6.7 Student Representation
1. Students are at the heart of learning and teaching and an effective student voice, with appropriate representative structures, underpins the University’s quality assurance and enhancement systems. In this, the University recognises the importance of effective student representation at many layers within the University’s structure in contributing to its success in maintaining and enhancing the student experience.
2. Within the University’s formal academic committee structure, there are student representatives appointed by the Students’ Union to Senate, Academic Board, and all sub-committees of Academic Board, where their input is both encouraged and welcomed. Student Academic Representatives participate in discussions of study schemes and their annual monitoring and review, the review of external examiners’ reports on taught schemes, the development of new or revised academic policy and consideration of NSS outcomes.
3. Student academic representation at all levels within the University is the responsibility of the Academic Board, which reports to the Senate, and works in partnership with the Students’ Union. The University is committed to receiving and responding to student feedback and working in partnership with students with the general aim of enhancing the quality of teaching and the overall student experience. Feedback is gathered in a variety of ways, for example, through Module Evaluation Questionnaires (MEQs) and Tell us Now (TUN) within Staff and Student Consultative Committees (SSCCs), through the personal tutorial system, through student representation on Institute and University level committees, and by informal contacts between students and academic staff.
4. The Students’ Union will be responsible for the following:
(i) The appointment of student representatives across the University;
(ii) Providing training and support for student representatives, including ensuring that all relevant information is provided either online or in paper format;
(iii) Co-ordination of the Annual Student Submission;
(iv) Providing support for Student Academic and Institute Representatives throughout the year and additional training as required.
(v) Maintaining the Student Representative database;
(vi) Communicating relevant information to all student representatives and staff.
(vii) Providing advice and support to staff working with all student representation structures.
5. The purpose of SSCCs is to establish a formal means of discussion and communication between Institutes/Departments and students on matters relating to academic issues affecting their studies. The formal contact is recognised as an important channel of effective communication between students and staff. At a minimum, Institutes shall establish an Institute or departmental level SSCC, in accordance with Regulations: Academic Institute Structure https://www.aber.ac.uk/en/governance/This section of the Quality Handbook is intended to be used by Institutes to provide a framework for formal meetings between staff and students to help them engage in constructive dialogue and non-threatening feedback between the two parties.
6. It is recognised that the format for SSCC meetings varies between departments, and that the guidance provided in this section of the Quality Handbook may need to be tailored according to the needs of individual departments. The Students’ Union should be informed of any variations to the Quality Handbook that departments wish to implement.
Student representation cycle
8. All student representative activity undertaken should relate to five stages of the representation cycle:
(i) Awareness raising and recognition of the role
(ii) Nominations and elections
(iii) Training for the role
(iv) Undertaking the role
(v) Monitoring and reviewing effectiveness
Responsibilities of Student Academic Representatives
9. Student Academic Representatives should make every effort to gather representative feedback from their constituents to present to their department. It is their responsibility to present the views of students to staff and to report back to students the outcomes of SSCC meetings.
10. Student Academic Representatives are expected to present constructive feedback and work actively with Institutes to find solutions to any problems encountered.
11. Student Academic Representatives will attend training sessions on student representation provided by the Students’ Union.
12. Student Academic Representatives should act responsibly and constructively at SSCCs, and should be responsive to views of their cohort and to present comments or feedback which are not necessarily their own.
Responsibilities of Institutes
13. The Institute Director has overall responsibility for student representation but will delegate responsibility for all Taught and Research student representation to designated Institute or departmental contacts. The responsibilities of the designated contacts will include ensuring that elections for Student Academic Representatives take place and that all eligible students are given every opportunity to participate. To facilitate liaison and support, the name of the designated departmental contact should be forwarded to the Students’ Union.
14. Institutes should ensure that where there is more than one nomination, elections are held to appoint Student Academic Representatives, in accordance with the guidance provided in this section of the AQH. The Students’ Union will send all information about the election process to the Institute contact.
