The Little Green Book for
Rep Training Dates, times and locations of upcoming training sessions will be forwarded to Course Directors as soon as possible. Dates will also be published on Moodle and the Students’ Union website… www.birminghamcitysu.com/reps..
Contents Foreword from the Students’ Union
Message from the University
What are Student Reps?
Guidance for Course Directors
How to be an Effective Student Rep
Further Opportunities for Student Reps
Likely Problems and Solutions
The environment is very important to us, this guide is printed on paper sourced from well-managed forests & printed with solvent free inks. Once you’ve finished reading...
Forward Hello to our new student reps and welcome back to those of you who are returning from last year. Being a student rep gives you the opportunity to play a significant part in improving the experience of students at this university. You will find out the views, both positive and negative, of your fellow students and represent them at various university meetings and committees. The role of a student rep is a valuable one and you will be working closely with the Students’ Union because representation is extremely important us. Being a rep isn’t as scary as it seems and here at the Students’ Union we offer lots of support to our student reps throughout the year so don’t worry. Please come to us if you have any concerns or problems. You may even get to win a rep award at the end of the year! This handbook is a guide to the role you will be playing and contains key information on being a confident, effective and successful rep. If however you feel you need a little more support then please get in touch, the details on how to do so are listed towards the end of this booklet. A big thank you once again for become a student rep and good luck for the year ahead. Laura Hall Education and Welfare Officer Birmingham City Students’ Union
Student Rep Handbook 02
Message from the University As a Student Rep, your role is an important one in ensuring the views of students are heard within the University. The feedback you provide contributes greatly to our efforts to enhance the quality of the learning experience for all students here at Birmingham City University. The University is working in partnership with Birmingham City Studentsâ€™ Union to improve the system of student representation and to provide students with the opportunity to participate effectively in discussion and decision making at all levels. We really do want to involve students in our enhancement agenda and we have put in place processes to make sure that you, and the students you represent, know what actions we are taking in response to your feedback. Thank you for all your efforts and the contribution you are making to the University. Sally Westney Pro Vice Chancellor (Student Experience and Satisfaction)
03 Student Rep Handbook
What are Student Reps?
Student Reps play a vital role in communicating students’ views to staff within courses. As a Student Rep you are in place to ensure that any student, no matter what course or campus, can have their say on issues affecting their education. As a Student Rep you will canvass opinion, represent these views at various University meetings and feed back the outcome of these meetings to students. You will be asked to provide staff with information about how courses can be improved or to support staff in bids to introduce new teaching and learning projects. The Student Rep System allows for early identification of potential problems. Where matters can’t be dealt with at course level they can be moved up within the University structure and addressed by the Faculty or the University. Student Reps also provide a link between the students and the Students’ Union. The Students’ Union will offer training and send out newsletters, briefings and consultations throughout the year via email and Moodle. It is an important part of your role as Student Rep to communicate with the Union to ensure the Union is made aware of issues that affect the student body. This handbook is intended to serve as both an introduction and a reference point for students and staff involved in the Student Representation System. Contact details and sources of further help are provided at the back of the booklet.
Student Rep Responsibilities Represent the views of students on their course Provide a link between students and staff Attend relevant staff-student committees Find effective ways of feeding back information, from staff-student meetings, to the student body Keep the Union updated on issues arising on your course Attend Student Rep Training Liaise with other Student Reps to gain support and ideas If you are interested in becoming a Student Rep first speak to your Course Director who will inform you of the arrangements for choosing a Student Rep on your course.
Student Rep Handbook 04
Guidance for Course Directors... Course Director’s Role The role of the Course Director is absolutely crucial in fostering effective student representation. They are a point of contact on the course for the students, the University and the Students’ Union.
Elections Course Directors should ensure that elections of Student Reps take place early in the autumn term. Ideally these should take place around the end of week 2 or the beginning of week 3 of the first semester. For courses starting later elections should take place by the end of the second week of the course start date. Election timing has been set for these periods so that students can get to know each other and then choose their representatives before the first Board of Study meeting. Please let us know if you will not be electing your reps until later in the term so we can make the appropriate arrangements. All students should have the right to put themselves forward so it is important that they are made aware of the election process. Courses should also ensure that parttime students are given the same opportunity as full-time students. It is important that students elect their Student Reps so that they can choose the most effective and appropriate candidate and so the Rep has the support of his/her peers, however, the elections don’t have to be complicated It is important that students elect their Student Reps so that they can choose the most effective and appropriate candidate and so the Rep has the support of their peers, however, the elections don’t have to be complicated. Ideas for electing Reps: Show of hands. E-mail ballot - depending on the size of the group you may be happy for students to e-mail their choice. Secret Ballot - if the election is contested by several students then you might decide you wish to go down this route. The Students’ Union Representation Coordinator will be happy to provide support for this.
