Teaching & Learning


Embedding the student voice in decision making by year group

Dr River Riley, Lecturer (Teaching) Department of Chemistry, on nurturing truly collaborative partnerships which make for effective Staff-Student Consultative Committees.

21 November 2023

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We are all trying to engage more with the Student Voice but it can be quite difficult in practice to make this work. Students can find our systems confusing or not know how to put across what they want us to respond to. 

Closer partnerships between a staff Year Lead and student reps

In the Department of Chemistry, we reflected that the role and impact student representatives have on staff-student consultative committees can be enhanced by building closer partnerships with staff members that have a specific knowledge of the group those students are elected to represent. We therefore strengthened the partnership between staff Year Leads and the student representatives of each year. 

Focussed discussions

Year Leads were asked to meet with their student representatives prior to the DSSCC to collaboratively decide on items for the agenda. This allowed each year group to reflect on which points were best solved first with their Year Lead and which would benefit from sharing and discussing with the committee. By narrowing down the points representatives wished to raise, more time at DSSCC was dedicated to discussing points that were constructive and solution focused. 

Empowering student voices

Furthermore, as each student representative had previously engaged in discussions with their Year Lead in the focus group, their role and significance on the committee was strengthened and student reps were provided with the skills and confidence to contribute. 
This saw the new student co-chair fully lead a subsequent meeting where they made a particular effort to engage all representatives from each year in the discussions. The new format has not only strengthened the engagement of representatives in the meeting, but it has also raised the awareness of how the department operates to the student representatives.

Everyone benefits

Furthermore, the Year Leads reported back that working more closely with their representatives has allowed them to gain a more detailed understanding of the student experience in each year. Consequently, the Year Lead role has developed from its creation and is now better equipped to take a more active approach in improving that experience. 

River's tip: The first step is to reflect with the student representatives and staff on how their roles and the DSSCC are working before making structural changes. This ensures that from the onset, both the student and staff voice contribute equally when building a truly collaborative partnership.  

Further reading

Marie, J. (2018) ‘Students as Partners’ in Davies JP, Pachler N. Teaching and Learning in Higher Education: Perspectives from UCL, UCL IOE Press: London, UK. 2018.

Marie J, Mercer-Mapstone, L. (2019) Practical Guide: Scaling up student-staff partnerships in higher education, University of Edinburgh. 

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