Click here for more information on Library services, or contact library@reading.ac.uk. You can also call on 0118 378 8770.

Library @URS

Study space, Café, IT, Study Advice, Course Collection & other Library services

Spring Term

Saturday 12 January – Sunday 31 March

Mon–Fri     24 hours

Sat             Open until 21:00

Sun            Open from 08:30

Easter holidays

Monday 1 April: Open until 19:00

Tuesday 2 April – Thursday 4 April: 08:30-19:00

Friday 5 April: 08:30-17:00

Saturday 6 April – Monday 15 April

Mon–Fri     24 hours

Sat             Open until 21:00

Sun            Open from 08:30

Tuesday 16 April: Open until Midnight

Wednesday 17 April – Monday 22 April: Closed for University Easter Closure

Tuesday 23 April: Open from 08:30

Library Building

Print resources with some library help.

Spring Term

Saturday 12 January – Sunday 31 March

Mon–Sun  09:00–22:00

Easter Holidays

Monday 1 April – Friday 5 April: 09:00-17:00

Saturday 6 April – Tuesday 16 April:

Mon–Sun  09:00–22:00

Wednesday 17 April – Monday 22 April: Closed for University Easter Closure

Special Collections Services

Please contact specialcollections@reading.ac.uk  or call 0118 378 8660 before visiting to ensure access to materials.

Mon–Fri     09:00–17:00

Saturday and Sunday – Closed

Wednesday 17 April – Monday 22 April: Closed for University Easter Closure

Highlights from our Share a Sofa event

In November, you were invited to share a sofa with your Deputy Vice-Chancellor and five Full-Time RUSU Officers, for a chat about how they’re working together to improve your student experience.

It was good to see so many of you take a seat, and have a conversation about the issues that are important to you.

Below, we’ve gathered some of the highlights from the afternoon. Read on to find out more information about what was discussed!

 

Q: The University emphasises diversity and inclusion to students. What is it doing to promote these values for staff?

A: [PROFESSOR BROOKS] Really good question. A couple of years ago, the University appointed two Deans of Diversity and Inclusion to lead our agenda for this across the whole of the University. That in itself shows the value that we place on diversity and inclusion.

Also, for the past few years, we’ve been looking at our mix of staff – on committees, working groups and councils – and pursuing balance. Not just gender balance, but balance in all areas. We want diversity and inclusion to be represented at all levels.

We’ve also been working on our curriculum, through our Curriculum Framework programme. We are working to ensure that the content of our courses is fully reflective of what we expect in terms of behaviours and expectations for the diverse range of experiences that our students are exposed to. Staff are integral to this as they are involved in putting the programmes together.

In addition, we have something called the People Plan, that’s being run by the University for our staff, to ensure again that our values are very clearly spelled out. This very much ties into the LGBT+ agenda. We have a very large population of staff and students living here – around 20,000 – and we’re all very different. We appreciate that, and want to work together positively. And I believe that we’re doing it.

 

Q: How can students that haven’t received student finance (in the context of a change of circumstances) deal with these delays?

A: [PROFESSOR BROOKS] The first thing I would say is that it’s really important that the student alerts the University to the fact that they are in difficulty as soon as they can. They should do that by going to Student Services, in the Carrington Building, and following the process there for reporting problems. If they feel uncomfortable with doing this, certainly they should raise the issue with their Academic Tutor, and of course with RUSU’s advisers. We can’t do anything until we know that there’s a problem, whether it’s to do with finance, their wellbeing and mental health, or some other issue outside of the University that’s affecting their studies, I really would encourage students to make us aware of a problem as soon as is possible.

We have mechanisms for helping, specifically with the financial element. We have a hardship fund at the University, which has been available for many years. It is used by students, but it’s not used as fully as we would expect it to be.

If the hardship fund is not available for that particular student (and there are some instances where it won’t be), there will be other mechanisms available to help them get through that difficult period.

