A- A A+

From the Chair

Letter from the Chair - Sep 2020

We’ve had a very strange year, ending up in the middle of a never-before-seen health crisis, so in this update I want to talk about how we’ve done. I want to focus on finance and product, but I’ll give a short update on structure and governance as well. But to start, I’d like to briefly reflect on the purpose of OUPS - why do we exist at all ?

OUPS is a registered charity, and as such we have a legal requirement to state our charitable objects, i.e. why we should be given charitable status, which carries legal and financial obligations and advantages.

These charitable objects are stated in our Constitution, and filed with the Charity Commission in the UK, and they are:

"to advance public education in psychology amongst members of the Open University who are taking, have taken, or are proposing to take courses in psychology or cognate subjects with the Open University."


That’s it ! That is what we have declared through our Constitution and as a registered charity, that is all that we officially exist to do.

However in addition, we declare on our website that we exist

to support OU psychology students both academically and socially throughout your studies and also after you graduate [and] to give you opportunities to enrich your study and your enjoyment of psychology.

So if that’s what we do, what about how we go about doing this ?

There’s a firm consensus within the current OUPS Committee that an important aspect of how we go about meeting these goals is by providing face-to-face events that give distance-learning students the opportunity to meet other people who are involved or interested in psychology. This is for fun, to exchange ideas and experiences and to network with professional psychologists.

OUPS has “always done it this way”, and the Committee members enjoy creating and running face-to-face events like this, but it is not obvious that this is how our members want to attend our events. Certainly the number of people who come along in person is far lower than we hope for, so maybe we’ve got it completely wrong ?

There has been a complete demographic shift in the OU student body in the last five years or so. No more exams meant no revision weekends (apart from DE200), the removal of the government subsidy for university education led to a tripling of university fees and the combination means that:

  • The percentage of time-rich, more mature students is far lower than it was;
  • The percentage of busy, younger students has soared;
  • Many more students select the OU as their first-choice university because they can study online, in their own time - maybe the current majority just prefer to operate remotely in an “on-demand, catchup” way ?

People who come to our events overwhelmingly tell us how much they enjoy them and how much they appreciate being able to meet other people. But maybe the majority of students don’t have the childcare, or the time/funds to travel or the inclination to socialise, or maybe they would just prefer to drop in online ?

So given these differences from “the old days”, how does OUPS need to change to meet our goals to advance public education, support OU psychology students academically and socially and to give them opportunities to enrich their study and enjoyment of psychology ?

These are some of the questions that I’ve been grappling with since our last AGM, but it’s been clear for some years that we can't just keep doing things “the way we’ve always done it”, even more so now while face-to-face simply isn't an option, and also that the practical means to reach more people online has finally arrived.

However in a volunteer-run organisation it's critical that the people who run it are excited and motivated about doing the kind of work required - enthusiastic committees have been the foundation of OUPS' success since it was founded almost fifty years ago. I think that it is quite possible that we will reach a point where the demand for face-to-face events is far exceeded by demand for online events. We have even had a number of international attendees at online events this year and I suspect that will only increase. Given that we have a committee who joined because they are most interested in advancing face-to-face opportunities, we may need to find a new group of volunteers who are enthusiastic about organising these kinds of events to make sure that OUPS can continue for the next fifty years ... maybe someone reading this ? If you would be interested in helping, whether or not you would want to be involved on the committee, then please do get in touch.

Finances

As many of you will recall, for a number of years our events were costing us more than we were charging. This was because the running cost of OUPS as it was structured was too high for the number of attendees we were attracting. So we were making repeated and significant annual losses.

To address this we adjusted our prices in line with venue costs and reduced our own running costs – sounds simple but there was a lot to do.

For example (not an exhaustive list):

  • We continued to invest in our website and management systems to make the Paperless distribution processes more seamless and reduce administration effort further;
  • We moved to online booking only (no paper or phone booking) so we could use a single online credit-card provider with cheaper contactless kit and no phone costs or effort;
  • We only use the minimum number of OUPS committee members at weekends other than May, where we include the committee to avoid the cost of holding a separate event for our AGM and the first ECM after the committee elections;
  • We negotiated our arrangements with Warwick Conferences to avoid unnecessary costs for unsold rooms, and we stopped doing work to organise weekends that they did anyway as part of their standard service;
  • We stopped having a paid Business Administrator and moved our booking, enquiry and support services online to be done by the Chair, Treasurer and Secretary.

