Welcome to the March and April Learning & Teaching Enhancement Theme: Student Voice. In the first post, Marianne Brown (Head of Student Analytics, Insights and Modelling), Nichola Kett (Head of Quality Assurance and Enhancement) and Sam Maccallum (Students’ Association Vice President Education) discuss aspects of the student voice. The post outlines what we mean by student voice, why it’s important and some of the ways in which we currently listen, engage with and respond to student voices across the University and Students’ Association.
What do we mean by student voice?
Sam: Put simply, for me student voice is about making sure that all decisions, big and small, that impact students are taken in partnership with students. This can take many different forms, as outlined in this blog, but at the Students’ Association we are led by elected students, from full-time paid Sabbatical Officers like myself to our 90+ part-time, volunteer Elected and Programme Representatives. Our student representatives don’t just shape the Students’ Association, but also the University, as they hold positions of influence across the University, from Student-Staff Liaison Committees in Schools to Senate, where they provide the student perspective, and share constructive feedback on the student experience.
Nichola: Student engagement is one of the key elements of the Scottish Quality Enhancement Framework, where students are encouraged to work in partnership with staff and an aim is to give students a greater voice.
Marianne: It is important that when we talk about “student voice” we understand that there are a wide range of voices, views and experiences of our diverse body of students. Whatever their experience, we want to make sure that all students feel that their voice matters and is valued.
Why is student voice so important?
Marianne: The student voice is a key way of understanding the experiences of students across their time at the University. It helps us to see from a student perspective what is working well, and what needs to be improved in order to better support their student journey; enabling students to be part of the growth and development of the University.
Sam: Student voice is one crucial way that we can ensure the student experience at Edinburgh, both academically and pastorally, is the best it can be. Students have a unique, and vital, perspective on how to enhance their experience. Bringing students into the conversation and, crucially, to the decision-making table also has the added benefit of helping to create more engaged and successful students and graduates.
How do we listen, engage with and respond to the student voice?
There are lots of ways of listening to the student voice, both formally, through surveys, student representation, feedback on courses, programme review, and the student panel, and informally, in the giving and receiving of feedback within day-to-day student life.
Student surveys and the student panel
Marianne: At Edinburgh, we take part in sector wide surveys (National Student Survey, Postgraduate Taught Experience Survey and Postgraduate Research Survey). This allows us to gather feedback from students about their experiences and compare with other institutions. While these focus on particular student groups, twice a year, we also run a short “pulse” survey for all students, gathering feedback on their experience as a student. We also invite students to join our Student Panel. Our Student Panel is a diverse group of students from across the University who can provide insight into aspects of the student experience through surveys, focus groups and tasks.
While we are good at gathering insights on what students think about their experience as a student, we are less good at updating them on what we are doing in response to their feedback. This is something we are working to improve, so that students know that their voice does matter.
Sam: Each year, over 1300 students are selected and elected to represent their peers, from Programme and School Representatives who gather feedback from other students in their discipline, to our Liberation Officers who give a voice to marginalised communities, and the five Sabbatical Officers who represent all 49,000 students at the very highest levels of the University. All student representatives receive a robust induction and training package from the Students’ Association, and we’re on hand throughout the year to offer advice and support their personal and professional development.
Nichola: Student-staff liaison committees (SSLCs) are meetings attended by student representatives and staff where key areas of feedback are discussed, and students and staff work in partnership to resolve any issues identified.
Course feedback and programme review
Nichola: Students are offered at least one opportunity to feedback on their courses each year so that, where possible, improvements can be made. This opportunity might be during or after the course and the format of the feedback and response will vary by course.
Programmes undergo a significant review at least every six years and students are engaged throughout. Student feedback is considered as part of the reviews, students are invited to propose aspects for the review to consider and to meet the panel undertaking the review, and are involved in follow-up activity.
How to find out more and get involved
Sam: There are lots of ways for students to become more involved in student voice activity, from voting in our annual Elections and sharing feedback with student representatives, to volunteering as a Programme or Elected Representative, or even becoming a full-time Sabbatical Officer. Staff can also support student voice by reaching out to students and their representatives; letting them know that you are keen to work with them to respond to their feedback and implement ideas.
Students can find out more about their elected representatives and how to get involved here.
In this series, we have planned blog posts addressing how you can support student representatives, how our quality assurance procedures work and how you can get involved, and more. Be sure to check back throughout March and April to find out more about the different dimensions of student voice.
Get in touch
If you’re reading this and thinking of work, activities or projects that you’ve been involved in relating to the student voice, please do get it touch with Nichola Kett: firstname.lastname@example.org. We would love to feature more examples in this series from across the University and Students’ Association.
Marianne is Head of Student Analytics, Insights and Modelling (SAIM) within Registry Services. She oversees the running of student surveys, the Student Panel, and the reporting and analysis of student and timetable data to support operational processes and strategic decision-making to improve student experience.
Sam (they/them) is the current Students’ Association Vice President Education, representing Edinburgh’s 49,000 students on issues of learning and teaching. Prior to being elected in Spring 2022, Sam was studying towards a Masters in Science Communication and Public Engagement, and held the role of Biomedical Sciences Postgraduate Taught School Representative, having completed their Undergraduate degree at the University of Glasgow.
Nichola Kett is Head of Quality Assurance and Enhancement Team in Academic Services, where she oversees the implementation and management of the quality framework and manages the quality assurance and enhancement team. Nichola also engages with and contributes to key University learning and teaching activities.