Training and support for student representatives has attracted a lot of discussion in all the workshops. It is clearly emerging that if student engagement towards partnership is to become embedded there needs to be more along these lines, than that currently offered by most universities. It has been generally accepted that the best way to build capacity, knowledge and confidence is starting from course, class or year group representation which creates a wide base of expertise in students to move into faculty and university roles.
To be able to act in a truly representative capacity is not easy. It requires an understanding of whose interests you are representing as well as a knowledge of university and meetings processes and procedures. It is seen as a hugely daunting task for example for students with no prior experience and very little in the way of orientation to make a valuable contribution to faculty or university boards or committees. They are required to assimilate often the vast amount of paper provided, to understand what is important and what is not, and to recognise when and how they should or could make a contribution. Students need to gain confidence to speak on issues, and this can only be achieved from their having this understanding. It can be hugely assisted by their having support and mentoring and it has been suggested that senior management could have a role in this.
Generally, it has been felt that this training and support could be undertaken as a partnership function between student associations or SRCs and the university, and this is borne out by evidence from abroad (see for example www.sparqs.ac.uk) This joint activity helps to build a culture of members of the university working together. There are very good examples of initiatives along these lines being introduced in some Australian universities, in addition to those reported in the OLT Report case studies (in draft on this website). We will be gathering these ideas as the Fellowship progresses.
12 June 2017