This year, the AMS plans to improve student representation in the allocation process of the UBC Excellence Fund. This will be done through encouraging more consultations between the AMS and different student constituencies, including first-year constituencies.
The Excellence Fund was first implemented in 2016 as a result of a three-year plan to increase international student tuition. The fund takes a large portion of this additional revenue and allocates it towards different strategic initiatives. According to UBC, these initiatives help the Excellence Fund achieve its goals of “excellence.”
According to the fund’s terms of reference, “excellence” entails “having outstanding students, researchers and teachers, and staff.” It is specified that this can be achieved through supporting initiatives that promote “an excellent student learning experience.”
For this school year’s 2017/18 budget, the Excellence Fund was $18.2 million strong — in 2018/19, it is projected to grow to $35 million.
AMS executives play a large part in the decision-making behind the Excellence Fund’s allocation. It was agreed that the AMS, along with the GSS, would have the annual opportunity to consult with the university administration on the allocation of the Excellence Fund. The role of the AMS in these discussions is to represent the voices of undergraduate students with regards to the areas of university life that should gain funding.
According to AMS President Alan Ehrenholz, the AMS has, and will continue to, advocate for funding towards areas such as “research mentorship programs, career services, incubator space for entrepreneurship opportunities and greater financial aid and awards.”
The AMS does, however, believe that student representation in the fund’s allocation process can be improved.
The newly elected AMS VP Academic, Max Holmes, will be heavily involved in carrying out this improvement through his current plans to increase student engagement.
This plan includes carrying out consultation with a broader scope of student leadership in order to represent voices from more areas of student life. According to Ehrenholz, Holmes will be consulting with the constituent VP Academics of each faculty, all the student senators as well as the AMS Advocacy Committee.
Along with these consultations, the AMS will utilize their annual Academic Experience Survey to collect opinions and issues that may also be relevant to the Excellence Fund’s allocation process.
One area of the student body that requires more representation in the fund’s allocation process is UBC’s first-year students. First-years have unique issues and needs that may demand more attention than students of other year levels. International first-year students are also the ones who have to experience the full effect of UBC’s tuition increase.
Ehrenholz explains that first year representation in the Excellence Fund will be addressed by Holmes, who will encourage constituent VP Academics to consult with first year representatives and councils in regards to areas that may benefit from funding.
Ehrenholz also encourages individual students to bring forward their opinions on the fund’s allocations to either him or Holmes.
“Ultimately, the AMS is here to serve our students and we want to hear from our students what they feel the best allocations of these funds are,” said Ehrenholz. “We’ll be sure to incorporate that into our decision making process.”