6.7 Student Representation
Introduction and Core Principles
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 and Students’ Union recognises a joint commitment to and the importance of effective student representation at many layers within the University’s structure in contributing to its success in maintaining and enhancing all aspects of the student experience.
2. The University is committed to responding to student feedback, at all levels in order to monitor and enhance the quality of the student experience. However, student representation is defined for the purpose of the Academic Quality Handbook, as those formal processes and structures which:
(i) Allow the student voice to be effectively represented at all levels of the University for the purposes of enhancing study schemes and improving the student experience;
(ii) Provide a mechanism for feeding back the outcomes of this representation.
3. Student Academic Representation at all levels within the University is the responsibility of Academic Board, which reports to 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.
4. 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.
5. Within the University’s academic structure, there are student representatives elected by their peers to Staff-Student Consultative Committees, where their input is both encouraged and welcomed.
6. Overall 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.
7. The Students’ Union will be responsible for the following:
(i) The election and 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 Faculty Representatives throughout the year and additional training as required;
(v) Maintaining the Student Academic 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.
Responsibilities of Departments
8. The Head of Department, reporting to the Faculty Pro Vice-Chancellor, has overall responsibility for student representation at departmental level.
9. The responsibilities of 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.
10. Departments 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 Faculty, and made available to the Students’ Union.
11. Student Academic Representatives should be provided with adequate access to administrative facilities within their department, including printing and photocopying to produce appropriate materials, for example, discussion documents and requests for agenda items, and circulation of information by email.
12. Departments should promote the visibility of Student Academic Representives as part of the teaching and induction activities as well as adequate and accessible space on noticeboards and VLE being made available.
Student Faculty Representatives
13. Student Faculty Representatives participate in discussions across study schemes and the experiences of students at faculty level, the development of new or revised academic policy and consideration of NSS outcomes. They will represent students at faculty level, and will be appointed in accordance with a process under the oversight of the Students’ Union. There will be two representatives for each faculty.
14. Student Faculty Representatives will sit on the Academic Affairs Committee at faculty level. Other informal channels are encouraged to discuss student feedback and identify joint priorities with the general aim of enhancing the quality of teaching and the overall student experience.
15. Student Faculty Representatives will form part of the membership of the Students’ Union Academic Zone, and will meet with the Students’ Union on a regular basis.
Student Academic Representatives
16. 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.
17. The University and the Students’ Union recognise that the role of Student Academic Representatives is a responsible and important one, and that it provides individual representatives with opportunities for personal development and the acquisition of valuable graduate skills.
18. Student Academic Representatives will be expected to attend training provided, take responsibility for ensuring that feedback and concerns of students that they represent are addressed appropriately, and along with staff that actions and subsequent outcomes are communicated to the wider student body.
19. 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. Where unable to attend they should provide apologies and written feedback in advance of the meeting.
20. The effectiveness of the Student Academic Representation System will be reviewed regularly with key performance indicators reported to the relevant sub-group of Academic Board, considering the number of student standing, elected and trained as well as wider analysis of the breadth and types of feedback being raised as well as outcomes achieved.
21. Student Academic Representatives will form part of the membership of the Students’ Union Academic Zone, and will meet with the Students’ Union on a regular basis.
22. This section of the Academic Quality Handbook should be read in conjunction with the Student Academic Representative System Schedule of Business found in section 6.8.
Election of Student Academic Representatives
23. The Students’ Union will organise a properly constituted online election, by Single Transferable Vote for vacant positions according to the Schedule of Business and before the summer for schemes entering a subsequent year of study where it is possible to have Student Academic Representatives in place for the start of the new session. Special provisions will be taken into account for appropriate groups of students who study outside of these timescales.
24. The exact dates for the election will be set and communicated 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 voting.
25. The Returning Officer for all Student Academic Representation elections will be the Students’ Union Deputy Returning Officer who shall work in a liaison with the designated departmental contact where required.
