Whether you are an academic or support staff member at the University of Brighton or Partner Colleges, the resources found here will be useful for you in supporting Course Reps
Click on the links below to find out more about that topic!
The toolkit is the most exhaustive resource available to staff in supporting Course Reps at the University of Brighton and partner colleges. It covers the recruitment, elections and ongoing support for Course Reps throughout the academic year.
A presentation covering the basics of the role - a helpful resources in recruiting reps.
Some tips for arranging course boards based on sector best practice and for getting students better involved.
Re-think your terms of reference and try to balance the tables slightly more equally in terms of 50-50 student-staff participation
Giving a student responsibility over agenda-setting, and meeting management, in partnership with an experienced chair could help to ensure the committee stays relevant.
There are no rules stating you have to sit in a big circle. Instead try 4 smaller group tables. It gives more people a chance to use their voice and have more in-depth conversations.
Consider creating a wiki-page on StudentCentral that anybody (student or staff) in the School can contribute ideas to for the agenda. Then the two co-chairs can decide in advance what to do with all the items
Ensure that any student representatives who have been invited to the main meeting are officially invited and actively encouraged to meet with somebody in the School to ensure they understand the items that are being raised.
By using something like the NSS question banks it might help to ensure that the agenda stays focused on the student experience. It also helps to tie conversations in one direction. Alternatively pick the structural elements from Academic Health and use that, just something to make sure the whole team is working together towards the same goal.
Students and staff don’t necessarily need or want to read the minutes from the whole meeting but they might appreciate an email from the chair(s) updating them of the key actions, who is responsible for them and a timeline for results after the meeting.
Are there things that might get better feedback in a different forum? Instead of NSS results being discussed in committee with only a few select students, perhaps they could be discussed as part of a ‘research skills’ workshop – with students analysing qualitative and quantitative data. This would be useful for anyone doing primary research in their final projects and is another opportunity to add to employability skills.
If you have heard about something interesting happening on a course in another school, perhaps asking those students/staff to come and do a 10minute presentation on what they’ve been upto.
Once you have tried one of the ideas from above, ask staff for further recommendations. They would have attended hundreds of conferences and must be able to pick out meeting methodology they enjoyed.
Bath did some work where all their committees wrote annual reports in partnership with their students and the Students’ Union. Check it out here
Bucks did some work where they agreed that all committees would take place in the same two week period. This allowed Students’ Union staff to attend more committees and give more support to course reps.
Manchester Met University created a pre-meeting form for students to fill out that allows meeting time to be spent more constructively. Check it out here
A guide to follow when discussing results from surveys such as the NSS or BSS.
Most students have to learn about questionnaire methodology as part of some kind of research methods module anyway. So use the real NSS data when going through these processes, discuss the quality of the questions (HEFCE has plenty of research on why the questions were chosen).
If this is intended to be a deeper discussion about the results rather than simply informing students of the action plan at the end of a seminar/lecture then real time and effort should be given to the discussion.
Try and book a different space from the teaching rooms, try and set the room so it’s conducive to discussion (group tables rather than lecture rooms) and send the students the results and other information in advance so they are turning up to the table just as informed as anybody else.
Align values of the students and staff, agree expectations and review how the partnership will work in the session. The power dynamic must change in order to facilitate useful conversations.
Students must go beyond seeing their lecturers as a service provider in order to see themselves as part of the solution-creation process and lecturers have got to see students as genuine, capable and knowledgeable learners. If students feel it’s a tick-box exercise or staff are doing it begrudgingly then they won’t genuinely engage.
Sometimes these student survey discussion sessions can start with academics wanting to question whether students really understood the question, or wanting to know why students gave ‘x’ area such a low-score. And that’s fine but occasionally that means conversations start with a mildly aggressive line of questioning that makes the students feel as though they have done something wrong.
Be upfront with them and try to explain what is causing confusion before the session. That way they can come with ideas rather than more problems. Explain processes clearly, clarify differences between things the course can change, the school can change and the University need to change. Just generally try and get out in front of problems and give them a fair chance of helping with solutions.
At the beginning of the session explain what stage of the process the school is in. Explain what the actionable next steps will be.
Keep in touch with students and support them to work on creating the solutions, rather than always simply raising problems.
It’s important for students to get a sense of the issues that the University/School/Course faces. In order for them to feel as though they are partners in creating solutions.
Whilst the University timelines for NSS Action Plans make student engagement difficult it is still worth introducing and explaining the raw results as well as showcasing the action plans that staff determined would help improve scores.
Try to give your students and staff a meta understanding of why Higher Education uses satisfaction surveys, what the consumer markets authority has to say about it all and how these survey results impact the University internally and Nationally.
University College Dublin have created four models for their staff to consider the ways that they close the feedback loop. Check it out here
SPARQs has some useful resources for staff to use when engaging students in discussions about quality assurance. Check it out here
This document highlights how the University of Brighton seek to include students in decision making processes related to their learning experience. Highlights the responsibility of each school within the University to facilitate engagement by students and staff.
If you have any questions related to Course Reps then contact Dan and Gráinne over email or call via the information above. We look forward to hearing from you and meeting you at one of the Course Rep Training Sessions!
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