Why be a rep?
Being a student representative allows you to both take on a more active role within the university as well as help your peers get the most out of their degree. You have the unique opportunity to help people within your degree and make your voice heard within your department. The role of student rep also allows you to meet more students within your course and understand the ways in which SOAS operates.
You will benefit from gaining skills and insight, a 'thanks' in the form of free coffee and tea vouchers as you carry out the role, and acknowledgement for your efforts in a reference you can use as you embark on future plans.
What does the role entail?
As a student rep, your role is to act as a way to make student opinion heard within the department and to relay information from various boards and meetings back to the student body. You are basically a conduit for student opinion.
Specifically you will need to:
- Listen to student’s complaints and questions about issues that arise within their courses and then pass this on to the relevant person (whether that be their personal tutor, head of department, course convenor, student advice and wellbeing etc).
- If you get enough students complaining about a single issue (for instance assessment type) then you can raise this in a department meeting. Make sure when you raise this the meeting comes to an agreement on an action to be taken to respond to this issue.
- Relay important and relevant pieces of information that you hear within a department meeting to the students via the course email.
- Optional: organise study sessions, book rooms, suggest curriculum reforms, organise student meetings, organise meetings with other reps within your department.
You should not:
- Provide any support that goes beyond your means - especially in terms of mental health support.
Listen to student’s complaints
Student complaints can vary throughout the academic year. These are some of the most common and who you need to refer the student on to:
- General questions regarding reading lists/ module material/ lecture notes – Either refer the student to their tutor, lecturer or course convenor for the module. You can also advise them to speak to their peers within the module.
- Mitigating Circumstances/ Handing in Work Late – Refer them to their course convenor and the faculty office. They will need to go to the faculty office in order to pick up a form, but it also helps if their lecturer is aware of the situation. In such circumstances it is also good to refer the student to see a councillor as this process is often stressful and it important they have support.
- Complaints about modules (lecturers, workload, assessment) – Difficult as it may be, it is important that if a student has a problem with their lecturer they speak to them in person. If there are several complaints about a particular lecturer you should raise the issue to your head of department.
- Appealing Marks – You should first refer the student to their lecturer/ course convenor and then to the faculty office.
- Students feeling overwhelmed/ experiencing mental health issues/ other personal circumstances – You should refer student who are experiencing such difficulties to their personal tutor and to see a counsellor at student advice and wellbeing.
If you have enough students complaining about a single issue you can raise this in a department meeting
- Gathering student opinion: This can be done through emails, online surveys, online petitions and rep-organised student meetings. It is important to have something documented that you can refer to within a meeting as this helps to strengthen your point.
- Raising the issue at a department meeting: make sure that the department meeting agenda provides a time for the reps to raise any issues that they have. Once you have brought the issue to the attention of the meeting, make sure that everyone present agrees on an action to be taken to resolve the problem. If the department is unwilling to act on the issue, you should bring it to the Students’ Union.
- You should inform the students (via email) within your course the action that the department has agreed to take on the issue so they know that progress is being made.
Relay important and relevant pieces of information to the students via the course email
Often in department meetings, department heads and academic staff will discuss School policies and the ways in which these will be implemented. This can often have direct implications for students. For instance, the school decided in 2015/2016 that it wanted each department to carry out a policy of curriculum reforms. In the history department the degree programme was restructured. Student reps, by communicating to their peers what these reforms entailed were able to allow students to become a more active part of the process and make suggestions on how the reforms could be improved.
Some quotes from previous reps about the role...
“The school listens ... make sure you make an effort to let your opinion be heard”
“Speak your mind at department meetings, it’s what you’re there for!”
“...just be active, stand up in the lectures to encourage people to get back to you if they have concerns, and remember that academic staff is usually more than happy to have some contact with student opinion.”
“If you don’t know the answer, be honest - say you don’t know, and that you’ll research it. If you think something’s outside your role as a rep, say so - it gives confidence when, even if you can’t answer their question, you know someone with expertise that can.”
“Make your voice heard. Nothing will change unless you let the staff know!”
The Student Reps minisite covers key information and resources to help out our Students Reps. Head over via this link -
Quality Assurance Audit -results
In the 2012/13 session the school's 6-yearly Quality Audit was conducted, inspecting all aspects of learning, teaching and student experience at SOAS. The Union, working with reps, made a Student Written Submission. The final report gave a number of reccomendations, and referred to the SWS several times. This gives reps a basis to argue for certain changes that have been promised. You can read the QAA report online, and look at the Educational Priorities which the SU will work with reps to promote, and win!