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Student Representation: Guidance for running an effective system

Passed by University of Strathclyde Senate 16 March 2011

1. Purpose
a) Both the University of Strathclyde and the University of Strathclyde Students' Association (USSA) believe in the need for an effection and coherent Class Representation System in order to ensure that the learner voice is distinctive and strong.
b) This document sets out the joint committment of the University and USSA to promote an effective system of student representation - a committment driven by the objective to enhance the student learning experience.

2. Principles
a) The University is committed to receiving and responding to student feedback in order to monitor and enhance the quality of the student experience within the institution.
b) To maintain the positive culture that exists across the institution which makes explicit its committment to receiving and responding to students' views and to discussing current learning and teaching issues with both - both formally and informally, and always on a proactive basis.
c) For the purpose of this Guidance Paper, the phrase "Student-Staff Liaison Committee" is used to describe the various departmental committees which provide a formal opportunity for Class Representatives to give feedback to their department(s). The SSLC exists to provide an effective and coherent system for communication between staff and students.
d) Whilst the importance and value of SSLCc is recognised across the institution, it is also necessary that alternative avenues exist to enable student feedback.
e) There is a dual role of student representation: students have an important role to play in internal quality assurance mechanisms, as well as a wider role of representation which seeks to affect change across the institution as a whole.
f) The training of Class Representatives is fundamental to the successful operation of SSLCs and effective Class Reps; responsibility for providing this training rests with USSA, with input from the University.


3. Staff-Student Liaison Committees and their link with Quality Enhancement
The quality of the student learning experience is the main focus of regular reviews of departments held by the University and external bodies, such as the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) or professional and statutory bodies. As student representatives discuss student academic concerns and act as a forum for departments to consult with students on future plans, Class Representatives are often invited to take part in these reviews. Student contributions to these reviews are invaluable in identifying areas of high quality teaching practice and areas for improvement, and should be actively encouraged at all levels.


4. Departmental Responsibilities
a) Heads of Departments are responsible for ensuring that there is an appropriate mechanism in their department to facilitate the election or appointment of Class Representatives and for identifying a member of the department to take responsibility for communication with USSA.
b) Departments are responsible for reporting the names, matriculation numbers and e-mail addresses, and class code(s) for the class(es) that the Rep is representing of elected/appointed Class Representatives to USSA by the beginning of Week 3 of each semester (by e-mailing ussa.classreps@strath.ac.uk or through the Class Rep Reporting Tool). Training of Class Representatives, conducted in-house by USSA, will normally take place in Weeks 4 and 5 of each semester.
c) Information about the student representation system and on how USSA can support students and their representatives should be included in student course handbooks.
d) Depending on student numbers, it would be appropriate to elect or appoint representatives as follows: up to 50 students - 1 or 2 Reps; 51-150 students - 3 Reps; over 150 students - 4+ Reps.
e) Departments should ensure that adequate and accessible notice board space and web space (where possible) are made available to Class Representatives.
f) Departments should retain a file copy of each set of minutes for review purposes, submit a copy to both USSA and the Faculty Office by the end of each semester, and should, where possible, publish the approved minutes on their website.
g) To help close the feedback loop, departments should ensure that the students are informed at the next meeting of a class (if there is another meeting) of any issues that may have been raised in relation to the class and how these will be addressed. This can be done by a variety of methods, including a departmental e-mail of minutes, a quick summary at the start of the next lecture by either the staff of the department or the Class Rep, or by posting to a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) or other method as appropriate for the particular class. 


5. Election/Appointment of Student Representatives
a) Information about the student representation system should be provided by departments as part of their induction for new undergraduate and postgraduate students, which USSA should provide information for and support where appropriate.
b) To promote the role of Class Representative, former or more senior current departmental Student
Representatives should be invited to speak to new students at the beginning of the academic year.
c) Where possible, departments are encouraged to hold an election for Class Representatives. If there are
insufficient candidates to merit an election, volunteers may be appointed to the role of Class Representative with the agreement of the group of students that they will represent.
d) All students have the right to stand for election to the SSLC and departments are asked to ensure that parttime students are afforded the same opportunity as full‐time students.
e) Students can hold the Class Representative position for one year or the period of the module they
represent, (whatever is shorter). Elections should then be held at the beginning of the next academic year or semester (as appropriate) to ensure that all students have the opportunity to participate.
f) Where elections are held, departments should ensure that all candidates are invited to present their case for election, by electronic means or by means of a departmental notice board, to the students that they hope to represent.
g) Course Leaders should prompt students about the election process in Week 1 of each semester, remind them in Week 2 of each semester and complete the appointments by Week 3 of each semester.

