Academic Standards and Quality

Student Representatives Policy 

freshers fair

Overview

Student representatives[1] are part of the first and largest tier of the representation system provided by the Studentsí Union and the University of Essex. Student representatives feed-back directly to University staff on academic issues, typically through Student Staff Liaison Committees (SSLCs), ensuring that the University maintains its commitment to the assurance and enhancement of its education provision and the promotion and protection of student welfare.

This policy sets out the Universityís approach, in conjunction with the Studentsí Union, to the management and oversight of the Student Representative system, including the purpose of the Student Representative roles, how Representatives are selected and the roles and responsibilities of all key stakeholders.

[1] For the purposes of this policy, Student Representative is used to refer to any student undertaking a representative role on behalf of other students. The terms Course and Year Representative refer to departmental-level representation, typically representing a specified constituency of students.

Guiding Principles of the Student Representation system

  • Accountability:  Student Representatives are responsible to the students they have chosen to represent (see Sections 4 and 5).
  • Consultation:  Student Representatives must keep their own views aside and gather collective views (positive and areas to improve), by talking and listening to students, to present to the University, which would avoid any assumptions made about the student opinion (and experience).
  • Communication:  Student Representatives must close the feedback loop by communicating information back to the student body; letting peers know what action has been taken with their feedback; using efficient communication channels to contact students, e.g. Social Media, emails, Departmental notice boards etc.
  • Engagement:  Student Representatives should act as the links between the wider student body, Studentsí Union, Academic Departments, Faculty Convenors and the University. Student Representatives should promote the different student feedback mechanisms. It is important the Student Representatives are engaged with any representation and democracy activities provided by the Studentsí Union.
  • Signposting:  Student Representatives might be the first point of contact for students with issues or concerns or general enquires therefore must be aware of general departmental, University and Studentsí Union information to signpost students to appropriate areas (especially when dealing with personal queries).
  • Sustainability:  Student Representatives must maintain an effective and sustainable representation system by promoting themselves and their role. The Studentsí Union, in conjunction with departments, will widely publicise the opportunity to become a student representative at the beginning of each academic year in order to get more students involved in representation, engagement and impact.

Partnership between the University and the Students' Union

The Student Representative system is built on the key principle of partnership between the University and Studentsí Union. In practice, this partnership is delivered in a number of ways:

  • The information that the Student Representatives provide through SSLCs (and other platforms) feed into the University and Studentsí Unionís decision-making structures to enable discussion of key issues at higher levels within both bodies.
  • The Studentsí Union, University and Departments work in collaboration for the training programme for Student Representatives, including a session on University academic and corporate governance.
  • The relevant University and Studentsí Union bodies ensure that issues are captured effectively to support the regular review of the Student Representative system and this policy.
  • The Studentsí Union provides student representatives for appropriate committees and working groups.

Selection of student representatives

The process for selecting Student Representatives is based on the principles of fairness, openness and transparency through democratic election, as described below:

  • The opportunity to act as a student representative is advertised to all students through the Studentsí Union and departments from the start of the academic year. Departments will work proactively with the Studentsí Union to promote the opportunity and responsibility that comes with being a student representative.
  • Students indicate their interest in the role to the Studentsí Union by the end of week 3.
  • If no students have expressed an interest to act as course representatives in a department by week 3, then departments will support and oversee the selection process.
  • All course representatives will attend training for their role, shortly after week 3. Upon completion of the training, all students will be eligible to act as Course Representatives, to represent students at departmental meetings and activities (such as Periodic Reviews).
  • The Course Representatives in each department will, as part of training, elect a representative number of their peers (typically one per year group) to act as Year Representatives, who will attend SSLC meetings, and other departmental meetings and activities. Larger cohorts may have more than one representative for a year; this should be determined by departments prior to the training of representatives.
Definitions
  • Student Representatives - Any student undertaking a representative role on behalf of other students.
  • Course Representatives Ė Student representatives at course-level, who feedback any issues and good practice to Year Representatives.
  • Year Representatives Ė Student representatives who gather and receive feedback from course representatives and, through formal departmental structures that they have been assigned to following the election by fellow course representatives, carry forward feedback to SSLC meetings.

Roles and responsibilities

The Studentsí Union, University and departments value the representation of students at all levels of University study to ensure that the University works in the best interest of students. In order to achieve effective student representation, the following expectations are made of students who choose to act as student representatives.

Student Representatives
  • Course Representatives, when formally expressing an interest in the role, should appreciate the importance and the time needed to undertake the role effectively.
  • Course Representatives should attend the mandatory training to ensure that they are prepared for the role.
    • Participate in the selection of Year Representatives for SSLC, other departmental meetings and activities.
  • Student Representatives should prepare for meetings by gathering student feedback.
    • Course Representatives to gather feedback from students on their course.
    • Year Representatives to gather information from the Course Representatives.
    • Year Representatives to provide feedback through departmental structures. Also to the Faculty Convenor and VP Education when asked to.
  • Student Representatives should feedback to students in their department.
    • Course Representatives to feedback to students on their course.
    • Year Representatives to feedback to the Course representatives.
  • Student Representatives should attend all meetings expected of the student representativeís role. If the student representative is unable to attend for any reason, it is expected that they would contact and arrange for an appropriate course representative to take their place.
  • If the student representative feels they can no longer fulfil the role, they should inform the department and Studentsí Union.
Academic Departments, Schools and Centres
  • Time: Departments should allow time for student representatives to meet and canvas the wider student body in order to accumulate their views (or feedback to them).
  • Student Feedback: Departments will be approachable and receptive to the views of student representatives.
  • Departmental Action: Departments should encourage appropriate action in response to student feedback and to ensure that every task is allocated to a person and a deadline is set, against which the outcome can be measured. Where feedback is received outside of a SSLC meeting, it should be noted in a SSLC meeting to ensure the response is tracked.
  • Communication: Departments should aid student representatives with communication mechanisms to publicise any action and/or decision through:
    • Emails, Departmental websites, Social media or online-forum or newsletters
    • Making announcements before or after lectures
    • Departmental notice boards.
Students' Union
  • Support: The student representatives are coordinated and supported by:
    • Vice President (Education): Full-time student representative with primary responsibility for all of the SUís work on matters relating to education along with providing advice and support to the Post-Graduate Officer and Faculty Convenors.
    • Post-Graduate Officer: Part-time position to ensure that PG studentsí views and requirements are met by working with Vice President (Education).
    • Faculty Convenors: Student Staff members who are the links between the student representatives and VP Education along with being the first point of contact for student representatives.
    • Engagement & Impact Team: Full-time SU support who are central to the administration of the representation system and providing advice to the student representatives on a range of issues.
  • Training: The Studentsí Union will provide an induction and training session in collaboration with the University and Departments normally between weeks 3 and 4[1].
  • Feedback: The Studentsí Union will actively consult student representatives for their views on the system so that they can raise issues and seek changes to the policy as appropriate.

[1] Training for student representatives from Departments with non-standard arrivals can be organised provided the SU is notified in advance.

Policy Review

The policy is reviewed annually by Senate and/or an appropriate Senate sub-committee to ensure it remains fit for purpose and continues to meet effectively the needs of students, the University and the Students' Union.

 

 

Approved by Senate July 2014

Previous policy approved by Senate June 2013 (replaced by the policy as detailed above)

 

 

Page last updated: 04 September 2014