The Students’ Association of the University of the West of Scotland (SAUWS) has developed the Student Fellows Scheme, a form of Lead Rep System, to develop a group of students to lead on specific projects with university staff, to enhance learning and teaching.
The project began in October 2014 as a pilot project by SAUWS’ Depute President for Education and Welfare, and after a successful first year has been renewed for another. Each of the University’s schools has a Student Fellow team which works across the campuses with School Enhancement Developers and other staff, developing and implementing projects to improve learning and teaching. Each team has three fellows, one specialising in research, one in campaigns and a training specialist.
Appropriate training is a key feature of the scheme, as Claire Lumsden – Student Representation Co-ordinator at SAUWS – points out: “Fellows are trained slightly differently to student reps – they’ll need to be more aware of their own skills before they’re able to work with reps. There is a ‘train the trainer’ programme, and each of the fellows will do further training with specific reference to their own remit.”
As for the results of the first year, Claire said: “We got feedback from the School Enhancement Developers and the fellows themselves, the feedback was really positive – there were a couple of comments about the potential… The School Enhancement Developers and the Student Fellows have worked really well together.” Students now have the benefit of a dedicated peer resource for this specific area of work.
The scheme, and the bursary given to each Student Fellow, is funded by the University. What had been intended as a project to increase NSS (National Student Survey) participation has become a project which aims to more widely impact the student learning experience, and deliver peer-led change for students.
Adapted from a similar scheme at the University of Winchester, part of the intention was to establish a group of student representatives who would be able to give their time to development projects in a way that class reps might not, due to other pressures on their time.
Some projects already undertaken have included researching student views around the University’s personal tutoring system, attending more senior meetings with staff to represent students’ views and asking why students do (or don't) choose UWS as a first option.
Next year, Claire says there is going to be a focus on giving fellows more information and responsibility: “we’re giving fellows targets to work towards which sit alongside the Student Partnership Agreement and results from NSS scores, and our other surveys. However, rather than us dictating all their activities we will be encouraging the Student Fellows to come up with plans of action or campaign activity themselves.”