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Goodbye from Alessandro and Stella!

last modified Jul 08, 2020 12:19 PM
This year, Stella and Alessandro have worked hard to represent postgraduate students, and it’s been a busy year! Read on for some highlights from our year as your Sabbatical Officers.

The Graduate Union has been supporting students since Greta Burkill established it in 1955. Almost seven decades later, we are proud to be handing over to the new Cambridge SU, which will start representing the students of Cambridge from 13 July, and will replace both CUSU and the Graduate Union. 

This year, Stella and Alessandro have worked hard to represent postgraduate students, and it’s been a busy year! We’ve supported our members who are also in UCU through two rounds of strikes, the second of which led to a promise from the University to look into formal recognition of UCU. We’ve also lobbied on behalf of students and provided information and support throughout a global pandemic: our open letter to UUK arguing for blanket extensions got over five thousand signatures, and we’ve produced a report on the impact of COVID-19 on research students.

Read on for some other highlights from our year as your Sabbatical Officers:


  • Perhaps the main achievement of the year was to form a new union! The referendum in November delivered an overwhelming ‘yes’ vote to create Cambridge SU - and we were so pleased to see postgraduate students running in many of the elections for the new roles in the SU. We can’t wait to see the work they do over the coming year, and encourage you all to get involved in the new union.


  • We ran several surveys and presented papers on the concerns of Postgraduates in Cambridge:

    • International Student Experience Report

    • International Student Experience Focus Group

    • Impact of COVID19 on Postgrads Report 

    • Flash Survey: impact of COVID19 


  • In response to the COVID-19 crisis in Higher Education, we focussed on Postgraduate Funding:

    • We wrote letters to Gates Cambridge and Cambridge Trust and internal funding bodies

    • Our open letter to UKRI gained over 5,000 signatures

    • We argued that master’s students are owed deferrals and refunds, meeting with our local MP Daniel Zeichner to put these issues on the table

    • We wrote an article in WonkHE ‘Covid-19: Won’t somebody think of the postgraduate research students?’


  • We’ve also worked on supporting student parents:

    • Stella ran a survey of Colleges’ facilities for student families which you can view here

    • She’s also been working with the University Libraries to improve access to libraries for those with children


  • We have worked closely with UCU on a variety of issues and campaigns:

    • We advocated for a pilot intercollegiate trial allocation of teaching 

    • We lobbied the University for paid training for supervisors

    • We continued our support for the Raise the Bar campaign against casualisation

    • We supported the strikes, visiting picket lines, attending rallies, organising breakfast runs and teach outs


  • We have worked to advocate for LGBT+ rights:

    • Alessandro set up the University Gender identities and sexual Orientations Committee

    • We supported National Student Pride


  • We have worked on campaigns to support student mental health and welfare:

    • Alessandro wrote an article on how our PhD system has caused a mental health crisis. Link here.  

    • We ran events on completing research under pressure, how to survive fieldwork, and time management for postgraduate students

    • We hosted free STI screening drop-ins with Dhiverse, a local charity

    • The GU published a statement on zero tolerance of sexual misconduct: standing in solidarity with the current and former students of Trinity Hall 

    • We continued to run our weekly GU Yoga sessions

There has also been some brilliant work done by our GU Executive and by our student volunteers, from our recent spotlight on OCD Awareness Month, with information posts and an online event, to our LGBT+ History Month socials and events. Our volunteers have worked on campaigns on childcare, sustainability and climate, access and funding, and international student issues. 

We’ve worked to support MCR Officers, running training sessions on making the most from their roles, and hosting regular meetings to keep them updated about the Union’s work. Recently, we’ve been working closely with MCRs on the issues of rent and College accommodation, and successfully lobbied the University to pay the rent of those students in Swirles Court accommodation who had left Cambridge but whose rent had not been cancelled. 

We know that the future looks especially uncertain at the moment, but we couldn’t be more excited about the new Cambridge SU and what that means for postgraduate students.