Your Idea's, Forums and Preferenda

At SOAS Students’ Union, representing students' views is at the heart of everything we do. Students get to have their say over what the SU works on by voting for a Co-President that is passionate about the same things as them and by setting Union Priorities, which are objectives the SU is mandated to deliver. These priorities are decided by students and can cover a range of different things.

How it works:

Your Ideas

Your Ideas are an opportunity for students to propose anything, from big structure changes, or quick wins. They can call for changes within SOAS SU, SOAS, and beyond. They can be used as a call for action on a particular issue, or relate to communicating an ideological standpoint.


Ideas must answer the following questions:

Facts: What is the issue you're trying to address and what do we already know about the issue?

Impact: How does this issue affect students and in what way?

Response: What would you like the students' union to do to address the issue and how can we take it forward?


Ideas for change must be no longer than 600 words. 


Once an idea for change is submitted it will be reviewed and published for up to one month. Students can then vote for the ideas that they think are most important. Once an idea reaches 25 votes it will be taken to a Union Forum. If it is decided that the idea falls within ordinary business the idea can be actioned without moving forward to a Union Forum. 


Ideas Portal

Ideas will be marked as 'passed' if they fall within ordinary course of business and will be actioned straight away, or if they have been taken forward to a Union Forum. You can find out which ideas have become SU mandates here. 


Union Forums

Union Forums are an opportunity for students to discuss and develop ideas for change. Once an idea reaches the threshold it will be taken to the next termly Union Forum. There are three Union Forums, each looking at a different types of ideas for change. 

  1. Influencing SOAS – for ideas that relate to the Institution and its provision
  2. SU Operations – for ideas that relate to the services of the Union, including clubs, societies and commercial services.
  3. SU Campaigns – for ideas that relate to the wider campaigning role of the Union and its membership, to influence the world beyond SOAS.

During a Union Forum students can suggest amendments to the idea and propose alternative solutions. Once discussed at a Union Forum the ideas will move forward to Preferenda.

In order for an idea to be discussed at a Union Forum the student who submitted the idea must attend, or nominate someone to attend in their place. If they do not attend the idea will be referred to the next Union Forum.


A preferenda allows all students to vote for which solutions they would like to see become a Union Priority. During a preferenda students can vote in order of preference. There are three preferenda per year, with the first being used to decide the remits of the Preferenda Portfolio Officer roles. The remaining two referendums – one held in the spring term and one in the summer term – will decide the priorities that the SU will campaign on.

During a preferenda there is an opportunity for students to campaign for a particular idea/solution, they can do this by asking their friends to vote for a specific option. There will also be an opportunity for students to submit a manifesto, a document outlining why students should vote for one of the solutions. These manifesto's will then be published for students to view when deciding which option to vote for. 

Preferenda's are regulated by the Preferenda Rules, these are published prior to a Preferenda taking place and are overseen by the Governance Sub-Committee and Union Deputy Returning Officer. 

Your Ideas

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  • 68 score
    70 voters

    Start an official SU campaign to reform Mitigating Circumstances

      We call for the SU to create an official campaign to reform SOAS's inhumane and unjust Mitigating Circumstances policy.


      The SOAS Mitigating Circumstances Policy states that "All mitigating circumstances claims must be accompanied by original, contemporaneous, independent third party documentary evidence which must confirm the existence of the mitigating circumstances and state how the circumstances have impacted upon the student." The deadlines for submitting this evidence should " be published by the Registry as part of the annual assessment calendar. These dates should also be published by departments to students. The deadline for the submission of claims is the Friday before the week of the appropriate Mitigating Circumstances Panel and all mitigating circumstances must be submitted by these deadlines. Late claims will be rejected unless a valid reason for the late submission can be provided and in such cases the Chair’s Action will be taken." However, this timetable has not been published in an easily accessible location for this academic year, especially since the new website. The link to the 'Key School Dates Calendar' in point 2 of the Assessment Handbook takes you to an error page. These requirements are significantly stricter and more opaque than other universities. For example, UCL provides two week extensions for self certification, and Birkbeck does not require any evidence at all for the first claim of an academic year (for any outcome) and clearly explains the process on their website.


