At most institutions, course reps engage with academic staff and module co-ordinators, whilst student officers engage with senior managers; but what connects the two?
It is important to have a link between these two key areas, the ‘front line’ learning and teaching, to the strategic development and planning. This is where universities' and colleges' departments come in. Usually known as schools, faculties or sections, departments are a way of gathering together similar subjects and managing their delivery in a co-ordinated way.
In a typical university or college, there will be too many course reps for the senior students' association representatives to meet with and learn from on a regular basis. So the departmental level is also important for student representation.
Lead Reps is a ‘catch-all’ term used by sparqs to describe the group of representatives beyond course reps, whether they represent a school, department, faculty or any other group. This mid-level group of representatives are a great addition to an institution, offering additional support to both course reps and student officers.
In 2012 sparqs published a Toolkit on Developing Departmental Representation. In the time since, we have seen more institutions take up systems like these – and course rep systems have benefitted from the addition of other tiers of representation.
The effect has been different in each institution; we understand there is still a relative degree of disparity when it comes to lead representative systems across the sector. Whilst some institutions’ are successfully operating their system, others cite ongoing struggles, in particular around training and long-term engagement.
As such, sparqs has been undertaking research to better understand where the sector is at with regards to lead reps. We are interested in three key aspects relating to lead representative systems - recruitment, training and engagement. During Spring/Summer 2017, we held discussions with a number of institutional and students' association staff to find out more about their lead rep systems, and what additional developments and enhancements they are looking to make.
We are looking at whether we update the existing guidance, or write new guidance, with the aim of helping institutions consider how to develop and enhance their lead rep systems. We will also consider whether we develop training materials for institutions to adapt and use to aid in the delivery of their lead rep systems.
The original toolkit can be downloaded below, and any resulting new materials following the ongoing review will be published here in due course.
For more information on any of the above, or if you would like to contribute to the sparqs research, of find out more about the research already carried out, please contact Simon Varwell.