15. Institute should review the effectiveness of its SSCCs annually, to assure the quality with regard to format, conduct and effectiveness. This should be presented to the Institute Learning and Teaching Committee, and made available to the Students’ Union.
16. SSCCs should meet once a semester as a minimum, and the first meeting of each academic session should include a short introduction to the purpose, powers and procedures of the SSCC.
17. Student Academic Representatives should be provided with adequate access to administrative facilities within their Institute/Department, including printing and photocopying to produce appropriate materials, for example, discussion documents and requests for agenda items, and circulation of information by email.
18. Adequate and accessible space on notice boards and Blackboard should be made available to Student Academic Representatives.
Elections and Membership of Staff-Student Consultative Committees
19. Each Institute should establish a SSCC for undergraduate students at Institute or departmental level and, where appropriate, for postgraduates. Membership should include a minimum of one Student Academic Representative for each year/level as appropriate. Alternates should be allowed for Academic Representatives. In larger Institutes/Departments it may be appropriate to have separate SSCCs for each degree scheme, and separate SSCCs for postgraduates. Institutes should also consider the particular concerns of distance learning students and whether it is appropriate to establish a separate SSCC where these can be discussed.
20. Institutes should hold a properly constituted election, by ballot, for all Student Academic Representatives. The Students’ Union shall issue election guidelines on an annual basis. Special provisions will be taken into account for appropriate groups of students (e.g. distance learners).
21. The term of office for Student Academic Representatives will run for a full 12 months from the date of election (unless the student leaves the University).
22. The dates for closing nominations and for elections will be set by the Students’ Union. However, there should be a period of at least one week between nominations opening and closing, and a sufficient period of time for circulation of information before the day(s) of election. Nominations for First Year students will close by the end of week three, and elections should be completed by the end of week four of the first semester.
23. For returning cohorts, Institutes should seek to ensure that elections are held before the preceding summer, to ensure that Student Academic Representatives are in place by the start of the new session. This will ensure that training can be completed at the beginning of semester one so that SSCCs can be convened early in the session if needed.
24. Students must be registered on a scheme for which the specific SSCC is responsible to be eligible to stand for or vote in elections.
25. The Returning Officers for any election to a SSCC shall normally be the designated Institute/Department contacts with responsibility for that SSCC.
26. At the close of nominations, if the number of candidates for any given position(s) is equal to or less than the number of positions, such candidates should be declared elected and this result publicised and made known to the Students’ Union to ensure that the student(s) are included in student representation training.
27. Where the number of candidates for any given position(s) exceeds the number of positions, an election will be held.
28. If, at the end of the election process, any vacancies remain, the SSCC may choose to co-opt further Student Academic Representatives in order to fill the remaining places.
29. Information about the student representation system should be provided by Institutes as part of their induction material and will be included in departmental student handbooks. Elections for first year undergraduate and postgraduate Academic Representatives should be announced as part of departmental induction for students. It is also recommended that the Students’ Union should be invited to give a presentation to new students at the beginning of the academic year.
30. The names of all Student Academic Representatives should be sent by the Institute/Departmental contact to the Students’ Union no later than week four of the first semester.
31. An Extraordinary Meeting can be called by the Institute or by a majority of student representatives, with ten working days’ notice.
32. A staff code of conduct should be drawn up by the Students’ Union as part of their election guidelines to ensure that departmental staff members only play an administrative role in the elections.
33. A draft agenda and a request for additional items for the agenda should be posted on the appropriate departmental notice board(s) or published on Blackboard at least five working days in advance of the meeting. It is the responsibility of the Student Academic Representatives to collect items from students and to submit them to the Chair of the committee. Students should be able to participate fully in all aspects of SSCC meetings, including the setting of agenda.