However this has meant a lot more administration work, and we will see significant change to the work that the members of the OUPS committee need to do from now on. We will also need to extend this work to more members of the committee as the number of online support tickets grows. Happily, there is less "hands-on" organisation to do because we don't need to do as much as we used to do at Warwick.

So now our costs and income are more sensibly aligned and we have a sustainable basis to grow from. Without these changes, I genuinely believe that this could have been the year that OUPS went bankrupt, but now I believe we have a future.

Product

We still have too little awareness of OUPS in the OU student body, and although our promotion work has increased significantly (e.g. we co-market with The Royal Institution, the BPS, The Weekend University and others), our conversion ratio - people who see our marketing compared to the number who then book those events - remains low (1-4%). For example, we might market a general interest event to 1500 mailboxes, see 80% of those emails opened (1200) and 15-50 bookings.

The COVID pandemic devastated our face-to-face event programme, but it brought the silver lining of a huge social change in how all of us interact with each other online. People who might have been technologically uncomfortable, or who just couldn’t be bothered to watch an online talk before became much more willing to do so, and we were able to meet this demand through both online-only and hybrid (live-streamed) events.

We were also able to further our agenda to increase access to our events, through our subsidised places and by offering online access, though cost continues to be an important issue. 

Online-only events

London & South OUPS invested in an online platform when lockdown started and between April and September presented six online talks and a full-day conference, some free and some paid. We did a huge amount of development to integrate our website and booking systems with the different online platforms, but the feedback has been fantastic, the annual investment in this has now paid off and so we will try to make future London online events cheaper to reflect this.

Hybrid (both online and in-person) events

Warwick Conferences have also invested in livestreaming equipment and so, for the first time, we were able to make an online option available a few weeks ago for our “Transitioning to DE200” and “DE300 Springboard” events. This was a painful and expensive experiment, the technology was unproven and the registration process was clunky but the feedback has been phenomenal and we will try to negotiate a way to make this possible to do again in the future.

I want to make the point that this is not simple stuff – it really is not just a case of sticking up a Youtube livestream on a smartphone. To be able to guarantee a reliable, high-quality service we need tutors who are willing to be on camera (not all are), we need equipment to be available in the venue with technicians to operate it and we need high-speed connectivity to the internet, and all this at an affordable cost. This isn’t always possible - for example, for us to break even on the first quote we received for putting the two Warwick events online, we would have had to charge online attendees more than we charged in-person attendees ...

However the technology continues to advance quickly, though while we have investigated using cheaper equipment (effectively “super-webcams” and bonding several mobile devices to make a high-speed mobile hotspot) to do this ourselves more cheaply, this may be possible in another year or two, but it’s not there yet.

Recordings

We also continue to investigate the possibility of recordings, which we get many queries about. We see the value of these, and are continuing to investigate the options. However there are significant challenges related to recordings: obtaining and maintaining permissions from tutors and attendees is problematic, as is copyright and distribution rights. As trustees of a registered charity we can’t just do it and trust to luck that we don’t get sued (though many online operations are doing precisely this).

There is also the practical issue that while one-off events like conferences might be worth recording (because we could sell them afterwards, assuming we can work out how the proceeds are shared between all the parties involved), this may not make financial sense for annually repeated events: if you can buy the recording why bother turning up ?

Structure

Regional structure

The regional structure as described in our Constitution is effectively defunct. The London & South region is the most active part of OUPS right now, and the Cambridge group ran a few events in 2019 but has not operated this year given the pandemic.

Last year I stated that the current regional structure was no longer fit for purpose as it relies on dedicated individuals establishing a committee to open a region. However "no committee" in eleven out of thirteen regions meant "no events" there either, so we abandoned that approach.

Regional events

Instead the London branch provided the administration support (handled bookings and queries, paid tutors and venues, etc.) to enable local volunteers to run a number of events around the country over the last 18 months. The regional events have met with mixed success, Glasgow events were successful, but events that were successful when run in Glasgow and London all made a loss when we repeated them in Manchester (and previously in Plymouth and Cheltenham).

