Photo of Esme Cavendish holding a megaphone, smiling. The new Access, Education and Participation Officer for undergraduate students Facebook | Twitter

Describe your role at Cambridge SU:

My role title is a bit of a mouthful: Access, Education and Participation Officer (UG)! My interactions are generally triangulated between the university (management and staff), prospective students and current students. I work closely with the AEP (PG) and we sit on various committees to represent students in university-level discussions about accessibility, outreach, and the education that Cambridge provides. For prospective students, I spend the year running residentials, open days and outreach programmes – including (but not limited to) the annual Shadowing Scheme. This work will unfortunately be largely be happening virtually this year due to the pandemic! As for current students, my role is to advocate for the university fashioning itself into a comfortable, accessible, equal, and diverse place for its students to study. Along with the Postgraduate AEP, I work particularly closely with academic reps and J/MCR Access Officers, as well as with grassroots student campaigns, to support and facilitate their work on a collegiate, department and university-wide scale.

Why did you run for the role?

I was previously the JCR Access Officer at Christ’s College for a year and a half. Over the course of my degree, I also got involved in various student campaigns, particularly Cambridge Zero Carbon and Cambridge Defend Education. Combined, these experiences ignited a passion for working with people and for myriad forms of justice. The opportunity that this job with the Student Union provides for me to engage with a broad range of people to work actively and creatively for positive change really spoke to my enthusiasm, interests and skills.

What are your top priorities for the year?

My top priority this year will be protecting current and prospective students against the uncertainty which the covid-19 crisis has created. This work will take a variety of forms; from supporting student rent movements to ensure that the cost of the pandemic is not shifted onto students, to advocating for the university to take steps to mitigate the disproportionate impact of educational disruption on offer-holders and prospective students from more disadvantaged backgrounds. I will also be working hard to develop a virtual model for this year’s Shadowing Scheme that is exciting, inspiring and wide-reaching. Beyond just this particular scheme, I’ll be helping to create the infrastructure for Cambridge’s access and outreach efforts as they move online this year, with the intention that this new framework will democratise the university’s application process for coming years too.

The pandemic has not only created new problems; rather, it has highlighted and exacerbated the existing inequalities and injustices that define our university’s current system. I hope to tackle these more broadly by investigating attainment gaps, supporting student grassroots campaigns in their attempts to decolonise curriculums, and advocating strongly for fair wages and working conditions for staff, as well as for the university to cut ties with the fossil fuel and arms industries responsible for global suffering. I am keen to facilitate the efforts of students as they attempt to shape the just and equal university that they envision, primarily by supporting existing networks and helping to create new ones.

What did you study?

English at Christ’s College

What do you do when you’re not at Cambridge SU?

My degree didn’t quite extinguish my love of reading! I have a slight weakness for Tudor-related historical fiction. I also love to spend time cooking with my housemates, baking the odd cake to get us through the long days working from home, swimming in the river (or any nearby body of water!), drinking and giggling with friends, watching films that range from the mainstream to the obscure, and weeding our veg patch.

Favourite place in Cambridge

Christ’s College Fellows’ Garden – it’s beautiful, and I have lots of happy memories there!




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