 

Q: Is the Library going to be on track, in terms of schedule? Is it a year’s time that it’s meant to be finished?

A: [PROFESSOR BROOKS] The current and expected end point for the Library refurbishment is autumn 2019 – this completion date has never actually changed. There have been a number of unforeseeable issues, as is common with any large-scale building project. For example, more asbestos has been found than was originally anticipated. In these instances, we have been working with our contractor to manage the issues as they arise, without seriously affecting the timeline for delivery. As things are now, I don’t have any reason to believe that the work will extend beyond autumn 2019.

As you already know, at the beginning of this term we opened the Ground floor and First floor of the Library, providing additional study space and a café. It’s a fabulous facility and I encourage students to use it.

 

Q: What’s your favourite part about being Deputy Vice-Chancellor?

A: [PROFESSOR BROOKS] I love working at the University. I’ve worked here for many years. But I think the best part of working in a university is engaging with the students. It absolutely is. That’s why we’re here as an institution, training students for the future.

 

Q: How are you looking to engage with students?

A: [PROFESSOR BROOKS] As you know, we do a lot of work with RUSU, particularly this year in looking at new ways to engage with the wider student body. As an institution, we’ve always worked very well with the Students’ Union. We’ve worked well with our Course and School reps as well.

The challenge, however, is that there are many more students than those individuals, who are really valuable in terms of giving us feedback. What we want to understand from the wider student body is what really worries you? What are the issues? What can we do to improve your student experience? What do you like about being at Reading? What can we make better?

So we’re looking at mechanisms for doing that. Obvious routes are via the annual NSS and UKES surveys as well as mid- and end of module feedback. But there will be other routes, too, so any ideas that you have, or other students have, in terms of mechanisms that we might be able to achieve that, would be very welcome.

 

Q: How will you choose the new Vice-Chancellor?

A: [PROFESSOR BROOKS] That’s a very good question. It’s not an elected position, as some of the others are in the University. When appointing a new Vice-Chancellor, we work with a head-hunter company, and we provide that company with detailed information about the type of individual we believe would be right to lead this great Institution.

Those head-hunters then go worldwide, and search for candidates for us to consider. We then decide on the ones we’d like to take forward for further consideration. We have a group of academic staff, independent Council members, and the President of RUSU who are appointed as the panel who will interview candidates.

Now, the final decision isn’t made by only that panel. It will involve the short-listed candidates meeting the students, a wide range of staff, and external stakeholders. Everybody will have an opportunity, in these different areas of a very wide community, to feed into the decision-making process of who we should appoint.

There’s no reason why we shouldn’t have an existing member of staff apply, of a certain seniority. The normal appointments of Vice-Chancellors, particularly for an institution like Reading, would be drawn from at least a Pro-Vice-Chancellor level, but more likely a Deputy-Vice-Chancellor or even a Vice-Chancellor in another institution applying to us.

 

Q: I’m currently a third year Pharmacy student, and I am aware that a new Health and Life Sciences building is being built.  What advantages do you think that this will bring to students at the University in the future?

A: [PROFESSOR BROOKS] First of all, I’m pleased that you’re a Pharmacy student – I was a Pharmacy student myself once! And I also was the first Head of Pharmacy at Reading. So I’m very interested in the development of that particular area.

The HLS building is replacing facilities that are now simply life-expired. They need upgrading, they need to be improved, and the capacity of those labs needs to be increased as well.

By providing a new building that is purpose-built, with teaching space as well as research labs, to support the types of work that pharmacists and biological scientists are involved in, has got to be the way forward to give the best experience for our students. If we didn’t do that, I think we would be doing them a disservice, and not providing you with the best facilities.

The idea will be, when this new building comes on-stream, which is in a couple of years’ time – it’s already making great progress – is that it will have a lifespan of around 30 years. So, we’re providing state-of-the-art facilities for you to train in, and investing in the future.