So overall it’s debatable whether we can justify continuing to offer these local events when things “return to normal”. The evidence shows clearly that the volume of complaints that “there’s nothing in my area” unfortunately exceeds the number of paying customers in almost every case. My conclusion is that as it becomes more practical to enable remote access, it’s more likely that we will use livestreaming instead as a way to increase access to future events where the facilities make this possible.

Governance

Thankfully we didn’t have to do any work on policies and processes this year, though the work in the previous couple of years has paid off and when we have needed to, we have been able to show that we are operating as a well-managed society because we have put some of these formal processes in place.

And finally

So that’s it from me for this time, but before I finish I’d like to thank the OUPS committee, our tutors and all our volunteers who helped arrange and run our events.

And last but not least, I would like to thank all of you who have supported us over the year by coming to our events, engaging with our Facebook pages, and taking the time to send us your feedback and to tell us how much you’ve enjoyed OUPS. The  stories we hear about how our events have helped and affected the people who come to them are why we do this.

Print

Letter from the Chair - May 2019

Hi again, after another year in “the chair” !

To recap, last time I wrote OUPS was facing four key problems: financial, product, structure and governance. This time I’d like to give an update on where we’ve got to in dealing with these.

Finances

The first problem we faced was financial: for a number of years we had been simply charging less for our events than they cost us to put on (even when the income from memberships was included), and our overheads were too high for the number of attendees we were attracting. This was a result of having failed to take sufficient account of the impact that removing exams from the OU psychology degree pathway had on our revenues after 2012-13.

Over the last two years we gradually increased our prices to reflect the actual cost of putting on our weekend events. We also reverted to only having the minimum number of committee attend weekends to run them (based on number of attendees) and to only providing accommodation for other committee members at the May weekend in order to avoid the cost of holding a separate event for our AGM and the first ECM after the committee elections.

After 17 years of invaluable service, we took the difficult decision to make the position of Business Administrator redundant, removed post and phone as options for communication and moved our enquiry and support services online. I would like to take the opportunity here to say how much the OUPS committee, along with hundreds of students over those years, appreciate the wonderful work that Irene did for us in that role, and how happy we are that she has agreed to stay on to fill the Student Support Officer aspects of the role. I’m also happy to report that, while I’m sure that the personal service we used to offer was far superior, the online support option appears to be satisfactory, and is much more appropriate to the volume of enquiries we take and the cost of supporting these, which being fully met by volunteers, is zero ...

We also, after much experimentation and consultation, decided to fully extend the paperless initiative championed by Amada Udres, our Secretary, and to stop providing printed handouts at all of our events. This has taken a significant amount of work to create a unique software solution for managing the collation, copyright and distribution of electronic copies of all of the material presented at these events. The savings have been very worthwhile (approx £5,000 per year), and this also allows students to use their own devices to view and annotate the presentations, as well as to print them in ways that accommodate individual needs such as visual impairment, dyslexia etc.

Venue rental is the main cost of most of our day-events, and we have secured help directly from the OU Social Science faculty who have both provided OU premises free-of-charge and have contributed to the cost of non-OU venues. This has been made possible through the efforts by our OU Liaison Officer, Abi Robbins, to build a warm and collaborative relationship with key members of staff throughout and to the top of the School of Psychology.

We have introduced a number of new payment methods, including the ability for students to save for or pay for weekends in instalments. Although we have taken a small number of bookings through these, we have retired some options and are likely to retire the others to reduce the time needed to administer our operation further, as the vast majority of bookings are made in the 3-4 weeks before each event. The most significant improvement in this respect has been the introduction of online credit card payments, which allowed us to remove all of the costs associated with manual credit card transactions, and which is now by far our most popular payment method.

Product

To recap, our financial goals are "to break even or make a small (around 4%) profit" so to achieve this we have to put on events that people are interested enough in to come along to, in sufficient numbers at the right price.

They key challenges here are that we have too little awareness in the student body, and that we may not be offering the right mix of events.