6. Remit and Membership of the Staff-Student Committee
a) Each SSLC should have a formal written remit which should be reviewed annually to ensure that it provides the opportunity for the discussion of current learning and teaching issues.
b) Students should be consulted annually on whether they wish to assume responsibility for chairing the SSLC and on the method of appointing/electing the Chair. Should the Chair be an academic then a "Rep of Reps" should be decided as USSA's main contact for the Committee and as a mechanism for reps to have an issue resolved if it is too personal for them to deal with.
c) Details of the Student Chair or Rep of Reps should be given to USSA promptly.
d) An identified member of academic staff should support a student Chair and take minutes.
e) The membership of each SSLC should be published on student notice boards and/or on departmental websites and VLEs to facilitate student interaction with those who represent them. Contact details should be included.
f) If desireable separate PG-T and UG SSLCs should be held if the numbers of students is impeding an effective committee.


7. Frequency of Staff-Student Liaison Committee Meetings 
a) Departments and Class Representatives may determine the frequency of meetings. A minimum of one meeting per semester is expected.
b) Meetings should take place at a mutually convenient time, should not coincide with timetabled learning commitments of Class Representatives, and should be cognisant of the needs of certain groups, such as part-time and distance learners.

8. Agenda and Minutes of the Meetings
a) The Chair and supporting members of academic staff should agree and agenda for each meeting. This should be circulated to members of the Committee at least five days in advance of the meeting.
b) Class Representatives and staff members of the Committee can ask for items to be included on the agenda.
c) Class Representatives should identify items for the agenda by consulting students in advance of the meeting. Departments may wish to facilitate this process by means of an e-mail reminder to Class Representatives or by notices on student notice boards, departmental websites or similar.
d) It is the department's responsibility to respond to any issues raised by the SSLC.
e) Draft minutes should normally be prepared promptly and circulated to all members of the Committee. Approved minutes should be provided in a format that is accessible to all students who may wish to view them, e.g. student notice boards, departmental websites.
f) The department should submit minutes to USSA and the Faculty Office by the end of each semester.
g) Departments should provide incoming Class Representatives with copies of SSLC minutes from the previous academic session to provide information and continuity.


9. Conduct of the Meeting  
a) SSLCs exist for the mutual benefit of students and staff, and members of the Committee are encouraged to engage in a constructive dialogue and to offer possible solutions and feedback. 
b) Departments should encourage students to chair meetings. 
c) The Committee should agree action in response to issues raised and receive reports on action taken in a timely manner.
d) The Committee should not discuss personal matters relating to individual students or members of staff.


10. Provision for Class Representatives
a) Training for Class Representatives is available through USSA who work closely with a variety of partners to provide a quality training programme. Training will normally be offered in Weeks 4 and 5 of each semester.
b) A Class Representative Handbook, detailing the role and responsibility of Class Representatives is available, and should be provided to students by USSA following their election/appointment.
c) Class Representatives should be allowed access to lectures to make a short presentation about items to be discussed by the SSLC and to consult on any other issues to be raised.
d) Adequate and accessible notice board space and web space (where possible) should be made available to Class Representatives by the Department. 


11. Responsibilities of Class Representatives
a) Class Representatives are responsible for gathering and presenting the views of those they represent to SSLCs and for reporting the outcomes to them.
b) Students should endeavour to attend all SSLCs, conduct themselves in an appropriate fashion, and raise points in a constructive manner; this dialogue should be welcomed and encouraged by the academic members of the Committee. 
c) Class Representatives are expected to attend meetings convened by USSA to review the year and raise any queries or concerns they may have; these meetings include, but are not limited to, the Christmas Catch-Up and Student Congress.


12. Responsibilities of USSA 
a) USSA is responsible for providing training for Class Representatives.
b) USSA is responsible for providing departments with the text about the services it offers for inclusion in student course handbooks.
c) USSA is responsible for the provision of a Handbook for Class Representatives with input from the University.
d) USSA is responsible for providing the administrative support of the Class Rep Database.
e) USSA is responsible for organising annual meetings and providing opportunities for Class Reps to engage in other areas. 
f) USSA is responsible for submitting a bi-annual report on the effectiveness of the system and collating broad themes for improvement from the SSLC minutes to submit to the QMC. 

 

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