Student Representatives on the value of student-staff collaboration

In this post, Callum Paterson gives the floor to Programme Representatives from across the university who share their experiences of being a representative, along with examples of where staff have worked collaboratively with them in their roles. Callum is the Academic Engagement Coordinator in the Student Voice Team at the Students’ Association. This post is part of the Learning & Teaching Enhancement Theme: Student Voice.

Costa Wesele, Postgraduate Taught Programme Representative for MSc Data Science for Health & Social Care within the Usher Institute of Edinburgh Medical School:

A professional and effective working relationship between staff and Programme Representative is one that is often acknowledged but not often given the appreciation or credit it truly deserves. Within academic circles, that relationship is much more than a catalyst which facilitates and enhances the interaction between two important stakeholders in academia. Just recently, prior to the SSLC, one member of the teaching staff advised us all as new representatives on the quality and quantity of feedback we should aim to collect from our cohorts. This enabled us to narrow down our focus and zero-in on pertinent issues. Eventually, we ended up collecting feedback, which was not only meaningful, but also comprehensive on every metric possible. Therefore, it is important that staff and students establish meaningful contact and engage purposefully on issues of mutual interest.

Latchiya Karthikeyan, Postgraduate Taught Programme Representative for MSc Human Resource Management in the Business School. Latchiya is also the elected university-wide Postgraduate Taught Representative:

As part of my role of being a Programme Representative, I have had the opportunity to constantly gather feedback from students and then work on the same by implementing changes with the help of our staff. The student development staff at the Business School have played a major role in catering to the very specific needs of our programme and it has not only resulted in increasing the satisfaction of the students by enriching their experience but adds more value to my role being the student representative. As part of my elected representative role as Postgraduate Taught Representative, Students’ Association staff have been a major support in helping me organise events and also listen to feedback from the Postgraduate Taught students across all the Schools and this has given a sense of belonging to all the students as well as ensured that the voices of Postgraduate Taught students are being heard.

Hoang Anh Ngo, Postgraduate Taught Programme Representative for MSc Epidemiology (Online Learning) within the Usher Institute of Edinburgh Medical School:

Despite being a relatively new, fully online programme, the interaction between staff and students has been wonderful, and I feel privileged to become a part of such a connection. There have been several cases of their support leading to major changes within the curriculum. For example, the course “Principles of Epidemiology and Statistics” was the first course offered to us within the programme, which lasted for 10 weeks. Most of the students thought that for a course with such length, one final assignment at the end of the course would be of too much stress; moreover, the content of the course is a bit skewed to the final weeks, which is also a bit of a burden to us. After the discussion with all student representatives in the SSLC meeting, changes have been effective immediately for the next offering of the course. Starting this year, the course now has two assignments, one mid-term and one final; the content has also been more evenly spread out with more interactive components, which have received extremely positive feedback from students. Student Representatives of last year have also been informed of the modifications conducted, which made us feel assured that we are listened to, and the staff members are doing their best to bring us the most comfortable learning experiences.

This dynamic is still happening within this year, and we are happy to know that as the pioneering cohort, future students will benefit a lot from such close relationships between staff and student representatives.

Sanyukta Singh, Postgraduate Taught Programme Representative for MSc Education (Child and Adolescent Psychology) in Moray House School of Education and Sport:

As a student representative, my major role was to collect feedback during class from students about their experiences in the course. In the first semester, the course organiser for my master’s pathway, Dr Josie Booth,  was very kind enough to let me take five minutes from her lectures to conduct qualitative feedback with the students about the entire programme. She assisted me to present a PowerPoint in the classroom and left the room so students could have a safe space to discuss their concerns with me without any barriers. This feedback session data was reported to the Programme director who was very welcoming to student voices and opinions. The staff have been very kind and supportive while listening to feedback. However, what action will be taken using the feedback is yet to be known.

Jing Hu, Postgraduate Taught Programme Representative for MSc Language and Intercultural Communication in Moray House School of Education and Sport:

My experience as a Programme Representative has been very positive. Since I was elected, the Programme Director has been in close contact with me and encouraged me to build up my skills for communication, presentation, leadership, and networking. The wider Students’ Association staff have offered many opportunities for me to socialize with other student reps across the university. With these resources and support, I was able to organize a programme-wide New Year social despite my utter lack of experience in event management. However, one area of improvement could be the availability of funding options and instructions to help me get started easily and save my time amid crowded study schedules.

These examples demonstrate just some of the positive and constructive interactions that are happening in programmes, but there are so many more brilliant stories from right across the university. I hope that these examples inspire you – whether you are a student representative or a staff member – to reach out and build these connections with one another, work together, and bring the student voice into the room for the benefit of all.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to Costa, Latchiya, Hoang, Sanyukta, and Jing for volunteering as Programme Representatives this year and for taking the time to share their experiences for this blog.

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.

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