Our Course Reps Have Achieved So Much - Could You Be One?

Course Reps are elected students who represent their cohort and act as a liaison between staff and students. Over the last academic year, all of our Course Reps have worked exceptionally hard to represent their cohort and improve the learning experience at QMUL.

Representatives

Course Reps are elected students who represent their cohort and act as a liaison between staff and students. Over the last academic year, all of our Course Reps have worked exceptionally hard to represent their cohort and improve the learning experience at QMUL. We’d like to say a massive thank you to all the work our Course Reps have done, and highlight a few of their many successes in this article. You can also read about all the great work our Course Rep of the Month winners have done here.

Our Course Rep Elections are now open for nomination! Ready to dive in and have a say in how the Students' Union and University is run? Or maybe you wanna be the go-to voice of your course mates and raise any problems or make note of those epic suggestions. This is your chance to glow up your CV and make some real change by nominating yourself in our Autumn or Course Rep Elections. As seen in this article, our Course Reps go above and beyond to help make university the best it can be and you could be a part of it too! Find out more about what it's like to be a Rep and if it could be for you.
Maddie Ngombo, Year 2 History Rep

One of the major issues Maddie has worked to improve this year is racial language and microaggressions in History seminars. When Maddie was approached by various students who were uncomfortable with some language being used earlier in the year, she noticed a pattern of offensive language being referred to in seminars. This was a difficult and sensitive topic to navigate, as Maddie wanted to ensure Students of Colour felt comfortable in the classroom whilst also not restricting teaching staff from making seminars historically accurate.

Maddie joined the EDI Committee for the History Department and raised the issue of appropriate use of racial slurs in academic contexts. This led to difficult but important discussions, where she was able to be a voice for the students and help the department understand the impact this had on students. Maddie offered constructive solutions such as opening avenues for student feedback, creating feedback reports, and creating guidelines for academic staff members.

From this, Maddie felt there was a wider issue of BAME student representation and leadership within the department. Students felt it was difficult to talk to members of staff or other student representatives due to a lack of diversity in these spheres and didn’t feel comfortable stepping into student leadership roles. Maddie has since been working with staff to improve the recruitment process so that more students feel comfortable stepping into these roles.

Maddie’s proudest moment – Working on support and leadership opportunities for BAME students. It felt great to give students who felt like those roles weren’t for them a boost of confidence, and it raised important discussions.

What Maddie most enjoyed about being a Course Rep – Being the voice of students, being able to provide students with support and refer them to other support avenues. Maddie got to make sure all the students' voices were heard.

 

Aisha Qadi, Year 3 Psychology Rep, and Omayma Bouaziz, Year 3 Biochemistry Rep

Long time friends and Course Reps, Aisha and Omayma, worked collaboratively this year to solve common issues between different SBBS courses. In their work as Course Reps, both Aisha and Omayma noticed that there were common issues both of their cohorts were facing, particularly in terms of assessment and feedback. Many students expressed confusion over what work was mandatory and what was optional, difficulties with knowing specifically what to prepare for an exam, and many felt the feedback they were receiving was very minimal and did not help them improve.

Initially, Aisha and Omayma gathered informal feedback through group chats and in person after lectures to understand what the most common issues were amongst students. They then prepared collaborative feedback forms to gather this feedback formally and liaised with their School Rep to raise these issues at a higher level. Both through their individual work and collaborative work, Aisha and Omayma noticed improvements to feedback and clarity from Semester A to Semester B. Aisha and Omayma also helped the VP Science & Engineering, Muneer Hussain, with his wider project on assessment and feedback within S&E by contributing their own feedback as well as helping to spread Muneer’s feedback survey to as many students as possible. Muneer’s survey received 290 responses from SBBS students.

Aisha and Omayma received the Course Rep Collaboration Award at the Education Awards 2023 for their work together improving the student experience.