 

Q: We have a question regarding counselling and there being six hours per person. The students do not feel this is enough, and are wondering if funding can be put in place to enhance our existing counselling services.

A: [PROFESSOR BROOKS] I think that’s a really important question. Hopefully you and the wider student body have seen that the University has done a lot to support mental health and wellbeing for students and staff. Recently of note is the creation of our new Welfare Team of six specialists, who are able to provide support to students particularly suffering with their mental health.

We’ve already seen significant engagement with this team. They’ve only been operating for six to seven weeks, but we’ve had 300 students already engage with them.

When it comes to the six sessions, this is quite a standard offering that’s given, even by the NHS. If you go to your GP, very often six sessions will be the maximum that you’re given – at least in the first instance. There will always be different levels of need, though, and for us in some instances, based on evaluation, there will be a referral on to another team that might be outside of the University. It may then be that the particular student may benefit from a different approach – so there are a number of different provisions. What I would say is that the earlier that a student engages with the services, the better, because there’s more chance of getting some benefit early on if you engage when there’s first an issue.

Mental health and wellbeing is one of our top priorities, and we need to keep it as one of our top priorities. We always have to balance the total amount of money and resource that we have available, with where the money should go to support the overall student experience.

We have absolutely put more money into our Student Services over the last couple of years, because we’ve seen student numbers grow. Irrespective of that, we could still put more money into this area, because I think there’s very much an awareness that there are many more students that require support in a way that they perhaps didn’t do a few years ago. We’ll continue to consider what the best services are that we can give to our students. And we’ll work very closely as we always have with the Students’ Union and the wider student body to deliver on that.

 

Q: What does the University offer LGBT+ students?

A: [NOZOMI]: In starting this job, I’ve realised how much the University does in this area, and I think it’s really important to be able to communicate that to the whole student body, and show that we are taking the right steps towards a totally inclusive environment.

[PROFESSOR BROOKS]  What I’ve certainly noticed here in the last two or three years, is a significant improvement in awareness and general support of such activities that are going on. We expect that not just from our student body, but of our staff as well – which links to what I said earlier about our Deans of Diversity and Inclusion, and the People Plan.

[NOZOMI]: A lot of what we want to do around LGBT+ history month is also in collaboration with the University. Within that we’ll be launching pronoun badges, and taking a look at intersectionality within the LGBT+ community. Myself and Ellie Highwood – one of the Deans for Diversity and Inclusion – have looked at the idea of bringing more cultural history into LGBT+ history month as well, because we’ve noticed that sometimes we only hear about the news happening in this country, or in the west generally. During LGBT+ history month, we’ll also be looking at things that happen globally as well.

[PROFESSOR BROOKS]  And also, as Nozomi says, the University does a lot of work with RUSU in this area, and it will be putting on its own public events that will be promoted on the website, and across the University campus. But we do a lot of this particular activity with RUSU, and it works very well.

[NOZOMI]: I think we hear a lot of student feedback about what kinds of events they want to see, or like, and what students think have worked really well. That’s really good for us at RUSU to hear, so we can feed it back to the University knowing that they will take that into consideration and help us with it.

 

The next ‘Share a Sofa’ event will be hosted in the spring term, with more details to be released soon. We hope you will join us then to continue the conversation!

Counselling and Wellbeing service Christmas closures

Please note that due to staff annual leave, there will be some temporary changes to the Counselling and Wellbeing Service opening times from the week beginning 17 December.

Opening times will be as follows:

Monday 17 December – Afternoon registration only (1pm-3pm)

Tuesday 18 December – Morning registration only (10am-12pm)

Wednesday 19 December – Afternoon registration only (1pm-3pm)

Thursday 20 December – Morning registration only (10am-12pm)

Friday 21 December – Closed for new registrations.

Wednesday 2 January – Closed for new registrations.