In the first case, people still tell us that they didn't hear about OUPS untli late in their studies or didn't hear about an event they would have loved to attend beforehand. As well as continuing with our usual Facebook and direct email marketing, we have attacked this problem by working with the Psychology department and with OUSA to raise awareness through postings on the module websites/news sidebar. We would like to have regular mailshots sent directly to students, but the faculty team have data protection concerns about whether they have marketing permissions from students to be able to do this. We continue to work together to try to resolve this.

The second issue is that arguably we were not offering the right mix of events either, as our numbers of attendees for all events were declining year-on-year.

So we reviewed our programme, and noting that module-specific events continue to decline (e.g. overview days), we offered new events - e.g. DE200 methods days, more pub socials, opportunities for students to meet up face-to-face. Most of this work was done by the London branch of OUPS and is showing promising results.

Structure

Last year I stated that the current regional structure was no longer fit for purpose as it relies completely on dedicated individuals to establish and keep a region open and because "no committee" in eleven out of thirteen regions has meant "no events" there either. We were given regular feedback that events were not being made available around the country, so we asked for input to help us decide where we should target and what events we should aim to provide.

We had a regional structure which prevented us from making events available around the country - essentially we were:

  • operating under the "rule" that events could not happen in regions where there wasn't a regional committee
  • for no particular reason, attached to a defunct territorial structure that the OU used to use up to several years ago, and
  • it has proven to be impossible to get enough support to run any regional committee. We simply don't haven't been able to find people who have the time or interest in setting up the paraphenalia (committee, bank accounts, reporting/annual accounts/AGM etc.) to do this.

However, we often have people who say that they would like to help and be involved in running small (day) events. So we did a number of things. First we merged the London region with the South and South-East regions which were closing down to form the London & South region. We then operated a "Local Events" model through the new London & South committee where setting up an event would be done by LOUPS (identifying and paying tutors, booking venues, paying expenses, advertising and handling bookings) so that the local volunteers just needed to run the day (register attendees, ensure the venue was set up, act as a contact point for any queries on the day).

We rantwo events in Glasgow, two in Brighton, one in Plymouth, one in Cheltenham and one in Manchester. Glasgow events were successful, the events in Brighton were small but both financially and socially successful, but the others were loss-making. Even so, please keep those thinking caps on and send all ideas through to Faye our Regional Representative.

I’d also like to thank all our volunteers who helped arrange and run our regional events, and those who are helping us investigate new events in new regions.

Governance

As I mentioned before, we had neglected our governance obligations over many years. This year we continued the significant overhaul of OUPS governance that we started last year, reviewing our Constitution and proposing further amendments for approval at the 2019 AGM.

We introduced standard policies that should have been in place to cover safeguarding and fair business (bribery) and we created and implemented copyright policies and processes for data protection and distribution of materials.

We introduced standard procedures for recording and handling safeguarding incidents, and we were able to show that we were managing this correctly, and could demonstrate to the satisfaction of the Charity Commission that these were fit-for-purpose when they launched an investigation into this earlier this year.

And finally ...

So rather than reporting that we're further down the road to decline that we appeared to be heading down  in previous years, I hope that we have made some big steps to getting OUPS in shape to adjust to the changes that are happening all around us, and that we'll be around for many years to come. After a number of years of significant losses we'll be watching the numbers next year to see.

I've thanked Irene earlier, but I'd also like to say a huge thanks to Lorna Rouse, our long-standing newsletter editor, who has had to step down from this post to complete her PhD studies. Lorna ran the whole operation, from sourcing the newsletter articles to proofreading and doing the print layout and then liaising with the printers to get the News & Views to our members, both online and in print. Thanks for everything Lorna - come back when you're Doctor Lorna !

And last but not least, I would like to thank all of you who have supported us over the year by coming to our events, engaging with our Facebook pages, and taking the time to send us your feedback and to tell us how much you’ve enjoyed OUPS - you make it all worthwhile :)

Print

Letter from the Chair - June 2018

When I was elected to Chair a year ago we were already in the early stages of what we anticipated to be a difficult few years. As you will know, in 2012 the government announced the removal of subsidies from universities in England and, as these bit deeper with the end of transitional arrangements, the cost of studying became impossible to either reach or justify for many students. This was particularly devastating in the case of the OU where so many students studied out of interest and enjoyment compared to other universities where most studied towards career goals. Consequently the university reported a 30% fall in student numbers between 2012 and 2017. This percentage was even higher in Psychology, the largest student group in the university. Along with the introduction of the new degree structure that essentially removed exams from the psychology degree (only two courses, DE200 and DD317, now have exams), this had a direct and almost catastrophic effect on OUPS, which had traditionally made most of its income from exam revision weekends. We saw an immediate and savage drop in numbers at all our module-related events.