34. Formal minutes should be kept of all meetings of SSCCs which clearly record discussion, recommendation for action and reporting back to the SSCC, and who is responsible for such action and follow-up. Where possible, Institutes should encourage students to serve as officers of the SSCC, producing agenda and minutes with appropriate guidance from a member of staf
35. Minutes should be distributed to all student representatives as soon as possible, and normally within ten working days of the committee meeting. A copy of the minutes must be published on Blackboard and also sent to the Students’ Union, and a copy kept by the Institute for audit purposes.
36. SSCCs will formally report to the Institute Learning and Teaching Committee. to ensure that the Institute gives adequate consideration to the points raised by student representatives. SSCC minutes should always appear as an agenda item at LTC meetings.
37. Institutes should ensure that they have feedback systems in place to ensure that responses to issues raised by SSCCs are communicated to all students in the department. The feedback system should be made clear to students in departmental handbooks.
38. Any item which cannot be addressed directly by the SSCC should be forwarded to the appropriate committee for consideration.
39. SSCCs minutes should not, as a matter of principle, refer to individual staff or students.
40. As a general principle, Staff-Student Consultative Committees should have a minimum of 1 student member per year/level of provision, as appropriate.
41. Staff members should represent a range of functions. Staff Representatives should be responsive to student concerns, have a certain standing in the department and be able to speak with some authority on issues likely to be raised. They should act responsively and constructively at SSCCs, and the number of staff representatives should not as a matter of principle exceed the number of student representatives. Notwithstanding the need for staff with management responsibilities to be members of SSCCs, it is not expected that Institute Directors or Heads of Departments should be members of SSCC: they should rather be seen to deal impartially with matters raised at the committee at second hand.
42. It is important that student representatives are able to express their views and those of other students at SSCCs without fear of sanctions by the institute or department. It is therefore incumbent on Institutes and staff representatives at SSCCs to facilitate an atmosphere of collaboration and consultation during meetings, with the aim to facilitate maximum benefits for staff and students alike. Good feedback is an essential feature of an effective SSCC and it is to this end that all representatives should work.
43. There should be a reasonable balance between staff and student members, but as a matter of principle staff representatives should not exceed the number of student representatives.
44. SSCCs should ensure that they consider the learning experience of all students on relevant programmes and that committee membership should where possible reflect the diversity of the student population.
45. Where it is considered unnecessary or inappropriate to have specific representatives, committees should ensure that the needs and experiences of such groups are considered during any discussions.
46. Where a programme is delivered entirely by distance learning, an appropriate (e.g. electronic) discussion group or separate SSCC should be established to facilitate discussion of the issues.
SSCC Terms of Reference
47. SSCCs will have the following terms of reference:
(i) To provide students and staff the opportunity to raise and comment on issues of concern related to their academic programmes and activities, including feedback received via Tell us Now (TUN).
(ii) To contribute to curriculum development, including proposals for new or restructured schemes, and preparations for Periodic Scheme Review.
(iii) To receive and consider reports of Periodic Scheme Reviews (PSR) and Institute / Department Performance Audits (IDPA).
(iv) To consider the results of surveys, including the National Student Survey and Module Evaluation Questionnaires (MEQs), and to contribute to Institute responses to these surveys.
(v) To consider the Reports of External Examiners and professional bodies (PSRBs).
(vi) To consider the enhancement of the student experience at Institute/Departmental level.
(vii) To consider any matters referred to it by the Institute Learning and Teaching Committee.
(viii) To consider any other matters relating to the particular Institute/Department, or other areas of activity affecting students’ studies.
(ix) To consider the enhancement of Employability within the Institute/Department.
Student Representation at Institute level committees
48. Student representation at institute level committees will be provided through Institute Representatives. These will be appointed in accordance with a selection process under the oversight of the Students’ Union, with two ‘Institute Representatives’ for each Institute (one undergraduate, one postgraduate.
49. Institute Representatives will sit on the Learning and Teaching Committee (or equivalent) at Institute level. They may also be invited by the Institute to attend other Institute level committees
50. The Institute Representatives will form the membership of the Students’ Union Academic Executive Committee, and will meet with the Students’ Union on a regular basis.