Student Representative Review
What is the Student Representative Review?
Over the past couple of years at the University of Portsmouth Students' Union we’ve started some fantastic projects in order to update and review our governance processes. Our students identified they they wanted to review the democratic structure of the Union. Similarly, Course Reps identified that the course representative system could be improved.
Thus, the Student Representative Review was born. Using the combined powers of Student Representatives, the Student Experience team and our Senior Management team, we’re currently looking at the role of Sabbatical Officers, Student Officers and Course Reps, as well as how our structure fits in with modern life here at the University of Portsmouth.
To start with, we’ve done some research into what the sector is doing with their officer positions, and we’re working on analysing what makes our current system different from others.
Do you want to get involved? Do you want to make change in your Students' Union? Do you have any questions? Pop us an email on firstname.lastname@example.org
Course Rep Review
Course Reps are being reviewed at the request of the Union and in line with the recommendations and outcomes of the Union’s Annual Quality Report 2014 and the Student Submission to the QAA 2015.
This extensive review will cover all aspects of the Course Rep system to ensure that we have a structure in place which is effective and suitable for Course Reps, the students they represent, the Union’s democratic structure, and the University and lecturers.
In September 2017 we will be rolling out new initiatives as a result of the consultation carried out so far. These are:
- Launch of StART, the Student and Academic Representation Tool
- Launch of online training
- Review of Course Rep Conference
- Launch of Course Rep Moodle Page (tbc)
- Stronger communications with Course Leader
We will also be continuing to review, consult, and plan throughout the next few years. Our 2018 priorities are:
- Launch of further online training
- Launch of Student Voice Charter for UoP and UPSU responsibilities
- Review of role descriptions for Course and Faculty Reps
- Launch of accountability and removal policy
- Trial of Course Rep election process
Student Rep Review
In 2014 UPSU initiated a Governance Review at the request of the Union’s Student Council. The initial scope of the review was to look at all our democratic processes including the methods students used to instigate change and the role of officers in making these changes. Early on into the review it was identified that the scope was too big and the focus should be put solely on the structure. The result of this was the implementation in 2015/16 of the new Have Your Say democratic process and a review of the Student Officer roles during the academic year of 2016/17.
We started by researching other Unions to gather intelligence on what student officer roles other Unions have. The research identified that the roles were more academic in their focus. From this the working group discussed the research at length and identified the question to ask students - Do you think student officers should focus more on academic or underrepresented group issues? The wording was considered as we didn't want to confuse students or lead students.
To ask students we held an October roadshow in the Library, The Hub and at the Course Rep Conference.
A total of 306 students were asked in the October roadshows. 175 (52%) students said academic and 134 (44%) said underrepresented.
A total of 84 students were asked at the Course Rep Conference. 42 (50%) of students said academic and 42 (50%) said underrepresented.
We also used the Annual Survey to ask this question, although it was reworded to ensure understanding without a verbal explanation. The question was not phrased correctly in the survey as it was separated into two questions making the results moot as they could not be compared. Despite this 49% of students agreed with student officers focusing on 'academic issues' compared to 42% for a focus on 'underrepresented'.
We then conducted two focus groups. One was with UAB members and the other was with non engaged students. The non engaged students were sourced through the University's Marketing pool.
We designed a briefing to ensure students would have background and the roadshow and annual survey results. We ensured students were not led during the focus groups.
The UAB focus group main themes are below:
- Some roles are campaign (Environment) based and some are representative (LGBT+).
- Students didn’t trust officers and would source information elsewhere.
- Campaigns should be chosen by the student body/ student officers as messengers.
- Particular discrimination to groups of students should be campaigned against.
- Student body should support/ run campaigns.
- Student officers tend to be 2nd/3rd students with other commitments.
The non engaged student focus group main themes are below:
- Students lack understanding of roles/ difference between roles.
- Less visibility of student officers around campus gives impression they are less important.
- Student officers need to be reformed - women’s officer but no men’s despite suggestion. No trial period offered.
- Societies President should be rep for students to provide another viewpoint of students.
- Students may not know who represents them. More advertisement required.
Following this the review on student officers was halted by Trustees.
Questions were drafted and students were consulted via student staff roadshow using tubes and an online google form. The consultation include questions about Have Your Say and Course Reps.
Students were asked for what reason should a rep be removed from their post and overall students stated if reps failed to engage with the students they represent.
The student officer review is now continuing. It has been decided that no further consultation on the roles is required. The next steps are to create the new student officer role models based the feedback.
The next steps are:
- Sabbatical Officers to review the feedback and create three models.
- Students are asked to provide feedback on models. This will take place as part of a roadshow and online consultation throughout late March 2018.
- Student feedback will be reviewed in April and amendments are made.
- The final models will go to referendum in late May 2018.
- New officers are elected in Autumn 2018
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