Previous committees, anticipating this decline in numbers and hence income, had built up a reserve fund to help smooth this out, and as planned we drew on this to fill this gap again this year. However our financial performance was quite a bit better than we had anticipated in that the loss we made was less than we had forecast. Our costs are relatively fixed; for example accommodation costs are largely out of our control and we can only reduce the numbers of tutors or speakers so far without compromising quality. This means the cost-per-head of our events depends on the numbers of people we can attract. So this “loss” is simply the difference between what it cost OUPS for each person who attended our events and what we charged them to come along. 

We also put a lot of effort into reviewing and reducing our costs, and re-thinking the kind of events that we offer in order to increase attendance. Although numbers at module-related events have declined, we see much more interest in our conferences and seminars and have offered more of these than ever before. While it is still an enormously challenging time, we seem to be seeing some light at the end of the tunnel now.

Financial review

As a committee we carried out a detailed review of our financial situation with the aim of making significant savings without compromising the service we give our members. This has included reducing committee attendance for our events, removing the costs of printing and delivery for our event materials through our Paperless programme, reviewing the costs and locations of our regional events and for the first time, gaining financial support from the OU itself. This has included agreement in principle for OUPS to use OU premises without charge to host events as well as direct financial contributions. 

We have also trialled a number of new payment systems to test whether being able to spread the cost of our weekends over a number of payments rather than pay in full would make it easier for people to budget and hence increase bookings. However the OUPS Credits savings scheme attracted zero deposits over twelve months so we withdrew it to remove the maintenance overhead, and OUPS PayPlan, despite its simplicity (send our standing order form to your bank six months in advance and then just turn up in Warwick) has only been used by a small number of attendees. However we’ll continue trialling OUPS PayPlan up to May 2019 before deciding on its fate.

In contrast the ability to pay online by credit and debit card that we introduced in January now accounts for more revenue than all other methods combined, and has reduced the cost of taking card payments by phone substantially. Our analysis shows that the vast majority of bookings for most events are in the month immediately beforehand, so this might explain why spreading payments is not as widespread a problem as suggested. 

Faculty liaison

As a priority this year we created an OUPS Faculty Liaison team, headed by Abi Robbins, to build on the excellent work that Abi has done over the past years in building awareness of OUPS within the OU and making contacts in the School of Psychology. We sometimes hear from students in their final year who wish they’d heard of OUPS in their first one, so it seemed that we were not reaching as many students as we could. In the first of our meetings with the department heads last year they estimated that they had around 19,000 registered psychology students, so in fact with 700 members we were visible to less than 5% of the cohort ! Years ago the University used to include an OUPS flier in each box of books sent to students at the beginning of each psychology course, and it was clear that the University could do much to promote OUPS to students now, but we needed to demonstrate that working with us would be in their interest too, and that we were aligned with their values and ethos.

The team has now rebuilt a positive working relationship with the Heads of the OU School of Psychology, who are now committed to promoting OUPS to all new students and to helping us understand their plans and the content of future modules, which helps us build events to support these. We are seeing rising numbers of students who tell us in post-event feedback that they heard of OUPS through the module websites and forums, and we are holding events that are jointly-funded between OUPS and the OU, which we aim to make cheaper or even free to students where possible. We held our latest planning session with the faculty team in mid-May and have some exciting plans for the coming year (watch this space !).

With direct faculty input we are also better able to plan the dates of our events so that they offer topics relevant to the stage of the module that students have reached, and are less likely to conflict with coursework or dayschools.

Without this close faculty engagement, OUPS will quickly become unable to function effectively, and we look forward to further collaboration in the coming years.

Governance

On a different front, we started the first significant overhaul of OUPS governance in many years, reviewing our Constitution and putting forward the first of a number of amendments for approval at the AGM. We also introduced codes of conduct for our society and policies for equality, diversity and complaints management. However there is still quite a bit of work to do in this area and we’ll continue to do this in the coming year.

