6 Apr 2020

COVID-19 - useful university sector guidance for student officers

We know officers are being involved in some difficult decisions around how universities can adapt their provision during the current crisis. Universities and officers are balancing keeping students and staff safe with trying to protect the quality of the student experience. While we are aware that everything is moving quickly, and decisions are being made daily, we wanted to direct you to useful resources on current recommendations for engaging students in the decision-making processes.

The Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) have put together a range of guidance for universities.

You might find it useful to read the Initial Guidance for Higher Education Providers on Standards and Quality fully, especially if you are currently involved in key decision making with your institution.

Currently, the key messages from QAA state: “It is more important than ever to involve students as much as you can in any changes to your provision.”

The QAA guidance suggests the following:

  • Clearly communicate to students what has changed, what you feel the impacts may be, and let students make an informed choice.
  • We would urge you to involve the relevant students’ union officers as full members in your COVID-19 response planning groups.
  • You should be thinking about fairness and how you will explain to students how you have acted in their best interests, and continuing to act in partnership is a way to navigate this.
  • You can also think about bringing senior course representatives, for example, faculty representatives, into relevant discussions of academic practice, making use of remote-working applications and consulting with the students’ union where this is useful.

In addition to the QAA guidance above, NUS have produced a guidance document which outlines questions that students’ associations should be asking institutions. This covers a range of topics including:

  • Coronavirus and education
  • Coronavirus and disabled students
  • Coronavirus and international students
  • Coronavirus and housing and health services
  • Coronavirus and student finance and funding
  • Coronavirus and student unions

The questions in this document may provide a good starting point for gathering student feedback and beginning discussions with institutions.

Students’ associations have a key role to play in ensuring that student feedback is considered when decisions are being made, and are a crucial communication link between the student rep systems and the university. It is essential that officers are involved in committees to ensure that student representation is not overlooked while challenging decisions are being made.

For further information, please contact your sparqs Development Consultant (see our university list if you want to check your contact). 

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