The Policy Lobbying and Advocacy (PLA) team has chosen to focus on three main policies for the year, aligned with issues that have been highlighted to us as the most pressing.
Got a policy you'd like us to look into, introduce or change? Contact us at
Inclusive Seating Policy
In the Natural and Mathematical Sciences (NMS) faculty at King's College London, there already exists an inclusive seminar policy for undergraduates which states that if a seminar group cannot have at least two women, it is better to have none. This is to ensure that no woman will be the ‘only’ woman in the group.
However, so far gender has not been considered alongside ethnicity when it comes to seating. Therefore WiSTEM suggests an Inclusive Seating Policy, similar the inclusive seminar policy, where gender will be taken into consideration when desks are assigned for PhD students. This will reduce ostracism, break down male mono-culture and provide a better and more modern working environment for everyone.
MCF Mental Health Follow-Up
Across NMS, there has been an increase in submitted MCFs for mental health issues, and based on WiSTEM’s own surveys and anecdotal evidence from representatives in the Chemistry department, female science students are disproportionately suffering.
However, what is also clear from our surveys is that the student counselling services are horribly inadequate, with waiting lists up to 12 weeks and counsellors who are ill-equipped to deal with serious mental health episodes.
In recognition that this is arguably a college-wide issue and not something that the faculties we are in talks with can do much about, we suggest a simple policy which we hope will help to get students the help they need.
The MCF Mental Health Follow-Up is an email automatically sent to anyone who submits an MCF due to mental health, requesting a meeting to discuss how the department/faculty/university can be helpful. In most cases, this will mean referring the student to student services, however, the follow-up will ensure that this referral actually happens and will take pressure off the struggling student to deal with it herself.
Take our survey here: Mental Health
Parental Rights’ Policy
There is currently no overview over which funding bodies provide which parental rights (and compensation) for funded PhD students. We believe that it is the responsibility of the university, who in every practical sense of the word “employs” PhD students, to provide this information in the most accessible manner.
Therefore, we suggest that a comprehensive document be created, containing all funding bodies and their parental leave rights - i.e. not simply the big research councils. It should also explicitly state what the self-funded student’s options are.
This document should be enclosed with the rest of the induction documents provided to PhD students upon commencing their PhD studies, and should be made easily available online. It should remain the responsibility of the university to keep this document up to date (i.e. document should be updated yearly).
WiSTEM believes that the science faculties should lead the way on this policy, but that ideally the upkeep and distribution would be undertaken by the Graduate School.
Take our survey here: Parenting