Student Representative System can have HUGE benefits.
Whether it is the new friends you can make, the information and gems of wisdoms you can pick up from each other and that feeling of contentment you have when you help one another. Not to mention, for the reps themselves, it amplifies their CVs and gives them an edge in their career prospects.
For first year students, having a guide rep to help them settle in can make the difference between a campus feeling like home or just a place where they happen to exist. It can really help students hit the ground running with their studies, connections and processes in schools. This is the kind of knowledge that just keeps on giving as they progress through the years.
This is what as Student Representative System is meant to do. Sadly, our’s fall short of that and there are multiple reasons as to why. Let me start with the very real problem of communication.
The most publicity the Student Representative system gets is during Freshers Fair and Induction Week. Yes, it does involve 58 inductions. From my one-to-ones I have had with the students from different schools and societies, it turns out that most students are not very familiar with the Student Representative System. So, we have to question whether our current strategy is effective or not.
Ideally we need stalls in various places on campus, especially around the Student Union and the Library, so that more people are able to find out more about it. Very occasional mailshots can really help too. In addition, we need to really illustrate the benefits of the rep system, because our current communications do not do much. If people do not k
now how it will directly benefit them, their studies and their future, why should they bother?
The second issue is that for those who do volunteer to be representatives, in my view, their training is not comprehensive nor is it fit for purpose. Representatives need support too and that means good quality training online and offline. This needs to be upgraded.
Thirdly, the handover between representative co-ordinators and the newly elected reps is not effective. There are good practices, such as in the History, Art, Social Sciences, Biomedical and Life Sciences Colleges, but they are not implemented across the board.
Fourthly, our representatives are doing a service for the University. It only seems fit that some reward is given to them if they do their job well. Something they can take pride in, have a feeling of accomplishment and can use with their CVs in the future. Having a Higher Education Achievement Report (HEAR) award or financial reward with a letter of recognition is a small thing I believe.
The fifth and final point, is the staff members who are meant to support our representatives, do so, aside from the time from their normal jobs and with very little resources. Consequently, the invaluable time they do invest in representatives is not maximised. Working with the University to make things more manageable for those staff members, will help us all to really benefit from their experience and wisdom.
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