Sometimes it appears difficult to establish where the three and a half thousand postgraduates at Lancaster University fit into the grand scheme of things. Before becoming a postgraduate myself I had noticed that graduates on the whole were quite a disparate, almost invisible presence.
There are many factors to take into account as to why this occurs. Many students come from other academic institutions and spend only one year here making it hard to integrate fully into the university. The extensive workload and financial difficulties due to lack of a student loan also contribute heavily. Another major issue is that 50% of graduates at the university are international students which means there is added pressure into attempting to unify diverse nationalities into the college system; exacerbated by the other problems listed above. So in short, postgraduates have quite a hard time of it in a social sense, and seem to struggle to slot into the collegiate system. Part of the problem is that Graduate College did not previously differentiate itself enough from the undergraduate colleges, when their target demographic is starkly different.
Graduate College was the last college to be created at Lancaster, only established in 1992 and so maybe does not quite have the rich history of say a college like Bowland. They have never, for instance, won the Carter Shield and have traditionally struggled to field teams for the event and although this has not yet shown much in the way of improvement, many other aspects have altered dramatically. A fortnight ago the college passed a new constitution which has seen a dramatic restructuring of the GSA (Graduate Student Association). The new exec has been streamlined to fewer members and specifically caters for postgraduate needs instead of focusing on social secretaries which are perhaps less relevant in a college of postgraduates with a lot of work to do. This brand new constitution was passed in the first quorate meeting that Graduate College had seen in many years. Postgraduates are now better represented in LUSU and at union council which is essential as the postgraduate community pumps a lot of money into Lancaster University, and as such deserve to have their individual issues and concerns addressed at a level where the University has to listen.
This new optimism is best encapsulated by the many GSA posters which adorn the spine and the success of the Wednesday curry night (the food provided by the excellent Sultan), as well as an upcoming cider festival. The Herdwick (formerly known simply as Grad bar) is one of only two college bars to have Setanta sports and has an excellent range of real ale; it must certainly be one of the most bustling bars on campus. LUSU has definitely taken an active role in driving the GSA forward and the appointment of Jo Hardman (a member of staff in LUSU) as the college Principal certainly means there is good communication and a shared vision as to how to improve the college. It seems that this new found unity and college spirit has been achieved by identifying and differentiating itself from the undergraduate colleges and listening to the views of its postgraduate membership. Perhaps, one day this increased representation could ultimately manifest itself in the form a Postgraduate Sabbatical officer. Who knows?