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An interview with the EUSA Presidential candidate: Keisha Gani

She wants to stand up for post-grad students

Keisha Gani feels that post-grads such as herself are under-represented at Edinburgh and she wants to stand up for them and make sure their voices are heard both by EUSA and the University.

Why are you running for EUSA President?

I’m currently a post grad and I feel that post-grads are quite under-represented. It’s been great to see that I, a post-graduate student, has to be able to run, and also represent post-graduate students. That has been a big motivational factor for me.

I also did my under-grad here too, so this year number five, and being both an under-grad and a post-grad has given me so much insight into the different types of problems that the two groups face. Some of them are similar, some of them are different.

I’ve also done volunteering at the Advice Place, where I am meeting so many students who are frustrated with the university, in terms of funding, in terms of services, in terms of housing, transport, and I just couldn’t ignore those things any longer and thought that now is the time that I’m going to run.

I’ve been here for quite a while now, I’ve seen how the Students’ Association operates, and as a post-grad and an under-grad I’ve seen how the university operates for the two different groups of students. I’ve also worked for the Students’ Association in the Policy and Campaigns department, so I know the effort that it takes to implement policies, which is why my manifesto is I think the smallest of everyone’s. It’s nine points, but realistically when you’re in a role for a year, if you want to tangibly achieve things that can make the student experience better you’ve got to be realistic.

What are your main policies?

My main policies would have to be, for one, the upkeep of Mental Health First Aid Training. It’s more what it stands for than anything else, which is that the university hasn’t made it easier for staff, like personal tutors, to be able to access training that will help them support students. PTs are such an important point for students to engage with, they’re the first point of contact in your student experience. Knowing that you have someone who can support you, that would definitely be a really key one.

This is not something I’ve seen mentioned in other manifestos, to the best of my knowledge, but the fact that post graduate research students this year, some of them saw a 23 per cent increase in their fees, which the university hasn’t really even told them about. Some students have happened to come across this, and they’ve shared it and said ‘this is completely unreasonable’. So, post grads and undergrads should have fixed fees, which is something that they’ve lobbied for before. It’s so important to give post grad students the same deal. We need to make the university kinder for students from all sections of the population.

What exactly is ‘Mental Health First Aid’?

There is training that has been developed already, which is something that the Students’ Association have lobbied for. The problem was that not all staff have been able to access it or take it up. So the point is to use the existing training, which has been developed basically for personal tutors to say, ‘this is a place that you can go if you need help’. It is training that makes it easier for the staff better equipped to support students.

Your manifesto states that you rethink their budgeting, what do you think they could better spend their money on?

I think the biggest one that most people have complained about is the transport, because if you are spending so much time and effort and money to come to university, you should be able to get to class. I’ve spoken to some students who are going up and down between central and KB, and really what they need is more buses, because then they will have a better chance to get to their classes on time. It’s just making sure that the university includes not only the Students’ Association, but member of the student population who are really affected by this, so they can put their money in the right place.

How feasible do you think your policies are?

I have had a look at the other candidates manifestos, and I think that they are really great, but I did come at this from the angle that I would have a year to do it, and if I had to spend on average a month on each thing, then this would be achievable. There are big things, there are quick things, but I think these are just tangible things that affect the student experience beyond just learning. It’s about making it better, making it more accessible and giving students the whole university experience without making it difficult to do so.