Thursday 3 January – Morning registration only (10am-12pm)

Friday 4 January – Morning registration only (10am-12pm)

Message from the Acting Vice-Chancellor: harassment and bullying

On 12 November, we launched a joint #NeverOK campaign with RUSU against harassment and bullying. We are committed to providing a safe environment for all our students and staff, and we do not tolerate any form of bullying, harassment or discrimination.

You may have seen in the media issues about behaviour towards one of our academics on the basis of publicly stated views on a current public policy issue. Freedom of speech, debate and academic freedom lie at the very heart of university life. A critical part of the university experience is learning how to form and defend an argument. We all have issues we feel passionately about and we may express those feelings in strong terms. But however important the issue and whatever the strength of our convictions, bullying and harassment have absolutely no place in our community. That is completely non-negotiable, whatever the issue or the circumstance, and we will take appropriate disciplinary action against anyone who engages in this sort of unacceptable behaviour.

I consider the respect and support that we demonstrate towards each other here at Reading to be an immense strength of our community, so I know you will join me in supporting the #NeverOK campaign. You can find out more about the campaign and the support we provide to students on the Essentials webpages.

Kind regards.

Robert

Robert Van de Noort

Acting Vice-Chancellor

Christmas Closures 2018

Christmas Closures

Please note that due to staff annual leave, our student services will be closed over the holiday period, between 21 December and 2 January.

The Library

The Library will be closed from Monday 24 December until Wednesday 2 January, and will be self-service only on some days. For more information about Library closures and borrowing during the holiday period, take a look at the Library blog.

Student Services

Support Centres will close on 21 December and reopen on 2 January.

The Disability Advisory Service and Careers and Employability will close at 2pm on Friday 21 December and reopen on 2 January.

The Student Welfare Team and Student Services reception will also be unavailable from 21 January and will reopen on 2 January.

Counselling and Wellbeing Services

There will be some changes to the opening hours of the Counselling and Wellbeing Services between Monday 17 December and Friday 4 January. Please click here for further details.

The service will be closed all day from 21 December 2018 – 2 January 2019.

Have you downloaded the Callmy Alert app yet?

What is Callmy Alert?

Free to download in Apple, Android and Windows app stores, the Callmy Alert app allows us to inform our students and staff of any significant safety threats on campus. This might be a major fire, a gas leak, or a terrorism related incident.

In the event of a major safety threat, you will receive a message in real time, informing you where the incident is and which areas to avoid. The system updates continuously and covers all of the University estate. Firearms or weapons attacks on UK campuses are rare, but the app will help you to stay safe should an incident occur. This compliments the recommended Police advice of Run, Hide, Tell.

How can I download it?

You can download the app for free from the app store relevant to your device. Once you’ve downloaded the app, there will be a simple verification process and you will need to add the group name UoRalert. The app will not access your contacts, share your data or offer in-app purchases. You will receive occasional test messages to make sure that everything is working properly.

If you have any questions about the Callmy Alert app, please contact the Security team at securitycontrol@reading.ac.uk or on 0118 378 7799.

Finding student accommodation: Some helpful hints

House-hunting is never an easy task, and if you’re new to the process it can feel especially daunting. There are lots of things consider when looking for a place to live, and it’s really important not to feel rushed into a decision.

We asked our Student Communications Ambassadors for their advice when it comes to looking for your next place.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

First and foremost, it’s important to know that you can ask for help if you need it. Finding accommodation can be complicated, and it’s best to ask someone if you need help understanding the process, or your rights and responsibilities as a tenant. The RUSU Advice Service is a fantastic resource, ready to help you with all sorts of issues relating to housing – whether it be understanding the terms of your contract or dealing with problem neighbours.

“When going in, know your rights as a student tenant, and how to solve issues. I’ve experienced landlords attempting to take advantage or ignore the lack of tenant rights of large student households. If your landlord isn’t responding to your requests, or is being difficult, speak to the council – a member of Reading Borough Council comes in to RUSU twice a month purely so students can seek advice on finding solutions face to face! This cuts unnecessary stress, and also pressures your landlord in a way that you, as a student tenant, couldn’t on your own.”  – Elliot

If you are confused by anything or experience any problems before, during or after your house-hunting process, you can contact the RUSU Advice service at advice@rusu.co.uk or give them a call on 0118 378 4100. Alternatively, you can drop in during their opening hours.

