**During this time when physical meetings are not possible, guidance has been produced to support the running of virtual SSCs. At NUSU, we have worked with the University to develop digital resources that you can use to support Student Representation and your SSC. Click here to find out more.**
Academic Student Representation ensures that the student's voice is heard at every level of University decision-making. It is also a key process by which the University engages with its students.
More information on the principles and purpose of Academic Student Representation at Newcastle can be found in the Student Representation Policy, co-authored by the University and NUSU.
Academic Student Representation Roles
Course Reps are the crucial link between students and staff on their course or program. They are trained to use all appropriate methods to gather feedback from their cohort. For example, if you are planning changes to modules or would like feedback on any aspect of your program, ask your Course Reps to canvass student opinion and be confident you will get an open and honest response. There is a Course Rep Roles and Responsibilities document.
SSC meetings should be chaired by an elected Student Chair. It is the Chair’s responsibility to lead the SSC meetings, ensuring all members have a fair opportunity to speak and that the Committee makes appropriate decisions.
If there is interest from students, each SSC should also have a Student Secretary. The Student Secretary helps organise the SSC meetings and communicates the work of the committee to the wider student cohort. If there is no student interest, then it should be taken up by a member of staff. If a student is elected to the Secretary position, we recommend that the Academic Unit offers support to produce formal minutes.
The Student Chair and Student Secretary of SSCs are normally the Student Representatives on Board of Studies. However, we also ask that School Reps are informed of the dates of relevant meetings and are able to attend should they wish.
Each Academic Unit will have up to three School Reps; one to represent all undergraduate students, one for postgraduate taught students, and one for postgraduate research students. School Reps are appointed by NUSU and their key role is to be the student voice at the relevant Faculty Education Committee or Graduate School Committee. A list of current School Representatives is available as is a School Rep Roles and Responsibilities document.
Where appropriate, SSCs are encouraged to consider creating the following positions on the committee:
- Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Representatives: EDI Reps are Course Reps who take a lead on identifying and raising EDI issues within their School or Institute at the SSC.
- Society Representatives: Society Reps are committee members of relevant NUSU academic societies who act as a liaison between the SSC and their society.
- Environment & Sustainability (E&S) Reps: E&S Reps are Course Reps who take a lead on identifying E&S issues within their School or Institute at the SSC. They may also suggest projects and initiatives with an E&S focus for the SSC to explore.
Each Academic Unit is required to have a minimum of one Student-Staff Committee (SSC), although it may be more suitable to have more to cover different levels of study, programs, and stages. SSCs are required to report to and consider information received from the Board of Studies or School Postgraduate Research Committees. For more information see the Constitution and Terms of Reference for SSCs. A schedule of business and model agenda are also available to assist SSCs in fulfilling their terms of reference.
Supporting Academic Student Representation
As staff there are a number of ways in which you can support and utilise Academic Student Representation:
- Make sure new students know about the opportunities for making their voice heard during induction, and returning students are updated on changes to Student Representation.
- Facilitate Course Rep elections – to help, we have produced a guide to selecting Representatives.
- Encourage students to use the channels of representation - in tutorials, you may suggest they use the SSC to provide ideas and feedback.
- Offer mechanisms for Course Reps to keep in touch with the students they represent; e.g. through lecture shout outs, access to email lists or Blackboard Communities.
- Consult Reps when you are planning changes to modules or would like feedback on any aspect of your program; Course Reps can assist in getting student opinions.
- Promote achievements and changes that have come from Student Representation. The wider student body will only engage with their Representatives if they can see them having a positive impact.
In addition to this, NUSU has prepared a 'Good Practice' document, detailing examples of how Staff Facilitators can use their SSCs as a platform for making wider improvements in their academic units.
Training and Support from NUSU
It is mandatory that all Representatives attend NUSU induction training. Once your Course Reps have been elected, please send us their details using this spreadsheet. This should be completed and returned to us by email to firstname.lastname@example.org by no later than first working day in November. We will then invite the Course Reps to the relevant training. Please note: all of our training during Semester 1 of 2020/21 will take place online. We can also arrange bespoke School-specific Course Rep training sessions if availability allows. To discuss further, please email email@example.com.
If your Student Chairs and Secretaries have been elected by the time you are ready to submit your spreadsheet, please do include their details. If you have all of your Course Reps in place, but the Student Chair and Secretary are still to be elected, please send us the spreadsheet and update us at a later date when the Student Chair and Secretary are in place.
We also provide optional Additional Skills Training for all of our representatives. We will let the representatives know about this additional training when we invite them to induction training.
Click here for more information about when our forthcoming training sessions will be taking place.
We also produce handbooks for each of the Academic Representative roles:
We also remain in regular contact with Representatives throughout the year providing support and guidance when required and we let them know about additional representation opportunities. Throughout the year, we also hope to attend a number of SSCs. If you would like a Representative from NUSU to attend your SSC, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Annual SSC Report
At the final SSC of the year the Student Chair and Secretary, with the support of the Staff Facilitator, are responsible for writing and presenting the SSC Annual Report. This report compiles the key discussions and achievements from the SSC during the academic year and should be shared with current students, staff, and NUSU.
It also can be presented at the first SSC of the following year to introduce new members to previous discussions. A report template has been produced by NUSU and is available to download.
Staff are encouraged to consider using 'talking head' video clips as a means of sharing feedback outcomes with students. This can be a more engaging way of closing the feedback loop with students as a video may be more appealing than a text-heavy email or document.
Combined Honours are currently trialing 'talking head' videos as an alternative way of sharing the work of their Student-Staff Committee. This was a recommendation from their inclusive working group on last years' SSC, who felt it offered a more accessible way of engaging the wider cohort with the work of the SSC.
After each SSC meeting, one of the reps volunteers to appear in the video and provides a round-up of some of the main topics covered. All student reps then embed this video into emails to their constituent groups, as well as adding them to the blackboard community alongside the formal minutes. An example of the video about Combined Honours SSC's first meeting of this year can be viewed here.
NUSU Support for Staff
We also offer training for Staff Facilitators. This training covers the different representation roles, the Staff Facilitator’s role, how NUSU supports Student Representation and how to run an effective SSC. Following the Staff Training, we also run a Staff Forum, which gives all staff involved in Student Representation the opportunity to talk about their experiences of Student Representation.
Look out for emails that detail when the next staff training and forum will be taking place. If you would prefer a bespoke training session for your Academic Unit, please email email@example.com. You can also go through the information provided in the training by reading through the Staff Handbook or the Staff Facilitator role description.