We also completed a six-month programme of work to ensure that our data protection and information security was ready for the introduction of the new GDPR data protection regulation in May 2018. We reviewed all of our manual and systems business processes and by April had made the changes necessary to ensure that all personal information is treated confidentially, responsibly and securely.

Regional structure

The current regional structure is idealistic but not fit for purpose as it relies completely on dedicated individuals to establish and keep a region open. We’ve been exceptionally lucky in the past with strong regional teams in the North, in London, Cambridge and in the South/South East. However while the number of members in London means we've been able to replace committee members who move on relatively easily, in other parts it’s been really difficult and "no committee" in most regions has meant "no events" there either.

So we are slowly changing this but need to accelerate - there’s no point in having a structure that actively prevents us holding regional events.

We are quite a way through the planning of an event in Scotland for the first time in many years, and have also held events in London, Cambridge and Brighton recently.

We’ve held our first event in partnership with the OU (London Postgraduate Seminar) and have a second arranged to run in parallel with our “Thinking of Postgrad” weekend in Warwick September. This will be a Research Showcase featuring a number of the research team at the OU presenting on their work. We’re also discussing a number of approaches with the OU for bringing events to new parts of the UK.

Finally ...

I have found the current committee to be a great team who I enjoy working with very much and would like to thank them for their energy and effort this year. Without volunteers (and they are all volunteers with the sole exception of our dedicated Business Administrator, Irene), OUPS could not function. I welcome the opportunity to continue our work together to keep OUPS strong and relevant.

Sadly after many years on the OUPS committee, our Vice Chair, Alan Pechey, has had to unexpectedly withdraw from the committee, though he will continue to be a valued part of OUPS through chairing the Cambridge regional team and, as one of our tutors, giving attendees at our regional and national events the benefit of his knowledge and experience. The committee has elected Graham Edgar to the role of Vice Chair, and I look forward to working with Graham for the rest of the year ahead. I would like to thank Alan for everything he has done for OUPS and to welcome Graham into his new role.

I’d also like to thank all our volunteers who helped arrange and run our regional events, and those who are helping us investigate new events in new regions - please keep those thinking caps on and send all ideas through to Faye our Regional Representative.

And last but not least, I would like to thank all of you who have supported us over the year by coming to our events, engaging with our Facebook pages, and taking the time to send us your feedback and to tell us how much you’ve enjoyed OUPS - you make it all worthwhile :)

Print

Letter from the Chair - November 2017

Well it’s just over halfway through my year as Chair of OUPS but in ways it feels like a lifetime! I knew that I was taking up the position at a turbulent time, and I haven’t found anything to contradict my first impressions, but I think we’re making steady progress on all fronts.

As we reported at our AGM, OUPS is facing challenging times. We have been sustained for many years by the demand for our revision weekends - I was one of thousands of OU psychology students who would start to think about booking onto a revision weekend as soon as I started any of the big mandatory modules in the days of exams. However, three primary factors - affordability, relevance and visibility - have resulted in fewer students supporting our events. The net result as far as OUPS is concerned is that we have much lower attendance at our study-related events, which now generally run at a loss.

The first of these is a consequence of the removal of government subsidies for higher education, with the resulting tripling of university fees leaving many students less able or less willing to pay for additional support such as our study events. It has also led to an enormous drop in OU student numbers in the past few years, where study for personal growth or just for fun is now out of reach for many of us, which means that OUPS also has a smaller “market” to support.

To address this, we have maintained our prices again this year - now for over seven years - in spite of rising accommodation and venue costs. While this helps today’s students, it depletes our financial reserves, so we have less ability to absorb losses or unforeseen costs and is clearly not something we can continue to do for much longer. To help students spread the cost of events we looked at new ways to pay and launched two of these - OUPS Credits which acts like a piggy-bank into which students can save up over time and OUPS PayPlan which allows the costs of our larger events to be spread across six one-monthly payments. These have taken considerable work but it's great to see that they are slowly gaining support and we hope they help to make our events more affordable.

