The Student Partnership Conference 2019
As the Course Rep Conference last year (2017-18) was a success, we decided we should expand on what we offer to our Course Reps and extended the conference to a full day of workshops, skills development, networking and discussions. The conference took place on Saturday 2nd March 2019, with around 50 Course Reps and Education Reps in attendance. Lunch and refreshments were provided throughout the day. Attendees also got to take away a free Course Rep lanyard, pen, notepad and tote bag as memorabilia of their attendance!
This year the Vice President Education, Redwan Shahid, has worked in partnership with the University leadership on the Going for Gold project. The Conference started with Redwan's introduction and his update on the key education projects being undertaken by the Students' Union. This was followed by an introduction from QMULs Vice Principal Education, Stephanie Marshall. Unfortunately Stephanie was unable to attend the conference but she provided a comprehensive video understanding the importance of student-staff partnership and the positive impact that the Going for Gold project is having on improving Queen Mary students' engagement and experience.
We offered a variety of workshops, including group activities, role play and discussions for course reps to engage in. These included:
- The Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) & Going for Gold – This session was an overview of the TEF and an exploration into how reps can collaborate with the university and its strategies to enhance the student experience. This was led by our very own Faculty Education Managers for HSS and S&E, Zak Lidell and Lucie Langely.
- BME Attainment – Did you know that BME students are 10% less likely to achieve a First or 2:1 in the UK? This session explored the challenges universities are facing nationally and what steps are being taken to close the gap. This was led by the NUS Black Students' Officer, Ilyas Nagdee.
- Employability – Are you able to articulate the skills you have developed as a rep in career applications and interviews? This session aimed to help reps understand how they can stand out from the crowd and flourish in post-university life. This was led by the Students' Union's Student Skills & Development Coordinator, Marianne Melsen.
- Equity – This session detailed the importance of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in the workplace and showed ways in which this can be upheld and improved. This informative and thought-provoking session focused on how to maintain safe and comfortable working environment for all. This was led by the Students' Union's Customer Service Coordinator, Georgia Wilkinson and the Events Co-Ordinator, Ruby Soor.
- I'm a Course Rep - Get me out of here! – This role play session got course reps used to using effective communication and persuasion techniques, navigating their way through challenging cases of SSLC (Student-Staff Liasion Committee) meetings. This was led by the Faculty Education Managers for HSS and S&E, Zak Liddell and Lucie Langely.
- Co-Creating an Inclusive Curriculum – ‘What role do students play in ensuring our curriculum is reflective of our diverse student body? This session explored the work the VP Education has done to create an inclusive curriculum and showed reps how they can get involved. This was led by Redwan Shahid, VP Education.
- Women in Leadership – This session encouraged reps who identified as women to explore their leadership style and engage in discussions about the challenges women face in leadership positions and how to overcome them. This was led by the Students' Union's Education Coordinator, Leigh Rooney.
- Effective Chair Training – Some course reps will have the opportunity to chair their SSLC meetings. This session explored how to be assertive, speak with confidence and facilitate effective discussions. This was led by the Students' Union's Secretary & Governance Advisor, Brad Coales.
We held three networking sessions based on the Course Reps faculty. This gave Reps the opportunity to meet and chat to other course reps in their faculty as well as discuss common issues and explore potential solutions. The sessions also had relevant staff members present to facilitate discussion and to escalate any issues to the faculty if necessary. These included Lucie Langley (HSS), Zak Liddell (S&E) and Tom Longbottom (SMD). Course Reps shared their feedback with each other and summarised both positive and negative experiences and issues they have raised in their courses. There were then discussions of recommendations and potential solutions, which the Students' Union may act upon after the Conference and support them in their roles to improve the student experience of their fellow students.
The final session of the day was a discussion panel made up of members of staff from various areas of the university. These were:
- Emmanuel Nibo - Senior Project Manager, Estates
- Emma Rabin - Assistant Academic Registrar - ARCS
- Emily Huns - Head of Careers
Each member of the panel explained a bit about what their role entails and introduced some of the current undergoing projects in their areas. They then took questions from the course reps which installed rich dicussions around issues that matter to the reps. We thank Emmanuel, Emma and Emily for giving up their time on a weekend to talk to our reps and show true student-staff partnership.
Originally, we planned to hold the conference earlier on in the year, in the first semester, to equip reps with the skills and knowledge they need to undertake their roles effectively. However, due to logistical circumstances, we had to push it back to later in the year, the second semester.
Regardless of the time of year, overall, when we asked the reps in attendance "How equipped do you feel to undertake your role as a Course Rep after attending the conference", everyone answered either 'a great deal' or 'a lot'. Furthermore, when we asked the reps "Overall, how would you rate the Student Partnership Conference?" all responded with either 'Excellent' or 'Very good'. Considering the feedback, we look forward to developing the event further for the next academic year, preferably in semester one.