Take your time, do your research and ask lots of questions!

Start thinking about accommodation sooner rather than later, and ask lots of questions before you make a decision. This includes asking yourself important questions – can you see yourself living in this place? Is the location practical for you?

Consider if you are taking a car – if yes, is there a driveway or will you have access to a permit? It sounds obvious, but how far actually are you from University and the nearest shop? Is there enough furniture in your house for everything you require, or will you need to purchase a table and chairs, for example?”  -Hannah

Sadly, not all estate agents are created equal, so it’s best to do some research – if you are looking at a property, look into the agency that takes care of it. Do they have a good track record when it comes to dealing with tenant concerns and maintaining their property? If you can, try to have a word with the people already living at the property – they will know best!

“Check out reviews online about Estate Agents and take lots of photos when you move in and send it to them- so they can’t charge you later!” -Abi

Finding your Housemates

It’s highly likely that if you’re renting private accommodation, you are going to be looking for housemates to share it with. You may already have a group of friends you’re planning to live with, but if you’re new to the area or your friends have other arrangements, you may need to get out there and look for others to join forces with.

“Looking for student accommodation can appear daunting at first glance. However, from my personal experience, joining the ‘Find a Housemate – Reading University Students’ Union‘ Facebook page makes finding a house both straightforward and enjoyable.” -Liam

To avoid unnecessary conflict down the road, it’s important to consider what your values and expectations are when it comes to your living space. Do you have very high standards when it comes to keeping things clean and tidy, or do you have a more relaxed attitude? Do you like a noisy house with lots of activity, or are you happier in a quieter environment? When choosing your housemates, it’s important to find out early on what their expectations are, and see if they align with your own.

“When going in with other people – make sure you’re clear if this house is going to be your HOME, or just a place to sleep during term-time. This dictates the amount of work, cleaning, and money each person is willing to put into the house – and having differing values may cause conflict. Remember that your whole house will only be as clean/well maintained as your least tidy housemate!” -Elliot

Keep smiling

It can be easy to feel overwhelmed when searching for accommodation or dealing with housing issues, and there are times when you may come up against frustrating stumbling blocks – but it’s important to stay positive.

“If you’re stressed out by all this – think of it as valuable experience and practice for later! If you’re willing to learn from all these battles, by the time you’ve graduated and have your own place, you’ll be a pro at handling issues (which will save you time, money and stress)!”  -Elliot

We wish you the best of luck on your accommodation search!

Alcohol Awareness Week: PC Julie’s advice on staying safe

It’s Alcohol Awareness Week, and PC Julie is back to share some tips on drinking responsibly during the festive season.

Hi all,  it’s been a busy few weeks in the world of policing! And as we approach “silly season”, it’s not going to get any better.  I want to talk to you about the dreaded A word – ALCOHOL.  As a Mum and a Police Officer, I want you all to have a good time and celebrate Christmas with your families and friends, but please be aware of the consequences.  Every year I arrest people for all sorts of offences, which are alcohol related.  Many people are charged and attend court, which has such a detrimental effect on their lives.

I have attached a poster, 12 Nights of Christmas.  Sing it to yourselves, I’m sure you all know the tune!  It is a bit of fun, but I want to reinforce the dangers and potential seriousness of drunkenness.

Please stay safe:

On a night out, stay with your mates and get home safely.

Plan your journey – know how you are getting home at the start of the evening.

Keep your valuables safe – take as little as possible and keep them close to you at all times.

Know your limits – Stop before it’s too late.

Don’t make tonight the night you regret.

Don’t let happy hour turn into a nightmare.

Step back and call for help if you see a crime taking place.

 

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