Student Voices heard at the University of Chichester
At the University of Chichester students are able to contribute to the development of their degree programmes through the Student Voice Programme. Each cohort (Year Group) for each course is able to elect one of their course mates to act as their “Student Voice”.
As a Student Voice the students are able to meet with academics and heads of department to discuss course and module content and can communicate with course leaders about how the student body feels about any academic issues or day to day student life and how the University supports them.
The Student Voice Programme was launched in September 2014 and differs from a traditional course representative system in that it is based on a two way communication channel utilised by both students and staff. Staff use the Student Voice programme to feed information back to students regarding course changes, assessment deadlines and other factors related to course content. Students are able to provide more critical and constructive feedback to staff regarding the practical issues surrounding their course such as teaching, assessment criteria and availability of resources.
This new system empowers students; they are encouraged not just to sit in meetings and be talked at by staff, but make a valued contribution to enhance the overall student experience at Chichester.
The partnership between the Students Union and the University is crucial to the success of this programme, both in delivery and review. The Union is responsible for the delivery of training but without the support of the faculty staff the programme would not work.
The Union meet regularly with Student Voices to discuss progress, good practice and any issues that may arise. They then work with the Student Voices and staff to remedy any issues there may be.
A Student Voice is expected to attend Programme Board Meetings each semester. This meeting is with Academic staff, Head of Department and the subject librarian and discusses an agenda set by the Student Voice.
In preparation for a programme board meeting Student Voices meet with academic staff to discuss issues and to set the agenda. The Student Union supports these meetings by offering a “Take your Lecturer to Coffee” session in the Union or coffee shop.
It is hoped that this will help students to form better and more professional working relationships with academics, making it easier to discuss difficult topics. The importance of developing these working relationships is highlighted in the training provided by the Union and again through the annual Student Voice Conference held in Semester 2. It is crucial to provide the opportunity for discussion in a safe environment so that the Student Voice can practise the difficult conversations they may have with what they consider to be “an older and wiser academic”.
This year’s Student Voice conference was opened by the University Vice Chancellor, Clive Behagg, which was great in highlighting to students and staff the importance that the senior management of the University place in the scheme. The conference is a great opportunity for Student Voices to share knowledge, experiences and practices with other students. Professional staff and academics are also invited to attend throughout the day to help forge partnerships and relationships. The day is also used as an opportunity to communicate with the students the alternative opportunities available to them such as possible internships, careers advice, and volunteering opportunities.
For more information on the Student Voice Programme, visit http://www.ucsu.org/advice/student-voice-programme/