Sabb Special: Sasha Watson, VP Academic Affairs

VP Academic Affairs Sasha Watson tells The Tab how he’s ready to finish what he’s started.

In the next iteration of our Sabb Specials, we got to grips with the role of Sasha Watson as VP Academic Affairs. 


Sasha’s full manifesto can be seen here, but here is a summary of the main points:

  • Open Access to module evaluation results
  • Minimum requirements for tutor support
  • More desks with plug sockets
  • Career fairs for each faculty
  • Wider awareness of bursaries
  • No to 8-8 lectures


Looking at Sasha’s manifesto, the key point is that the 8-8 lectures seem to have finally been knocked on the head, a big relief for students in faculties which use most of their weekly teaching hours. There has also been a definite increase in career fairs around campus to help with graduate (un)employment.

In non-manifesto points, a big issue this year has been SUSSED and the server shutdown. Many people (myself included) were unduly harsh towards Sasha when the server shutdown was announced, without knowing the full story. In actual fact he was placed in a no-win situation and managed to get a decent return out of it, in the form of a 4 day deadline extension for students that were affected.

SUSSED however has seen no improvement or change. The replacement promised since I started university in 2008 has yet to appear and the problems grow immeasurably as each year passes. This is definitely a big target to be sorted next year as students paying £9000 a year can rightly expect a much better system. (And please, please stop the 6 month changing password thing, it’s so annoying!)

And we can’t forget to mention the petting zoo Sasha put together to relieve the stress of exams, a brilliant idea to create a distraction from those summer exams!

Here’s our interview with Sasha to see what he’s gotten up to over the past year and his plans for the next.

Why did you stand again?

So much can happen. University runs April to April so when you start in July it’s really hard to implement anything as they’re already in the zone, however now I can work from the start in April with long-term plans and be there next april when it’s analysed.

What have been your successes this year?

Main success… tough one. In terms of visible achievement – people would probably point to the 4-day coursework extension, the petting zoo or maybe even the red-card scheme, but those were relatively simple to do actually. On the flip-side, something I set up with the University this year called “Knowing our Students”, which is a committee that now orchestrates any student survey, as well as the important part of conducting a “You Said, We Did” campaign. This is telling students what has changed (or will change), and that’s such a huge step from the University – but then the “You Said, We Did” part is only just starting over the summer, so it isn’t visible yet, so I guess if it works, I’ll say that one next year!

In that case, I’d say the work on the Student Representation structure – having Faculty Officers properly integrated for the first time, more Presidents than ever, elected Course Reps online, and I’d like to think the work put into that area this year was part of the reason why we now have 30 Academic President positions filled of 33, which is an amazing improvement in student engagement and general interest in the position. That said, it’s not just my success – it’s because I’ve had a great team of Presidents and Officers this year, talking to students about what they’re doing, that people have engaged a lot more.

What would you like to achieve next year?

The whole thing. Library master plan, exam timetables… everything. I want to set up a system for investigating how students are examined and assessed, improving feedback to students etc. Doing two years means I can continue what I wanted to do rather than having to hand them over to people who aren’t as keen on my plans as I am. This way, I can keep focused and make sure everything gets done.

SUSSED is going… it’s out. The replacement was being worked on awfully, by one person once a week. ISS are scaling it up and I’ll be pushing them to have the new version up and running in September 2012. They’ve agreed the system is currently crap and needs to be sorted as a matter of urgency.

Soton Tab or Wessex Scene?

Wessex Scene. Because you guys would be less fun if you liked me, and sucking up to you now wouldn’t change that anyway.

Would you rather spend the rest of your life as a Sabb or lick the Jesters floor after a night out?

Lick the floor of Jesters. Being a Sabb is an absolutely incredible experience – but there’s a lot of pressure that comes with it, a lot of expectations, and it’s very easy to spend nights working till 2am, stressing about projects and deadlines, because there always seems to be so much to do – and for a lot of it, there won’t be the time to do in a year and “leave your legacy”. I’ve learned so much this year alone, and because it’s such a great experience, I’d want to always allow someone else the opportunity to have the same experience. Probably sounds bad, seeing as I ran again – but that was the constant dilemma playing on my mind, right up to the day I nominated myself. Probably a far too deep an answer than you were looking for. Sorry…

So as we reach the mid-point its fair to say Sasha has done fairly well across the year. He’s managed to have some good success even when backed into a corner by the University. However, now he’s in the position to carry the work on he NEEDS to sort the basics that annoy the student; SUSSED and how courses are taught, especially in certain schools and after yet another abysmal results day where SUSSED couldn’t cope with demand for access. (I mean isn’t it weird lots of people want their results at the same time?) He’s got another 12 months to do so and we’ll be watching him carefully!

Tab Verdict: Success