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The Big Interview: University of Gloucestershire Student Union President Rickesh Patel

By Gloucestershire Echo  |  Posted: December 31, 2013

By Aled Thomas

Kesh patel

Kesh Patel

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IT’S a good thing Rickesh Patel isn’t racked by doubt, or indecision.

The 21-year-old meets me in the office he uses as president of the Students’ Union of the University of Gloucestershire.

It’s a curious glass box tucked into the corner of the refectory of the University’s Park campus, so while Kesh (as he’s more commonly known) works, the students for whom he is responsible in some ways, are eating, relaxing and chatting.

He’s pretty much always on view as he does his job.

And as we speak, Kesh who graduated from the university this year with a degree in education studies, strikes a remarkably self-assured figure, handling my questions with equanimity.

But then, he seems happy to make decisions, sometimes pretty rapidly.

He said: “I knew I wanted to come to Gloucestershire from the interview day.

“It was at Francis Close Hall campus and as soon as I saw the place, I fell in love. It was the best choice I’ve ever made.”

And having done that, Kesh was immediately determined to become more than involved in the students’ union.

He said: “On the first day I said I wanted to be president of the union. I told my tutor the first time we met that I wanted to do this.”

His position is a paid, full-time post funded by the students’ union and means while he’s a member of the university, he has no studies while in post.

And he admits that his passage to his current position was eased by the fact he stood unopposed at the union elections last March.

However, he added, he was determined to do things properly.

“It’s not a very political university like some of the bigger one,” he said. “I’m not a member of any party, but we still had to go through the process, we had a proper campaign, I was determined to get out there. My team was working for weeks.”

But, while Kesh is enviably unruffled by what would strike me as a heavy burden of being the leader or perhaps the representative (or maybe, both) of 10,000 students, what does his day consist of?

He said: “Well, there’s a team of four of us. There’s a sports officer James Armagh, the education officer Louise Fenson and the community officer Sam Adiboye.

“We split the welfare and education officer role so the officers can do more.

“We’re covering both, we’re trying to make sure that students are getting the teaching and education they need, and also looking after their welfare.

“Many students might be away from home for the first time.”

And Kesh says Cheltenham is a draw – it makes the university an easy sell for many students.

He said: “Being in Cheltenham is great, it has a really big night-time economy.

“And it’s one of the safest places to be a student in England, so it’s a good feeling to be here.”

But the university is not just based on one campus; it’s not even based in one town.

Being split across Cheltenham and Gloucester, and the separate sites that made up the individual colleges which merged to form the university, must make it difficult to effectively work for all the students.

Kesh said: “It is a challenge. I don’t just have an office here, I have one at Oxstalls campus and Francis Close Hall. I move around and we’re always trying to get feedback from the students.

“We’re going to have a thing called Feedback February, where Louise is going to tour the campuses with a Big Brother chair and students can tell us the positive and negative.”

And it’s not just official initiatives where Kesh gets to hear what his fellow students think.

He said: “In my spare time I like to support as many of our sports teams as I can and when I go out, students are always saying hello and having a word.”

And being more available is the reason for his office in the dining hall, with a desk for Kesh and Louise and decorated with a collage of photographs of Kesh and friends enjoying the things students do.

He said: “The other office was upstairs, along a corridor and you had to walk through the staff to get to it.

“I wouldn’t have just walked up to it to see the president when I was first here.

“So being here is designed to make us more accessible, more visible.”

Kesh added that there are other rooms where people can discuss problems more discreetly or more difficult issues can be worked on.

But in what is perhaps another reason to envy him his youth he said that working in a see-through box in the corner of a noisy dining hall didn’t cause him any difficulties with

I say that one of the things I notice about students at Gloucestershire is that a lot of them seem to wear branded clothes advertising their university.

Is that just fashion or a genuine sense of pride at where they are studying?

Kesh, himself in a University of Gloucestershire polo shirt and hoody said: “It’s a bit of both, I think. We’re the only university in Gloucestershire and people really do come here because they want to.”

He gestures at the small student union shop next to his office, selling all sorts of university-branded merchandise: “We have started doing onesies now, and they’ve been flying off the shelves.”

What’s next for Kesh, who originally comes from Dudley?

This is one decision he hasn’t yet made.

He said: “I’ve trained to teach and I studied teaching English as a foreign language, so I’d like to travel and teach while doing that.

“But I can also do another year as president here, you can do two years.”

Will he?

“I don’t know yet. The elections are in March so I’ll have to decide by then.”

I’m glad to have found an area of indecision. But I suspect it won’t take him long to make his choice, and be firm, and unfazed by doubt, in sticking to it.

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