University of Strathclyde Students Association
Policy for Student Representation StructurePassed by University of Strathclyde Senate 16 March 2011
Since 2010 a lot of work, resources, and drive have been put into reinvigorating the Student Representative system. This has paid off and we have seen increased engagement: 65% more Class Representatives were registered in 2010-11 (95% of which were reported by departments/schools), and the numbers attending training has increased from 64 in 2009-10 to up to 240 in 2010-11 and 2011-12. USSA has been in discussion with the University over a number of years with a view to overcoming acknowledged drawbacks and improving knowledge of the system's efficiency and achievement. Several new initiatives were introduced; the impact of these has been evaluated and their success indicates clear directions for the system to develop, as outlined below.
In order to build on the success of several pilot activities undertaken this year, there is a need to:
- Firm up the structure that the University uses;
- Have a standard and consistently used formal reporting structure;
- Allow a system of choosing Student Representatives that is consistent across the University but also flexible enough to be tailored to departmental or faculty requirements;
- Address the often missing layer of faculty-level student representation by electing Faculty Reps.
2.1 Student Representative Numbers and Structure
The previous proposal to move to a rigid Class Representative system that was put forward in Academic Year 2009-10 raised many difficulties and was seen as inappropriate for some situations by both staff and students. However, the underlying principles of increasing the number of students engaging in the system and ensuring that there are no gaps in coverage of classes remained relevant. As such, it was proposed that the University adopt a similar system where every individual class has at least one student representative assigned to that class. This proposal allows for a student representative to be assigned to a single class or module, to a cluster of classes, or to a whole year of classes (as is the case in many of the science and engineering departments where the curriculum is mostly prescribed). This was trialled with great success.
In order to be consistent in the classification of various types of student representatives at the department or school level, it is recommended that the student representatives be termed "Class Representatives" and the consultative meetings between staff and students termed Student-Staff Liaison Committees (SSLCs). This is in line with the sector's nomenclature.
The system works best where there is a partnership between the University and USSA in helping to develop and run it. Academics and administrative staff within the department or school are responsible for assigned Class Representatives (either through elections or volunteering), with USSA actively supporting staff to do this and supplying administration as well as providing training and other opportunities for Class Reps. In order to make the administrative burden as light as possible for University staff, only the Representative's name, their e-mail address and matriculation number, and the individual class(es) code(s) that she or he is representing are required to be passed to USSA.
2.2 Faculty Representatives & Student Congress
USSA took the initiative to revitalise the role of Faculty Representatives. This was for a number of reasons, including the change to USSA's governance and previous poor experiences of faculty-level student representation from both students and academics. The role of Faculty Representatives now has two main purposes:
- To consult with Class Representatives on issues of importance to them, providing mentoring support to the Class Reps in their faculty, and allowing Reps to share best practice across the faculty;
- To facilitate a three-way communication channel between USSA, the University, and Class Representatives, allowing students to productively engage in University-wide discussions and initiatives.
All Class Representatives will have the opportunity to attend a Student Congress in their first semester. This gives representatives a chance to meet other reps from their department, faculty, and the rest of the University, to discuss the wider issues affecting teaching and best practice, and have a real impact on making changes to the way that teaching is dealt with at Strathclyde. This is also when Faculty Representatives will be elected.
2.3 Feedback, Formal Reporting Mechanisms and Reviewing the Systems
As the system is a partnership between students and the University it is appropriate that the joint student representation system is actively monitored and improved by both. It is recommended that a semesterly report is submitted by USSA, with input from University staff where appropriate, to the Quality Monitoring Committee (QMC). This should include: an overview of the minutes of the SSLCs, drawing out key themes for priority; an overview of the discussions at Student Congress; reflection on areas for holistic development of the Student Representation system of the University. It is proposed that at the end of each semester departments or schools publish the minutes of the SSLCs to the faculty (as part of the annual faculty monitoring process) and to USSA, with a view to USSA reporting to QMC at the beginning of each semester. USSA will also be responsible for housing the library of the SSLC minutes, distributing these to Faculty Representatives, and providing administrative support where appropriate.
Departments should ensure that the issues raised and actions taken are reported back to the class in order to close the feedback loop and actively demonstrate that the students’ feedback is listened to.
It is further proposed that in the academic year 2012-13 the system goes under a complete review to determine extent of engagement and effectiveness.
3. Conclusion & Next Steps
This paper sets out to put a foundation to the system from which it can evolve and develop. It is USSA's priority to allow students every opportunity to become active champions for their own education and it is committed to making available a system that is effective for both students and academics, and as such is strategically positioned to help facilitate this. By having a consistent and monitorable approach to student engagement in representation structures, both USSA and the University will be able to demonstrate an effective communication channel with students, and provide opportunities to interact with and actively participate in enhancing their own teaching and learning. Ultimately the current student representative system is one part of student engagement as a whole and topics for further discussion include:
- Postgraduate Research Representation – (Pilot underway in HaSS);
- Review on Student Consultation and Evaluation Procedures;
- Defining Rep involvement in Departmental and Teaching and Learning Committees;
- Promoting student engagement;
- Student Representation Guidance Paper.
1. Student Representation: Guidance for Running an effective system, Graeme Allan, Submitted
2. Class Rep Training Report Sept-Oct 2010; Sara MacLean
3. Class Rep System Update, End of Semester 1; Sara MacLean