05 Student Rep Handbook
If an election is unnecessary because a candidate is uncontested then staff should ensure that students on the course agree to the appointment.
What if nobody puts themselves forward? There is no reason why you shouldn’t encourage particular students to come forward if you think they would be suitable for the position. If a student then agrees to be a rep it would then be wise to put this to a show of hands to ensure that there aren’t any objections.
Registering Student Reps Course Directors should ensure that the Student Rep’s details, including an email address are passed to the Representation Coordinator in the Students’ Union by October 15th for courses starting in September 2010. If you are unable to get the details to the Union by that date please let the Representation Coordinator know. firstname.lastname@example.org Other responsibilities: ensure that Student Reps are provided with dates of meetings and copies of agendas. ensure that Student Reps are provided with a space on the course notice board and Moodle to display their names, contact details, and minutes of the Boards of Studies meetings. ensure that at committee meetings Reps are welcomed and given encouragement and opportunities to raise issues and discuss points promote the importance of Student Representation to students and staff on the course and support the system generally. The Student Representation Coordinating Group (SRCG) is a partnership between the University and the Students’ Union. It oversees the running of the Student Representation System and is made up of the following peopleStudents’ Union – Education and Welfare Officer, Representation Coordinator and Representation and Democracy Manager. University - Pro Vice Chancellor (Students), Academic Registrar, a staff member from the Academic Registry and the Director of Learning and Teaching. If Course Directors or other staff have any questions about Student Reps they are welcome to contact the Representation Coordinator at email@example.com.
Student Rep Handbook 06
Be an effective Student Rep... By volunteering your time, you can gain a lot of satisfaction being a Rep and supporting your fellow students. However, the role also carries a degree of responsibility. Here are a few pointers so you can get the most out of it.
Student Rep Training The Students’ Union provides an induction for Student Reps which covers the skills and information that will be essential in your role. The training focuses on how the University operates, and how Student Reps can influence University decisions:Assertiveness skills Negotiation strategies and skills Communication skills How to become an effective Rep If you’re not able to make a training session then please contact the Representation Coordinator to arrange an alternative time.
Publicise yourself! The key to being an effective student rep is to make yourself available and identifiable. You need to publicise yourself, otherwise will anyone but your friends know you’re a Rep? You can do this in a variety of ways: Lecture Shouts. Agree it with you lecturer first, and then speak to all your classmates at the start of a lecture. Two minutes can get you known for the entire year as the Student Rep, so it is strongly recommended! Student Rep Notice Boards. Most faculties now have at least one Student Rep notice board which you can use to put your contact details on. Speak to the Representation Coordinators for further details. Course Notice Boards. Ask your Course Director to put a notice on the notice board explaining how to contact you. Suggestion Box. Ask your Course Director if it is possible to have a suggestion box next to your contact details. Course Moodle. Talk to your Course Director about using the Moodle to contact students on your course.
07 Student Rep Handbook
Meeting Place Advertise to students that you will be available every week, or on a particular date at certain times. That way people will know where to find you to discuss their issues. You could sit in the same place every week, or stand outside a lecture theatre, whatever suits you best!
Gather Feedback from Students There may be issues which are cropping up from your fellow students or items to be discussed at the Board of Studies, which you have been asked to find out students’ views on. It is important that you remember you are there to represent the views of your fellow students rather than just your own. In addition, Student Reps should seek to identify issues affecting student groups (e.g. part-time or mature students) not directly represented at the Board of Studies and to speak on their behalf. You can seek fellow students’ views in a variety of ways: Questionnaires. Design a small questionnaire and ask your fellow students to fill it out. This will equip you with evidence to argue your case at the Board of Studies. Focus Groups/Meeting. Announce by poster/lecture shout/Moodle that you will be holding a focus group or meeting on a particular topic; this will allow you to explore the issues and provide evidence to form your arguments for your Board of Studies. Facebook. Set up a course discussion group on Facebook and advertise it to your classmates The Students’ Union. Speak to the Representation Coordinator (details at the back of this booklet) to see if it is a problem on other courses or if it is an issue which could affect the whole student body.
