What is a student rep?
Student representatives take on a more active role within the university and help their peers get the most out of their education at SOAS. They have the unique opportunity to help students within their programme and make their voices heard within their department. The role of student rep also provides opportunties to understand the ways in which SOAS operates.
Reps gain skills and insight, a 'thanks' in the form of free hot drinks vouchers as they carry out key activities in the role, and acknowledgement for their efforts in a reference they can use as they embark on future plans.
What does the role entail?
Student reps make student opinion heard within their department and relay information from lecturers and meetings back to the student body. They are essentially a conduit for student opinion.
- Listen to students so that when issues arise on their courses they can pass this on to the relevant person (whether that be their personal tutor, head of department, course convenor, student advice and wellbeing etc).
- Raise issues in department meetings. Reps ensure that when they raise an issue that all members of the meeting agree on an action to be taken.
- Relay important information to the students.
- Some reps also organise study sessions, book rooms, suggest curriculum reforms, organise student meetings, organise meetings with other reps within your department.
Reps should not:
- Provide any support that goes beyond your means - especially in terms of mental health support. Making referals to the right services is important to the role.
Listening to students
Students can experience a variety of issues over the course of their degree. These are some of common issues that can be raised with the student rep and the suggested course of action they could take.
- General questions regarding reading lists/ module material/ lecture notes – Reps could refer the student to their tutor, lecturer or course convenor for the module. They can also advise the student to speak to their peers taking the module.
- Mitigating circumstances/ handing in work late – Reps might refer the student to their course convenor and the department office. Students can obtain mitigating circumstances forms from the department office, but it also helps if their lecturer is aware of the situation. In such circumstances, reps might refer the student to Student Advice and Wellbeing or the 'Advice Caseworker' in the Students' Union for more support.
- Complaints about modules (lecturers, workload, assessment) – It is recommended that students resolve issues with their lecturer by talking to them personally. However, if there are several complaints about a particular lecturer reps might raise the issue to their programme convenor or head of department.
- Appealing Marks – Reps could refer the student to the 'Advice Caseworker' in the Students' Union. It is also recommended students wishing to appeal their marks raise this with their lecturer/ course convenor as well as the department office.
- Students feeling overwhelmed/ experiencing mental health issues/ other personal circumstances – Reps should refer the student to Student Advice and Wellbeing.
Raising issues in departmental meetings and student-staff meetings
Reps raise issues within their programme at department meetings. As such, there are a several key things reps should do in approaching department meetings:
- Gather student opinion: This can be done through emails, online surveys, online petitions and rep-organised student meetings. Reps should have evidence to back up any case or argument they are taking to their department meeting.
- Make sure that the department meeting agenda provides a time for the reps to raise any issues that they have. Once reps have brought the issue to the attention of the meeting, reps should try to ensure that everyone present agrees on an action to be taken to resolve the problem. If the department is unwilling to act on the issue, reps should bring this to the attention of the Students’ Union.
- Inform students within their course the action that the department has agreed to take.
Relaying important information
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, in 2016/17 the school took the decision to restructure, moving away from the three faculties to ten departments. It is important that student reps convey the ways in which such changes will impact on students' time at SOAS.
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!