There are many misconceptions around Students’ Union Elections whether it’s the need to be involvement in the union already, that campaigning is a really time-consuming period or that popularity is key - below we address some of the more common of these.
So why not spend a few minutes give it a read, don’t be put off and reconsider standing!
Myth 1 - "I'm not political enough"
There aren’t particular issues you have to be passionate about to vote or get people to vote for you, other than being interested in making things better for students at University of the Arts London (UAL). People with varying political views and experience are elected at every set of elections so there is no right sort of political interest or activity for those who put themselves forward or those who vote for them.
Myth 2- "Someone else is more likely to win"
Most people who nominate themselves believe this, but someone’s got to win. You might think that someone else has more experience, more friends or is just more likely to win. But with thousands of students voting there are no guarantees with elections. There are often cases where people who didn’t think they would win are elected.
Myth 3 - "I’m not the right sort of person to get involved in elections"
There is no such thing as the “right sort of person” to put themselves forward or vote in elections. Each successful candidate makes the position their own and the Union provides training and support to help them achieve their goals. There are no particular skills or experience required to win an election or to be a successful officer. Enthusiasm and passion are the main criteria.
Myth 4- "I’m an International student, so I cannot run due to visas"
An International student can run to be a Full-time Officer and can apply for an extension of their Tier 4 visa. The requirement for a work placement to be no more than 50 per cent of your overall course in the UK does not include any period when you are in post as a Full-time Officer.
If you take the job while you still have time left in your permission to stay as an adult student, your Tier 4 sponsor (the University) must let the UKBA know. This is because they are responsible for you until your permission to stay in the UK expires.
If you want to take the job at the end of your course, and your permission to stay as a student is about to expire, you must apply to extend your stay as a Tier 4 student.
Full guidance can be found on the UKBA website: https://www.gov.uk/tier-4-general-visa
Myth 5- "It's just a popularity contest"
There are no guarantees or certainties with elections. Just because you think someone knows lots of people, it doesn’t mean those people would vote for them. Remember every vote counts and by encouraging those around you to take a few minutes to make the most of their right to vote, you can shape how Art SU runs.
Myth 6- "I won’t have time"
If you are thinking about nominating yourself, Elected Officer roles are paid full-time positions for one year from July until July. They’re designed to be as accommodating as possible when it comes to completing your course or year of study, and the Union provides training and support to help you carry out your responsibilities within the Union.
The election campaign period is one week in total, but it’s up to you how much time you put into it and how you balance it with your studies.
Myth 7- "There’s no point, you never change anything"
Students have been instrumental in introducing big changes at UAL and Arts SU over the years.
Arts SU Officers have recently been involved in the Cost of Living campaign, which included supplying food parcels to students and releasing our Cost of Living survey. The officers have lead on liberation exhibitions during Black History Month and Disability History Month. There are also lots of examples of smaller changes that have improved the experience for UAL students, and many of these have been student-led.
Myth 8- "I’m not sure it’s for me, I’m happy with things at UAL"
You don’t have to have an endless list of big changes, sometimes it is small changes that can make a big difference. Why not ask your friends if they have any ideas for things they would like to see changed?
Being an officer is partly about giving feedback on behalf of students to the university and union. This could be things that work well and should be increased or ideas to improve things.
Myth 9- "I don’t have the right experience to nominate myself"
You don’t need prior experience to put yourself forward in an election. It is up to students to decide who has the best suggestions and enthusiasm; it isn’t like going for a job interview where someone looks over your CV. While being previously involved in the union can provide a useful insight into how the union and university work, it is by no means essential.
Myth 10- "I won’t win without a big campaign team"
Having friends to help you with your campaign can be useful, whether this is just encouraging words or team of people to hand out flyers, but this isn’t essential. Plenty of people have won elections working on their own, especially with online communication being so widely used now.
Sometimes candidates running in the same set of elections end up helping each other out and it can be a great way to get to know other people who might be your future colleagues, so don’t worry about having to work on your own.
Myth 11- "I am not in my final year so I cannot run"
Becoming an Elected Officer does not mean you stop being a student, so anyone can run for the position. While many students see becoming an officer as the perfect end to their studies, plenty of students also see it is a great way to break up their studies by a year and get some great experience before they graduate.
The skills you gain from being an Elected Officer are second to none including how to lead a team, devise and manage strategy, and the experience of working closely with senior officials on highly sensitive matters. If you’re interested in running for a position at Arts SU, don’t feel you have to wait for your final year. Jump in and have a go now, you might just start on a journey you will never forget. If not why not consider becoming a School Rep instead.