Senate: Where does student voice fit in?

Photo credit: Michal Matlon, Unsplash CC0

In this post, Callum Paterson  discusses how the student voice is represented and heard within the University’s most important decision-making body: the Senate. He does so by taking us on a very informative journey into the senate’s structure and function. This post is part of the Learning & Teaching Enhancement Theme: Student Voice.

There are many spaces across the university where students can make their voice heard. The Senate is, arguably, the most influential body where students can voice their concerns on the issues that matter to them. Here, we discuss what the Senate is and how students are involved. This post is part of the Learning & Teaching Enhancement Theme: Student Voice.

The University of Edinburgh’s Senate is the university’s supreme academic body – it’s the official forum for debating, regulating, and overseeing all matters of education, teaching and learning across the university. The Senate has around 300 members, including 30 elected student representatives – this includes our Sabbatical Officers, Liberation Officers, Section Representatives, and several Undergraduate and Postgraduate representatives. The rest of the Senate membership is made up of representatives from all areas of the university, including academic staff and members of the senior leadership team.

The Senate also delegates responsibility for some tasks to its three main sub-committees – the Education Committee, Academic Policy and Regulations Committee, and the Quality Assurance Committee. I sit on these sub-committees alongside our VP Education, Sam, to represent the student voice in these spaces. It’s in the sub-committees that policies are developed, and change is proposed, before being sent to be debated and commented on at the Senate.

Student representatives on senate have the opportunity to contribute to discussions and then vote on a wide range of important issues, such as curriculum transformation, student welfare, and academic policies including policies put in place in response to industrial action. They also have the chance to meet and learn from some of the university’s leading academics and administrators, and work with them to create positive change that improves the student experience at the univeristy.

We often hear that one of the most rewarding aspects of being a student representative is ensuring that the voices of students are meaningfully included in the discussion. It’s no secret that Senate has been home to some contentious issues recently, but the elected student members of Senate have been able to raise concerns about these issues – such as equality, diversity and inclusion, student support, and the quality of teaching. Student representatives also voiced their concerns about disability support, which (at least in some small part) did lead to more resources being allocated to the service.

While the Senate has hosted some lively and controversial discussions this year, it has given our student representatives the opportunity to make a real difference to the university, and to learn more about how the university works. From raising student concerns to holding the university and its senior leadership to account for the decisions they make, the Senate provides one of many valuable forums for students to raise their voices on the issues that matter to them, and the wider student community.

If you are interested in getting involved in spaces like the Senate, I’d really encourage you to consider becoming a student representative when the opportunities arise in the next academic year. As always, you can reach out to the Student Voice team at the Students’ Association if you have any questions, via

photograph of the authorCallum Paterson

Callum Paterson is the Academic Engagement Coordinator within the Student Voice team at the Students’ Association. He works with Programme and School Representatives as well as the Vice President Education, supporting and empowering them to make their voices heard on the issues that matter most to them.

One comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *