The Student Voice – Why you Should get Involved!
There have been lots of exciting elections this year; in the last couple of months you’ve chosen your new Sabbatical team and Student Leaders for 2012-13, and currently there are elections to choose who will be your lead student representative for your course, in the Academic President Elections.
However, there’s another important set of roles to be elected; positions that everyone should consider running for – Course Reps!
Course Reps for this year were elected in October, and this process was done online for the first time. With over 2500 votes, on average 1 in 8 students had a say in who their Course Representatives were – a monumental number, and a larger turn out than most Sabbatical Elections for other universities across the country, so thanks for voting! Through the new online system, SUSU saw lots of improvements:
- candidates got the opportunity to develop a proper manifesto and post it online so everyone could actually get a sense of what each candidate would bring to the role
- they could add a photo so that you, the voting students, could put faces to the names
- with a new, online database, it was easy for everyone to get in touch and for training and meetings to be organised
This has led to more engaged course reps, and is just the start of a process to ensure that they are more visible to you, so that you know who to go to when you want to talk about your experiences on your course, AND want them acted on. But there are lots of reasons why YOU should consider becoming a Course Rep:
- Chatting to students – Course Reps are in a unique position to get a sense of what students think about their course, and this is the most important part of being a Rep: getting feedback. So if you’re already a vocal member of seminars, or always chatting to people on your course, about your course, you’re halfway there.
- CV booster – Anything that you can add to your CV will be a huge help in that scary outside world, and becoming a Course Rep is a solid addition. You will be able to boast about your organisation skills as you will attend meetings with Academic Presidents, Student Leaders and members of your discipline’s staff; your communication skills as you talk to other students in lectures and seminars and give your opinions at all of the above meetings; your interpersonal skills as you deal with student problems and queries; and your practical, thinking skills as you work out with the rest of the Course Rep team how to solve course problems.
- First step in SUSU – Being a Rep is a great way to kick off more involvement with the Student’s Union, without taking on a high pressure role. Many reps have gone on to be Academic Presidents and Sabbaticals, so if you’ve got other burning ambitions it will be a great leg up!
- Become part of an engaged community – Becoming a Course Rep places you in a team of like-minded students, and it’s really fun to see what you can achieve. Meetings are always good-humoured and you’ll quickly find yourself making lots of new friends – party, anyone?
- Get to know the staff better – They’re human after all, and I can tell you from my own experience that it’s brilliant to get to know them better and be part of in-jokes at meetings and see how your department works.
Sound good to you? Great – now, what does the role involve?
The Course Reps’ main role is to turn that feedback I was talking about into something productive, and there are many ways this can happen. You have an Academic President, the student leader of their course, who the Reps meet with every few weeks and discuss any issues that have been brought up by students. The feedback is then taken to the SSLC (student staff liaison committee meeting) where the President and Course Reps work out with the academic staff how to resolve any issues, and discuss how things could be improved. So, whether it’s complaints about lecture timings, or concerns about a module, as a Rep your job is to pinpoint what the issue is and work out with the rest of your team and the staff how to resolve this, and make sure that whatever action is taken is relayed to other students.
2012-13 promises to be a fascinating year with all the changes and potential questions that the rise in fees will bring – if you want to be at the heart of it, and to make a difference based on your student voice, then become a Course Rep!
There are generally multiple positions for each year of study on each course, and to nominate yourself, go to www.coursereps.soton.ac.uk where you can upload your manifesto and photo. Good luck!
Tig Wallace, English Academic President