26. The Students’ Union will liaise with Departments between January and March each year for pre-existing schemes and again between July and August for new schemes to confirm positions and constituencies ahead of forthcoming elections. In developing structures the Students’ Union will negotiate with relevant staff to balance the needs of the Department whilst ensuring effective representation.
27. Information about the Student Academic Representation system should be provided by departments as part of their induction material and will be included in departmental student handbooks.
28. Students must be registered on a scheme for which the position represents to be eligible to stand for or vote in the Student Academic Representation elections.
29. Student Academic Representatives will be elected by the scheme(s) they represent for a term lasting no longer than their existing year of study for which they are elected, or in the case of elections taking place before the summer, for the subsequent year of study (except in cases where the student leaves the University).
30. If at the end of the standing process, any vacancies remain within the Department may choose to co-opt further Student Academic Representatives in order to fill the remaining places. This should done as openly and transparently as possible with co-opted reps required to register their details with the Students’ Union before being formally recognised.
31. Training of Student Academic Representatives will run according to the Schedule of Business.
32. Staff should ensure a free and fair election of Student Academic Representatives and only act in an administrative role in the elections which champions and promotes participation.
Staff-Student Consultative Committees (SSCCs)
33. Each Department should establish a SSCC for undergraduate students and, where appropriate, for postgraduates. Membership should include a minimum of one Student Academic Representative for each year/level as appropriate. In larger Departments it may be appropriate to have separate SSCCs for each degree scheme, and separate SSCCs for postgraduates. The particular concerns of distance learning students should also be considered, and it may be appropriate to establish a separate SSCC where these issues can be discussed.
34. The purpose of SSCCs is to establish a formal means of discussion and communication between 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, Departments shall establish a departmental level SSCC. This section of the Quality Handbook provides a framework for formal meetings between staff and students to help them engage in constructive dialogue and non-threatening feedback between the two parties.
35. Departments are encouraged to organise a pre-meeting of SSCC members during Teaching Week 6 of Semester 1 and prior to the first formal SSCC. The session should include an opportunity for Student Academic Representatives to meet fellow members (both staff and students) and include a short introduction to the purpose, responsibilities and procedures of the SSCC.
36. Where possible Departments should encourage students to elect a student chair of SSCC meeting, with appropriate guidance from a member of staff. Where elected from existing student members this should be done at the pre-meeting of SSCC members and details passed to the Students’ Union to allow Chair’s Training prior to the first formal SSCC.
37. SSCCs should meet according to the Schedule of Business. No SSCC meetings should occur prior to election, training and induction of representatives although additional informal meetings can be held outside of the dates above at the discretion of the Department where needed.
38. 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 the VLE 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.
39. Formal minutes produced by a member of staff should be kept of all formal 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.
40. Draft 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 draft and approved minutes must be published on the VLE and also sent to the Students’ Union, and an approved copy kept by the Department for audit purposes.
41. SSCCs will formally report to the departmental board to ensure adequate consideration of the points raised by student representatives. SSCC minutes should always appear as an agenda item at these meetings.
42. Departments should ensure 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.
43. Any item which cannot be addressed directly by the SSCC should be forwarded to the appropriate committee for consideration.
44. SSCCs minutes should not, as a matter of principle, refer to individual staff or students.
45. Staff members should represent a range of functions. Staff Representatives should be responsible to student concerns, have 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 representative should not as a matter of principle exceed the number of student representative.
46. 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 Department. It is therefore incumbent on departments 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 essential feature of an effective SSCC and it is to this end that all representatives should work.
47. 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 population.
48. 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.
49. 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.
Staff-Student Consultative Committees – Terms of Reference
50. 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.
(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 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 departmental 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 departmental level.
(vii) To consider any matters referred to it by the Faculty.
(viii) To consider any other matters relating to the particular Department or other areas of activity affecting students’ studies.
(ix) To consider the enhancement of Employability with the Department.