      The current SOAS Mitigating Circumstances policy is actively harmful to the student body: 1. The Mit Circs team routinely rejects requests for extensions and deferrals based on technicalities, such as not submitting an application within the extremely tight window they prescribe, even when individual circumstances make this impossible (such as being in hospital). In addition, these timelines are not easily available to students. 2. The policy demands extensive medical evidence which requires students to gather medical opinions at their own expense during a cost of living crisis, and places extreme administrative burden on the NHS during its own crisis. Students are not believed about their own health and circumstances. 3. The policy excludes students with chronic health issues by demanding that medical evidence is "contemporaneous... [and] supports the difficulties you have been recently facing". When disabled students are having a flare-up, it is often difficult to obtain this evidence. Disabilities alone are not enough to apply for Mit Circs - SOAS considers SIP extensions (only 1 week) to be enough to cover any delays caused by disability even though these are designed to spread out work rather than compensate for health issues, flareups or crises. 4. When applications are inevitably rejected, students face a long wait to have their appeals heard due to an overburdened appeals team, with zero communication in the meantime. There are examples of students who have been waiting over a year for their appeals to be dealt with. 5. Any extensions that students manage to receive (including via self cert) are extremely short, usually one week. 6. All of the above has an extremely negative impact on student wellbeing and mental health, as students who are already facing crisis are forced to prove themselves over and over again while their academic future hangs in the balance for years at a time.