What Aisha most enjoyed about being a Course Rep – Interacting with students and getting to be their voice. It was very rewarding feeling appreciated by students and getting to work out issues for them

What Omayma most enjoyed about being a Course Rep – Being able to speak to brand new people and meet members of her cohort who she never had before due to the pandemic. It was great to create that space of mutual discussion and community between students.

 

Ilm Lilly Connolly, Year 2 Politics and International Relations Rep

This year, Lilly has worked to advocate for students in various ways, including accessibility, and fostering understanding with academic staff on how student’s needs have changed since the COVID-19 pandemic. Lilly noticed many staff were eager to rush back to pre-pandemic modes of learning and return to ‘normalcy’, whilst a lot of students had never had the opportunity to experience university outside of the limitations of the pandemic. She also noticed some larger department events were still quite difficult to organize and sometimes had low attendance numbers.

Lilly spent time articulating to staff how assumptions about students are sometimes incorrect in a post-pandemic context, and how much the pandemic was a traumatic experience for the younger generation. She worked to build student-staff relationships and create a sense of community in the university by suggesting the department host smaller, student led events, and create more opportunities for mixed in-person and online events, so that more students who were still struggling to return to campus life could get involved.

This also extended to ongoing changes in various modules, where some students were struggling with new modes of assessment and felt there was a lack of guidance provided. Lilly worked with module convenors to provide additional guidance on how to approach large essays, advice on take home exams, and additional materials to help students understand how to deal with analysis essays versus problem solving questions. She also helped arrange a feedback session for students who were unsure why their grades were lower than expected for one module, which greatly helped students improve their technique for future assignments.

Lilly’s proudest moment – Bringing forward key points on how education is going to be different after the pandemic, as well as smaller wins like changes to module descriptions that overall help students have a much more enjoyable University experience

What Lilly most enjoyed about being a Course Rep – Seeing how her contributions as a Course Rep will have a positive impact in the future and getting valuable experience working directly with academic staff and other student representatives. It was great to see that when students work together, they can be a powerful force for change.

 

Syed Muhammad Shahzaib Haider, Year 2 Mathematical Sciences

Syed has worked diligently this year in lobbying the university to reverse their decision over in-person exams. This year, exams were moved back to an in-person examination format for the first time since the COVID-19 Pandemic. Many second year Mathematical Sciences students felt this was an unfair change as they had no experience of in-person examinations at a university level, and felt they were not sufficiently prepared for such a massive shift in exam style. Along with the School of Mathematical Sciences Representative, Roulian Zelo, Syed began collecting student feedback through various sources such as WhatsApp messages, informal meetings, and email threads, and received over 120 signatures on a petition asking the school to keep the exams online. This was then gathered into a report, which was presented to key stakeholders, including the Director of Education. As a result of this feedback, the school reflected on these concerns, and reverted to an online format for January exams.

However, the school was still eager to shift back to an in-person exam style and decided to host May exams in person. Syed once again worked to share student concerns with academic staff and worked with other students to write a formal email expressing support for online exams, which was shared by around 150 students. In response, the school called a Townhall meeting, which led to significant changes in order to mitigate the impact in person exams would have on students. Although it was too late to change the format of the exam, the school introduced measures that would allow students to sit the exam in August without penalties such as a grade cap or the exam being recorded as a resit, which also allowed students more time to prepare for the in-person format without their grade being negatively impacted.

Syed’s work also raised awareness of the issue amongst both students and staff. The report and emails were shared with many key stakeholders and student representatives, including VP Science & Engineering, Muneer Hussain. Muneer also completed a wider research project into assessment and feedback within the Faculty of Science & Engineering and received over 110 responses from SMS students.

Syed’s proudest moment – Being honoured as the Course Rep of the Month in November for his work in enhancing the student experience. Also, seeing his hard work pay off when online exams were re-introduced for the January exam period. This success demonstrated that the concerns of students were understood and showed his determination in his role.

Apply to be a Course Rep in our elections here.
 

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