Week 2 Blog

The Education Committee consists of key people from across the university, including the library, faculties, University Management, and me. Last week was the committee’s away day consisting of several open mic style talks and discussion sessions throughout. I was able to get two of these slots so I chose to do a talk on ‘Student Voice and Engagement’ and one on my ‘Manifesto’.

The purpose of the first talk was to land two key messages:

  • Partnership is a necessity – Students should not be an afterthought for any new project, idea, change, but instead, be involved from the start. A partnership requires total transparency, the ability to scrutinise and involve two-way communication. This is not often seen at University.
  • Students can challenge but not change – Students often feel like they can challenge the university and hold them to account, but not nothing becomes of that. Change should not be seen as something that only Senior Management can do. Students see data and experience through a completely different lens that should be respected.

It was clear that there was a shift in thinking from the room as to how to engage with students with a really positive discussion in the groups afterwards.

It was a perfect time to present my manifesto due to the range of people in the room. This was done via a catchphrase-style quiz containing some of my bigger objectives.

Black Attainment Gap was the biggest shock to the room, which was a big disappointment, however, there was great discussion afterwards into some of the causes and changes that would reduce this gap. The best news was the gap is now on the committee’s agenda and we will be seeing an update in the university’s progress in January.

Conversation, and now collaboration, occurred with myself and the library to introduce greater diversity into reading lists and the library’s collection. There is also talk about setting up a book club for both students and staff with the inclusion of books from a diverse range of authors.

Assessments are often bunched causing both students and staff unnecessary stress. Students don’t have the time to complete work to the best quality because another deadline is soon on the horizon. Staff and Postgraduate students are often given large amounts of work to mark and not a lot of time to do it, increasing stress levels and resulting in less time to complete research or studies.

Finally the term ‘study space’ has changed throughout the years. Students prefer to use library-style spaces and not study in their rooms. Bringing this shift to the committee reinforced my earlier point on how students will have a different experience now than to how the people in the room experienced university. I am now in discussion with the University as to how to get study space in the city and improve the spaces we have on campus.

There was very positive discussion throughout the day and the start of a culture shift into how students can be partners in change at the university. I have been able to start a discussion at the top levels but only using the increasing strength of the student voice!