Candidate for the position of Mature Students Officer

Image for Sara Lloyd-Knibbs

Sara Lloyd-Knibbs

Hi Everyone!

My name is Sara, I’m a 30-year-old postgrad, and though 21 feels like yesterday, this makes me a ‘mature student’. I also know I’m one of many here at SOAS. According to a 2012 NUS report, “mature entry to university has risen… from approximately 10%… in 1980 to nearly a third of the undergraduate student body today.” Despite this, there is still a tendency to imagine the ‘typical university student’ as 18-21 years old, unmarried, childless, fresh-from-school and probably living away from home for the first time. This preconception can shape everything - from how teaching is delivered, to what welfare provisions are made and the type of social events that are organised. It can be easy for mature students to be forgotten, and difficult for universities to know how to support us. I am new to SOAS, but have heard that our Student Union has found it difficult to reach mature students in the past (and I experienced the same phenomenon at the university where I completed my undergrad).

Why am I standing?

I’m standing to become your Mature Students’ Officer because I believe that no student should feel that the student experience is less accommodating of them because of any aspect of their identity, and that includes age.


Every student mature student is unique, but if you’re reading this there’s a good chance you may…

    • Have had some time away from the classroom

    • Be holding down a full-time job

    • Have caring responsibilities of some kind (including, but not limited to, being a parent)


Moreover, from speaking to some of my classmates, I know that right now many students have returned to education unexpectedly (or earlier, or in a different way than planned) as a direct result of the unprecedented way that 2020 is playing out. Perhaps you’re surprised to even find yourself as a newly enrolled SOAS student right now, I know I am! In such unusual times, we all need a little more support and a little less stress, and that’s where I hope to be involved.


What are my pledges?


Mature Students’ Survey - Rather than presuming or guessing which issues - and potential solutions - are most important to you, I would like to invite you to tell me! If elected, I would like to prepare an online survey which can be shared with students via their SOAS email and through which you can share your concerns, suggestions and queries in a way which I hope if convenient for you. Based on these responses, I hope to be able to focus my efforts on the policies, incentives and campaigns YOU care about. Perhaps you want more appropriate social events? Perhaps there are some university policies which don’t accommodate you? Perhaps you have suggestions that could benefit the wider student population, but don’t know where to start? Whatever you’re thinking, let me know!


Transparency & Communication - I think that there are few things more disillusioning in politics than to take the time to vote for someone, and then to never hear from them again. Therefore, if elected, I will set up a social media channel by which I can regularly update students on what I have been doing in this role, be easily contacted, and held accountable. At my previous student union, I found that this was easiest by setting up a dedicated Facebook Page, but I will check current SOAS policy and also include an opportunity for mature students to express their preferences around this in the afore-mentioned Mature Students’ Survey. Also, due to the distance-learning situation, I will make myself available to chat on video-conferencing software.


Give Mature Student’s Voices a Platform - If there is one singular thing that all Mature Students I have met had in common, it is that they have some amazing stories! The difference backgrounds, experiences and perspectives of mature students can enrich a classroom. Unfortunately, with distance/online-learning, we don’t have as many opportunities to share with each other as in normal circumstances, and I for one am already feeling like I’m missing out on some great conversations that would usually be had in the corridor, student union bar or library. If elected, I would like to reach out to mature students with an invitation to share stories or perspectives on issues which may be of interest to the wider student body, in whatever way feels accessible, be that writing, audio or video. For example, perhaps you have some valuable experiences to share related to your professional life before/during your studies, or an interesting personal story about a turning point that led to you joining the SOAS family? Or maybe you had a strong opinion on a topic, but from a perspective which isn’t often considered? Whatever it is, I would like to work with other stakeholders within the SU to share what you have to say through existing channels, so the students you can’t meet in person right now have another way to hear you out.


What is my experience?


Finally, if you are still reading, I’d like to tell you a little more about my prior experience within student democracy and representation, which I hope may give you more confidence in my ability to be effective within this role (despite being new to SOAS).


  • At my former university, I spend 3 consecutive years as an elected student representative (Woman’s Officer, Social Experience Office), 2 as an NUS Delegate and 1 on the Board of Trustees. I was also a Halls President, Deputy Faculty Chair and involved in Student Media;

  • I have a professional background in Event Management and varied hands-on experience with both liberation and welfare campaigns, within former SU and also with a number of different charities (happy to provide more details on request, since this manifesto is getting really long!)

  • Some of my achievements include:

    • Working with other student officers remove barriers to access for student representatives with different circumstances - for example, a childcare allowance for those attending meetings;

    • Improving the selection of food available to student in catered halls of residence to better cater to different religious, ethical and dietary requirements;

    • Tripling the membership of the RaG & Campaigns Team.


Based on this, in 2012/13 I won an award for Outstanding Contribution to Student Leadership. I hope this gives you an idea of the level of passion I have for student democracy and representation and the skillset I can bring to the role.


Thank you for taking the time to read this manifesto, and I hope that you will consider voting Sara #1 for Mature Students’ Officer 2020/21. More importantly, I would love to hear from you, so please do reach out to me during or after the election process. Keep being awesome, and we’ll get through these unusual times together!

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