Photo of Zaynab Ahmed in front of a white brick wall, smiling. The new Access, Education and Participation Officer for undergraduate students Facebook | Twitter

Describe your role at Cambridge SU:

I’m the Access, Education and Participation Officer for Undergraduates (AEP UG). I love that my role has these two distinct, yet interconnected, sides to it. 

On the Education side of my role, I run the Academic Rep Forum along with Amelia, the AEP PG, to ensure that teaching practices across the University are fair and accessible for everyone. I regularly meet with the Education and Policy Quality Office, the Cambridge Centre for Teaching and Learning, and the Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education.

 On the Access side, I’m involved in a lot of outreach schemes run by the Students’ Union. I am excited and hopeful for the annual Shadowing Scheme to go ahead in person this year! I’m also excited to work with Access Officers on different J/MCRs and various societies, to make sure that the amazing work they do is supported and recognised.

I sit on University-level committees and working groups and contribute to important discussions about both Education provisions for current students and how the Access and Outreach work can encourage and support prospective students.


Why did you run for the role?

I have always been engaged in the issues addressed by my role, which meant that I became involved with Access work very early on in my degree. In my role as the Access and Welfare Office for Cambridge Bangla Society and as an UG Academic Rep for the Classics Faculty, I learnt more about the SU and the important work it does for students. Being part of the Students’ Union gives me the chance to engage with students and high-level decision makers to make positive changes across the University.


What are your top priorities for the year?

Moving on from the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important that the University maintains the best aspects of online learning. Online learning has been particularly beneficial for students with accessibility requirements; I’m excited to work with Anna, the Disabled Students’ Officer, to ensure that teaching and learning is accessible for everyone. This would include pushing for lecture recordings, closed captioning, continued provision of digital library resources, or more long-term diversity of assessments. I’d also want some access and outreach events to continue online, since this would ameliorate issues like travel costs or long journeys to Cambridge: we are currently looking at the possibility of moving some aspects of the Shadowing Scheme online, since some sessions actually worked better in a digital format this year! 

I’ve found that students’ experiences at Cambridge differ depending on their course and college. I want to implement more standardisation in some of the procedures that take place. This might include: improving anti-racism training for staff, streamlining the exam mitigations process, and simplifying the process for student-led groups to apply for funding for any access work they’re doing.

Finally, the structure of University committees often means that key decisions are made with little consultation with students, or little acknowledgement of work students and other staff are doing on related issues. I want to work closely with Academic Reps and Access Officers to not only share the work they do at the committees I sit on, but also ensure that students are able to be instrumental in discussions that happen on a Faculty, Collegiate or University level.


What did you study?

Classics at Newnham College!


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

I’m a self-professed ‘boatie’! I started coxing with Newnham College Boat Club in 2019, and now cox for a couple of town clubs, which is so much fun! I can usually be found in the kitchen baking a cake for my friends, most likely while singing along to some ‘80s music or Disney tunes. I love to wind down by watching Netflix or Disney+, or shouting answers at whatever quiz show is on TV.


Favourite place in Cambridge

A toss up between Newnham Gardens or the Cam; those are the places I have the most fun and feel most like myself!





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