Attend and Participate in Meetings Boards of Studies A Board of Study (BoS) is the forum for course staff, students and often a member of library staff to raise matters of concern related to a particular course and to make recommendations. BoS will normally happen several times a semester. The BoS will often deal with day-to-day organisational matters and communication problems. As a Student Rep an important part of your job is to attend these meetings for your course. You will discuss and negotiate with staff from your course and hopefully reach a solution on issues raised by students. >
Student Rep Handbook 08
Issues discussed may include: Effectiveness of teaching. Are course materials at the appropriate level, visible, useful? Are the teaching methods varied and engaging? Teaching facilities. Are teaching facilities appropriate? Is the room and equipment suitable for teaching? The use of Learning and Teaching Strategies. How will these determine the way students learn, e.g. webbased learning; examinations... Feedback to students. Is the feedback a student receives good enough so that coursework can be improved? Hidden course costs. Are the costs of your course clear and did you know about them? Do you have to travel to other sites? Do you have to pay for printing or photocopying? Each Faculty tends to set a standard agenda for BoS meetings. As a minimum each BoS should have one Student Rep from each branch of each course. These meetings are usually chaired by Course Directors. As previously mentioned most Student Reps will attend Boards of Studies (BoS) but these tips apply equally to other University meetings. To ensure that these meetings are most effective, Reps should try and attend as prepared as possible and follow these steps.
Preparation before the Meeting Check whether you know where and when the meeting is? Prepare by reading and understanding the minutes of previous meetings. You should receive these at least five days before the meeting. Read the agenda. Do you need more information either from the Students’ Union or the students you are representing? Meet with other Reps at the BoS and let them know in advance which issues should be discussed. If necessary, have items placed on the agenda. Ask students their comments. Get lots of feedback.
At the Meeting Remember BoS is a forum to share problems and experiences that are common to several students, don’t use it to address individual grievances. Be prepared to participate, it’s your opportunity to express views of those on your course.
09 Student Rep Handbook
State problems in a constructive way. Say what the problem is and donâ€™t attach blame to an individual. Break larger problems into workable pieces and deal with them separately. Take notes and know who is responsible for specific issues. Make sure you know what actions are to be carried out. Be assertive instead of aggressive. It is more effective than arguing. If you have any doubts ask for clarification. Be willing to consider other views Give positive feedback if there are good things about your course or changes have been made in response to student input. >
Useful terms in Meetings Minutes A written record of the events of the meeting including matters discussed and any decisions made. Apologies for Absence A record in the minutes of the names of people who have said that they cannot attend. Matters Arising Issues discussed at the last meeting that do not appear on the agenda. They should be used for updates and progress chasing. Reports It is normally for specific people to report on what they have been doing. It is often an advantage to circulate these in writing beforehand. It is essential you do this where the issue is complicated. Items You can put forward any comments, ideas or questions on the issue under discussion. Any Other Business This is where any item or issues not covered in the meeting can be raised. i.e., point of information about forthcoming events, a question to another member about their work, a general enquiry.
Student Rep Handbook 10
After the Meeting In order to be truly effective as a Student Rep you need to keep those you represent informed of decisions and developments from the Board of Studies. At the end of each meeting the secretary to the Board of Studies should produce an action plan which shows how the issues raised will be followed up. You can feedback to your fellow students by: Lecture Shout Ask your lecturer for five minutes to run through the outcomes of the meeting and how you are going to follow them up. Email If you have been given permission by students to email them, then email round the details of what happened at the meeting. Post Minutes on Notice Board Display the meeting minutes for students to look at. A tip for this is to change the colour of the paper for each meeting that takes place or you can ask to announce in your lectures that a new set of minutes is up so people are aware. Course Moodle If you have access to Moodle on your course, arrange with your course director to post the outcomes of the meeting and let students know about issues coming up. Remember also that it is often a good idea to seek out the views and support of other student reps to get advice on how to respond to issues. The Studentsâ€™ Union has set up Faculty Student Rep Moodle areas for you to use (see the back of this booklet). It is also important that you identify any issue that needs to be followed up and who by.
11 Student Rep Handbook
Further Opportunities for Student Reps... Faculty Student Representatives Each faculty has two paid and elected Faculty Reps. These will be students who represent students on a cluster of courses. They will get the chance to participate in Faculty Board discussions about issues affecting the whole the faculty not just a specific course. They will also act as a link between the Students’ Union, the University and reps who attend Boards of Studies. As a rep for a course you will be involved in talking to and working with these reps or you may wish to stand for one of these positions yourself. If you are interested in the position of Faculty Rep then please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rep Awards The Student Rep Awards, organised by the Students’ Union, celebrate the achievements of Student Reps across all faculties who have made a real difference to their fellow students. These awards will run again in 2011 and University staff, fellow students and Student Reps themselves can submit nominations. Further details will be circulated later in the academic year.
