Students from across LSE came to hear Director Minouche Shafik and Pro-Directors Dilly Fung (Education) and Simon Hix (Research) share their upcoming priorities for our School before putting their questions to the directors at the lunchtime Q&A on 11 February 2020.
Minouche opened the Q&A by speaking to several topics that were later raised again by students.
The first was to reassure students that LSE is continuing to monitor the coronavirus situation with the wellbeing and safety of our community first and foremost in our response. Minouche reminded students that we need to be supportive of one another now more than ever.
Minouche went on to say that student experience and education remain the top priority for LSE, with a particular focus on inclusive education, wellbeing, community and student voice. Minouche pointed to specific areas of enhancement – from the introduction of in-year resits and improvements in the Library to the opening of the Centre Building in 2019 and the forthcoming Marshall Building, which will open next year.
Finally, Minouche spoke of how LSE is addressing sustainability and how we want to broaden our influence in this area, both in the way we operate day-to-day and how we incorporate sustainability across everything we do – including education. Minouche encouraged students to take part in the sustainability consultation to ensure the actions we take are consistent with the values of everyone in the LSE community.
Dilly discussed some of the key themes from Educate for Global Impact, the first of the three priorities of LSE 2030, our School strategy. Dilly emphasised the importance of embedding research practices within the curriculum, engaging communities and empowering students to become critical investigators and leaders of change. She also spoke of the importance of mental health and highlighted changes LSE is making to further support students’ wellbeing. Finally, Dilly reminded students about the Change Makers programme as an example of student-led research at our School.
Simon’s update continued along the theme of student research opportunities – particularly through the newly-launched Houghton St Press. Simon also encouraged students to take part in the LSE Festival, shared new ways students can get involved with data science and plans to launch a research exchange portal which will provide enable students to work with academics with research projects.
Assessment equality and diversity at LSE
Questions here touched on equity in assessment for all students, capping students’ getting a distinction and what LSE is doing to diversify our faculty.
Dilly explained that LSE is working to diversify assessment and that there are plans to introduce digital exams to more departments following a successful pilot in Law. LSE has committed to reduce differentials in attainment through our access and participation plan.
Simon and Dilly asserted that departments must mark against criteria, and that there is not a cap to the number of students who can receive a certain grade. Students were encouraged to raise this at their SSLC where they felt this was not the case.
LSE is rolling out an inclusive education action plan, including a strand on decolonising the curriculum. Minouche and Simon also spoke about diversifying our faculty and ongoing work to do this, such as through PhD scholarships.
Sexual assault support
A serious question was raised about support for sexual assault support. There are a variety of reporting tools so students can disclose information in a way that’s comfortable for them – although Minouche agreed that this may need to be altered so the reporting process is streamlined and said she would like to work with students on improving this.
LSE also has a sexual violence support worker in on campus once a month who can support female students and staff who have experienced sexual violence and is exploring ways we can support male students and staff. All students also have access to Consent Collective information, guidance and training.
Students brought the loss of Moodle archives to the attention of Minouche, Dilly and Simon, who promised to investigate the issue. Since the Q&A took place, all students affected have been contacted and have been given access. If you need to use the archive and haven’t yet been given access, please contact your department to request this.
Several queries focused on student experience, with questions on how to improve Welcome, supporting LSESU charity initiatives and pressure students face around careers. Dilly agreed that we need a broader offering with a variety of off-campus opportunities beyond internships in banking and finance, and committed to LSE hosting a careers myth-busting event.
A further question was about LSE charging for gown hire at graduation. Minouche said that LSE doesn’t charge for tickets like a lot of institutions do, and on balance it’s felt that charging for gown hire is fairer. She also pointed to the LSESU’s graduation gown support fund that students can apply for.
One student raised an issue of racism on campus, with Minouche stating that any form of discrimination is unacceptable and that everyone at LSE community is expected to behave in-line with the Ethics Code. Anyone who witnesses or experiences unacceptable behaviour can report it via Report it. Stop it.
Broader LSE policies were discussed, including cleaners’ pay, foreign funding and sustainability. Minouche said she would follow up with students on cleaners’ pay bilaterally, and reassured students that rigourous criteria are in place for accepting donations. Simon added that LSE frequently turns down donations that don’t meet this criteria.
Minouche again encouraged students to take part in the sustainability consultation to ensure that our future environmental policies reflect the views of our community.
Minouche brought the forum to a close by thanking everyone for attending and raising important issues with her, Dilly and Simon.
If you have a question or would like to share feedback, there are lots of ways for you to do so. You can use your voice by feeding back via your SSLC rep, the Student Hub Help & Feedback option, or Comments, Compliments and Concerns. Undergraduates are also invited to take part in the Undergraduate Survey or NSS.