The second factor contributing to lower numbers at our course-specific revision events is the change in the OU psychology degree, with exams being largely eliminated, to the point where you need only sit two exams to get a psychology degree through the OU. This is very much at odds with most universities: an ex-student I spoke to at one of our recent events mentioned that she had sat 26 exams to achieve her psychology undergraduate degree at one of the traditional UK universities.

We have spent a lot of time this year thinking of alternative events that would be useful and attractive to OU students and that also attract enough attendees to cover the costs of venues, tutors and overheads. We’ve also analysed where to locate our events so that they are convenient to the largest numbers of attendees. To support this work, we conducted a number of surveys in which we canvassed all of our tutors, as well as sending invites to contribute to over 2000 people including tutors, OUPS members, non-members and via Facebook, to anyone who had any interest in helping us solve the conundrum. The results have been very interesting and we will share these along with our conclusions shortly.

Events such as our Conferences and Mental Health workshops have been very well supported, both at national and regional level, and we hope to continue providing and maybe even increasing the number of these. We’ve also spent many hours debating how to reduce the costs of our events to attendees, whether running more one-day or non-residential events might be viable, investigating alternative venues and locations around the country, coming up with ideas for non-revision events and so on. We’re trialling a number of these in the coming months.

Finally, despite the sterling efforts of those OUPS tutors who also work for the OU and who can tell their cluster groups about us, it seems the majority of students are simply not aware of OUPS and it’s always so frustrating to meet final-year students who have just discovered us as they come to the end of their degree journey and wish they’d heard of us five years earlier!

The most obvious way to improve our visibility would seem to be through the OU itself, but in recent years it's been difficult to get consistent support from the University in this way so a lot of effort in the past six months has been focused on building a really strong and positive relationship with the School of Psychology at the OU. This year we created the role of OU Liaison Officer and appointed Abi to formalise the work that she has been doing for a number of years, which has now blossomed into a formal regular working group between OUPS and the Head of Psychology at the OU, the Dean of the school, a number of senior lecturers at the faculty, and senior managers from the Student Support team.

We’ve held three meetings so far at Walton Hall that have surpassed our expectations, and have scheduled quarterly meetings for the rest of the year to continue making progress. Instead of having to rely solely on the effort of friendly tutors to post information on cluster group forums we now also have the faculty on-side, and they’ve worked with us to put a schedule of postings and other communications out right across the academic year via module websites, the new qualification websites that are launching in 2018. We hope that these regular scheduled communications with students and the faculty support for promoting and making OUPS visible to students will help raise our numbers. We are also collaborating on a number of other shared initiatives such as increasing accessibility to OUPS events through online material, regional roadshow events etc.

Away from the business side, the committee has had a lot of work to do to address gaps in our governance. Where we were able to run OUPS in the past through shared aims and values, these were often undocumented. Even though the vast majority of our members have little or no interest in whether we have policies and procedures, we have a responsibility as a professional organisation and a registered charity to ensure that we run ourselves to the highest standards so we took the opportunity to review these, generate new ones where needed and publish them on our website. We are also in the process of reviewing our Constitution with a view to presenting a number of amendments to our members at the next AGM.

Finally we've noticed over the last year that the cost of printing handouts for our events has increased, and also that even though we've reduced the number of copies we print there seem to be more left over after each event as time goes on. In addition we are often asked if we can make handouts available online. I’m delighted to say that our Secretary, Amada, who has been championing a more environmental approach has just launched a Paperless trial in the London, South and South East regions. For events in these regions we will email any relevant handouts to all registered attendees, either in advance so that those who need printed versions have plenty of time to organise these, or shortly after the event if the tutor has decided that this is more appropriate for their lecture. We'd like to thank our tutors for working to ensure that their presentations are copyright-free and for making them available in this way. And in advance, we'd like to thank all of you who support us in actively contributing toward a paperless environment and saving a few trees along the way.

So it’s been a hugely busy six months, and there’s no sign that the next six will bring any less work. I’d like to say how much I appreciate the enormous amount of work that everyone on the national committee and in the regional committees puts into OUPS - there isn’t the slightest doubt that without this the society would just vanish. And I’d also like to say thanks to all of you who come along to our events, and who tell us how much you value them - without you none of it would be worthwhile.

Until next time :)

David

Print

Search OUPS