Rep Newsletter Reps receive a monthly rep newsletter e-mailed directly to them and are encouraged to submit articles to it.
Focus Groups/Consultations Reps are sometimes invited, by the University or Students’ Union, to attend focus groups or be involved in consultations. These are a good opportunity to get opinions heard on specific subjects.
Birmingham City Students’ Union The aim of the Students’ Union is to create and promote the best possible experience for all Birmingham City University students, by providing a wide range of services and facilities. There are lots of opportunities to get involved in a variety of activities so check out the website at www. birminghamcitysu.com.
Student Rep Handbook 12
Likely problems and Solutions... As a Student Rep it is likely that you will encounter a variety of issues and problems. Student Reps training will address how you can tackle problems, and how to negotiate with your course to resolve them. However, to help you along the way we have compiled some issues that often crop up and how to tackle them as a guide.
Lecture Rooms If students say the lecture room is unsuitable due to size: Get specifics on why it is unsuitable Take these to the BoS and ask staff to find out whether it is possible to change rooms If it’s not possible for that term. Can it be changed for next term? Pass on results of the meeting to students on your course
Cancelling Lectures If lectures are being cancelled without warning: Find out the reason for this happening Ask the lecturer whether advanced warning can be given to students if lectures are going to be cancelled Investigate the possibility of lecture cancellations or lecture notes being placed on Moodle Pass on results of the meeting to the students on your course
Assessment Feedback to Students If students have problems getting feedback on assessed work: Ask as many students as possible if it’s happening to them Bring it to the BoS and ask if this can be rectified Inform the Representation Coordinator on studentsunion. email@example.com as this is an issue the Students’ Union will campaign on this year Pass on results of the meeting to students on your course
Individual Problems As a Rep you may be asked to solve problems that are out of your remit such as personal, financial or housing issues. There is a lot of help, advice and guidance available for students with individual problems. In cases such as these refer the student to their personal tutor, or to the Advice Centre in the Students’ Union.
13 Student Rep Handbook
Further help... Below is a list of people and resources at the Union should you need any further help or support during your time as a Rep.
In Person The Representation Coordinator, Representation and Campaigns Officer and Representation and Democracy Manager share responsibility for overseeing the running of the reps scheme, and all of them are able to offer advice on all things rep related: Representation Coordinator - Sarah Blatchford Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0121 331 6817 Education & Welfare Officer - Laura Hall Email email@example.com or call 0121 331 6815 Representation & Democracy Manager - Jema Davis Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0121 331 6817
Online The Student Reps section of the Union Website is a great first place to check for information. Regularly updated, it contains information about rep training, rep events and socials, downloadable copies of the handbook and rep newsletters and much more besides! www. birminghamcitysu.com/reps. We also have a presence on both Moodle and Facebook. All reps are automatically added to their Faculty Rep Moodle Group, which is also updated with all things rep related. The Facebook group is great fordiscussions with your fellow reps - to find out more, get in touch with the Representation Coordinator (above) and weâ€™ll add you to the group!
The Advice Centre Our professional advisers can help you with most student welfare issues including money, housing problems and academic matters such as appeals and complaints. We guarantee absolute confidentiality and because weâ€™re part of the Union we can do this with total independence. Contact us on 0121 331 6801 and see www.birminghamcitysu.com/advice for further information.
Useful Details Which member of staff do I speak to for further info on rep issues? (Name of Course Director/Administrator)
When are my Board of Study Meetings? (Dates & times)
Where do I get the papers/agenda for the meetings?
How do I put an item on the agenda? Is there a deadline before the meeting? (Can I raise issues without giving notice?)
Is there a course notice board or a course section on Moodle where I can place information and items for discussion?
Who are the other reps on my course? (Names & details)
How will I let other students know that I am their rep?
Who do I contact in the Studentsâ€™ Union with queries? Sarah Blatchford (Representation Coordinator) Email: email@example.com Tel: 0121 331 6817 If you think you need further help or information on your role as a Rep then contact the Representation Coordinator at the Studentsâ€™ Union (details at the back of this booklet). Alternatively speak to your Course Director for advice.