At the end of each academic year, the Chairs and Secretaries of Student-Staff Committees (SSCs) are asked to submit an annual report to NUSU, summarising the issues raised at their meetings. This year marked the second time that NUSU collated these reports and produced a paper highlighting the key themes and issues which have emerged from the reports for the 2015-16 academic year.
You can download the full paper here.
The paper is divided into four sections, covering the content and delivery of degree programmes; the provision of academic resources; facilities and learning environment; and student representation.
The main positive to take away is that student representation appears to be functioning effectively across the University. There are an encouraging number of examples of students and staff working in partnership to rectify problems and improve the academic experience in their Schools; more so than in the previous academic year.
Some particularly impressive examples of good practice include:
- The Dental School creating an online noticeboard to allow staff and students alike to post regular updates.
- The Sociology SSC undertaking a research project into student attitudes towards assessment feedback, and Reps attending the Sociology Learning and Teaching Review and holding a meeting with external examiners.
- School of English establishing an online journal to celebrate outstanding undergraduate work, with students responsible for web maintenance and staff tasked with selecting essays to publish.
In comparison to last year’s paper, there also appears to have been considerable progress in rolling out ReCap provision and Wi-Fi access across the University.
However, the SSC reports also identify some issues that were not always rectifiable, such as problems with room temperature and timetabling. Nevertheless, the reports point to staff generally being sympathetic and helpful in trying to rectify these problems, rather than dismissing students’ points out of hand.
What happens next?
NUSU recently presented the report to the Student Experience Sub Committee of the University Learning, Teaching and Student Experience Committee, where senior staff members welcomed the report and agreed to disseminate it with colleagues at the Faculty level. The Committee Chair also resolved to take up the issue around room temperature with Estates, to see if anything further can be done.
This summer, we are updating our training materials and handbooks for Course Reps, Student Chairs and Secretaries and SSC Staff Facilitators. We will be sure to include these examples of good practice in these new materials, as well as other lessons learned from the reports.
Out of a possible total of 101 SSCs, only 34 submitted reports to NUSU at the end of academic year. This is particularly disappointing given that last year’s paper was also collated from 34 reports.
Sharing good practice across the University and the changes that result from it bring real benefits in terms of overall student experience. We hope that by learning from this year’s paper and disseminating its findings, a greater number of SSCs will see the benefits of sharing their reports with NUSU so that we can all continue to work together to improve student representation.
If you any questions about the paper, or would like to know more about student representation at Newcastle, feel free to email Joe at firstname.lastname@example.org
Representation Support Worker, Newcastle University Students’ Union