      We call for the SU to create an official campaign to reform the Mitigating Circumstances policy. This reform should aim to abolish or significantly relax the requirements for providing evidence, significantly extend the periods for submitting evidence and for extensions, and reform the Mit Circs team to focus on compassion and student wellbeing over arbitrary application of procedures. Policies should be rewritten to be easier to read without having to cross-reference several documents, and should be easy to find on the SOAS website.
    Annabel Baldwin
    2:24pm on 19 Apr 23 Absolutley essential, guys please vote for this
    Heather Michelle Conyers Dixon
    4:37pm on 19 Apr 23 Deadlines are not well communicated, or transparent. Requirements are not sensitive to specific challenges, especially that of international students. And if you're going through a period of crisis - it's difficult to meet the deadlines FOR the mitigation. In terms of assessment for disability support - the people have been helpful, but are massively underresourced. It can take months to book an appointment of any kind - meaning that deadlines for submission pass while you're waiting.
    Carolyn Elizabeth Parker
    6:07pm on 19 Apr 23 This is vital!
    Mahir Ahmed
    6:25pm on 19 Apr 23 Back in my old uni, applying for mitigating circumstances wasn't so difficult or mentally taxing. As a PG student, the mitigating circumstances forum is asking for too much with little to no leeway. Reform it!
    Arundhati Narayan
    6:27pm on 19 Apr 23 Only two self certifications for the entirety of a year (for Masters students) is not enough especially with the quantum of deadlines we receive. Personally I find the necessity for evidence invasive and also inflexible considering appointments with GPs are not easy to get. The delay in response to whether an extension request has been approved or not is shocking! I have not yet received a response on a request and I have even submitted the assignment. This policy definitely requires serious changes.
    Osheen Sharma
    6:32pm on 19 Apr 23 Only 2 chances for self certification is not justified! Students go through so much and we have to meet the deadlines under horrendous conditions
    Upasana Dandona
    6:45pm on 19 Apr 23 A 7-day extension hardly helps a neurodivergent person. We need better accomodations for those who have hidden disabilities.
    Annabel Baldwin
    7:22pm on 19 Apr 23 A 7 day extension does absolutley nothing unless your problem is that you just have a cold. Let's stop being abelist and acknowledge that disability exists
    Alex Cachinero Gorman
    7:51pm on 19 Apr 23 SOAS has been consistently cruel and arbitrary regarding its mitigating circumstances policy, and I have personal experience of them violating their own regulations forcing me to use my self-certifications instead. Not to mention that the website is so poorly organised that it is very difficult to even find the mitigating circumstances form, the links to many pages are broken or out of date, and then famously slow and incompetent bureaucracy at SOAS. Furthermore the idea that one has to wait weeks even when one is in imminent danger health wise or otherwise, thus forcing students to continue working beyond their capacity despite the university failing in its obligations. If a policy is not accessible and pro-student, it is effectively anti-student. And in the context of disability I'd say the university is definitively anti-disabled, because it makes these processes so unfavourable to students so as to obviate any need for a panel, since most decisions get rejected anyway. It doesn't help that the staff themselves have no idea how any of this works, partially because some of them have been hired too recently to know, others because of rank incompetence, and the few gem are just too busy advocating for themselves and a dozen other people. And yet students and staff are the problem--perhaps this is why SOAS has spent over £700,000 on security to police the campus while closing departments and offering subpar Master's? Slick move Habib. I sincerely hope and pray you are hit with a righteous class action law suit some day.
    Weng Teng Sin
    10:59pm on 19 Apr 23 Only two chances for self certification is not enough. Also applying for mitigating circumstances requires lots of evidences, not all with mental issues would want to or have the energy to prove that they are going through tough times, also many students need to work on order to support themselves sometimes it requires them to cover some shifts or do extra work, and I doubt if their bosses/manager would write them any proofs or it would be passed by the Soas staff.
    Buffy Collett Smedley Bell
    2:09am on 20 Apr 23 Applying for an extension is hard enough, and the lack of support for those with disabilities is extremely difficult to navigate at university. The additional stress of navigating the current system is unnecessary and should be amended. Neurodivergent people need more than a 7 day extension. It should be mandatory for all with a SIP to have an automatic 10-14 day extension. This extension should also be added during strikes. In addition to the above I recently encountered a very difficult situation with an extension for bereavement, I was not able to get a hold of a death certificate. I was able to self-certify but I do believe that this should be amended. Grief is something we all experience and it should be treated with the utmost care and consideration not requests for proof. I do understand the administrative side of this, however there must be an alternative solution. The vast majority requesting extra time for extension have valid reasons, this should not be a battle. The work will be done! We pay for our education and we should have reasonable adjustments readily and easily available to us all.
    Benjamin Plafker
    2:52am on 20 Apr 23 Absolutely! I see no reason why the deadlines need to be so strict, especially considering the time it takes to mark after weve rushed to hand assignments in.
    Naznin Ahad
    3:55pm on 21 Apr 23 This is very much needed. Considering the ongoing strikes and uncertainty since COVID and lack of accessible help within the past couple of years, the need to restrict SOAS's Mitigating Circumstances and Submissions policy when its own systems such as SID, Registry and even lecturers not meeting their 3-4 week turnaround time without adequate explanation is already a broken system. the 7-Day SIP is not adequate enough for a neurodivergent student if they catch unexpected health symptoms that they cannot receive evidence before the tight deadline because of the pressure of the demands of the NHS, or because of the impact of the strikes. Furthermore, the updated opening times of the school online e library puts majority of SOAS students at a disadvantage compared to other universities especially when a lot of resources are inaccessible to SOAS's library institution. Soas Mitigating Circumstances team are discriminatory and reject claims from neurodivergent people with SIP. Last year, I was suffering with severe seasonal depression and my claims first asked to have further evidence regarding my mental health that alarm GPs and other medical institutions as SOAS is not entitled a deep analysis to my medical history, it creates competition/backlash with other people who claim mitigating circumstances making students self-doubt their own health and cause them into an even more confusing loophole. Even once submitting further evidence, they rejected my claim without being able to forefront explain a proper reason and tried to force me to go on a year leave of absence, without adequate support. This was only granted once undergoing a 2 month process of appealing by which I only won through the support of external advocate services due to the long waiting list from the student advice and Wellbeing. This is most unfair as SOAS takes 2-3 months to process even a simple change such as mode of study or answer any SID query akong with lecturers failing to meet 3-4 week turnaround time for marking (plus marking boycott) and greet with disrespect when you enquire at registry office. Soas needs to reform a clearer, accessible streamlined policy as well as improve their services of staff. There is no point in restricting Policies when you fail to accommodate/ communicate it.

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