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Learning and Teaching Handbook

5.2.4 Policy statement on student representation - Staff-Student Consultative Committees

1. To ensure effective dialogue between staff and students regarding the educational experience offered by the University, the University’s standing orders for boards of studies require all departments/schools to have a Staff-Student Consultative Committee (SSCC)

Roles and responsibilities of departments/schools

2. The chair of the board of studies is responsible for ensuring that:

a. The department/school establishes and operates an SSCC  in accordance with this policy statement.
b. Matters raised at SSCC are reported to, and where necessary considered by, the board of studies.
c. An annual summary of activity for each SSCC within the department/school is prepared, and circulated to students at the start of the following academic year.
d. Information on the department’s/school’s student representative system is made available to students (for example in student handbooks, on relevant websites (including duo), and through induction for new students.
e. The induction for new members of staff includes information on the department’s/school’s representative system.

The chair of the board of studies may delegate the conduct of activities consequent on these responsibilities, but they remain accountable for these responsibilities.

Roles and responsibilities of student members

3. Student members of the SSCC are responsible for:

a. Gathering and presenting the views of those students who they represent prior to each meeting of the SSCC.
b. Reporting to the students they represent on the issues discussed at SSCC.
c. Acting as a first point of contact for students who wish to raise issues with the department/school.

All student representatives will also be given the opportunity to attend the termly meeting between the Pro-Vice-Chancellor – Education and all course representatives. A more details course description for student representatives developed is available via [appendix a5.04].

4. Departments/schools will support students members of SSCCs in carrying out these responsibilities in the ways detailed in paragraph 11.  In return for this support, student members of SSCCs will not abuse the support facilities provided by the department/school.

Roles and responsibilities of the chair and secretary to SSCC

5. Prior to the first meeting each academic year, the head of department/school shall appoint a member of academic staff to chair the SSCC.

6. The chair of the SSCC is responsible for:

a. Working with the secretary, and in consultation with the other members of the SSCC, to agree an agenda for each meeting of the SSCC.
b. Chairing meetings of the SSCC.
c. Ensuring that all necessary follow-up action arising from the minutes is completed and reported to the SSCC.
d. Ensuring that the board of studies receives regular reports from SSCC meetings.

The chair may delegate the conduct of activities consequent on these responsibilities, but they remain accountable for these responsibilities.

7. The head of department/school shall be responsible for ensuring that a member of staff in the department/school is appointed as SSCC secretary.

8. The secretary of the SSCC is responsible for:

a. Working with the chair to agree the agenda, and circulating this to members of the SSCC.
b. Preparing the minutes of meetings of the SSCC, and publishing these for staff and students.

Training and support for members of SSCCs

9. DSU is responsible for providing an annual training session(s) for student members of SSCCs.  This training will take place as soon as is practicable each academic year, following the election of student members of SSCCs.  In addition DSU will publish annually a Handbook for Course Representatives that will be provided to all SSCC members, and will maintain a duo module that will allow student representatives to share information and act as a discussion forum for SSCC members.

10. The Academic Staff Development Office will provide an annual workshop for members of staff involved in SSCCs.  The University strongly encourages all members of staff serving as a chair or secretary to an SSCC to attend this session.

Departmental/school support for student representatives

11. In order to support students members in meeting their responsibilities as student representatives, departments/schools should provide the following support for students members of SSCCs:

a. Copies of SSCC minutes from the previous year (either hard or electronic copies) should be made available to incoming SSCC members, to provide background information and support for new student representatives.
b. Student members should be given access to use departmental/school email lists for those students who they represent.  This is to allow student representatives to contact those students they represent prior to meetings of the SSCC in order to discuss business for the forthcoming meeting.  In order to ensure that this does not result in excessive numbers of emails being circulated, this will normally be limited to one email per student group prior to an SSCC meeting.  Where a student group (for example students at a given level) has more then one representative, then these representatives must agree who will send this email on behalf of all the representatives.
c. Either as an alternative, or in addition, to the provision in paragraph 11a, departments/schools should where feasible consider allowing student representatives access to lectures for a short period (for example five to 10 minutes in a lecture within a core module) to discuss the business of forthcoming meetings of SSCCs.  Where a student group (for example students at a given level) has more than one representative, then these representatives must agree how they will conduct this consultation, in order to ensure that only one ‘slot’ per student group is used.
d. Normally five working days prior to each meeting of the SSCC the department/school should publish the agenda in duo or on an a website that is accessible on an ‘internal-only’ basis, and email all students to advise them that the agenda is available and that if they wish to comment on particular issues these comments should be directed to their student representative.
e. Following each meeting of the SSCC, the department/school should publish the unconfirmed minutes of the meeting (i.e. the minutes approved by the chair, while still being subject to final confirmation by the next meeting of the SSCC) in duo or on an a website that is accessible on an ‘internal-only’ basis, and email all students to advise them that the minutes are available.
f. Where possible, adequate and accessible notice board space should provided within the department/school for use by student members of SSCC in relation to their role as student representatives.
g. Reasonable access to departmental/school photocopying facilities should be provided for student members of the SSCC, to produce materials for SSCC business.

Membership and constitution

12. Student representation on SSCCs shall, as a minimum, meet the requirements laid down in the standing orders of boards of studies.  Departments/schools may exceed these minimum requirements.

13. Departments/schools have the flexibility to organise their SSCC in the way that most effectively supports the needs of staff and students, and the effective management of the department’s/school’s academic programmes, provided that all the key student groups within the department/school are effectively represented and the requirements of the standing orders of boards of studies quoted above are met.  This should include making provision for engaging with feedback from any disabled students within the department via the Departmental Disability Representative.

14. In addition to a single SSCC covering all provision within a department/school, models that departments/schools might wish to consider include:

a. Separate SSCCs for undergraduate and postgraduate students.
b. Separate SSCCs for students on taught programmes, and students on research degree programmes.
c. Where the size and complexity of the department/school would merit it, separate SSCCs for different programmes, or sub-disciplines within the department/school.

This list is not intended to be exhaustive or prescriptive, and if departments/schools wish to consider other models these can be discussed with the chair of the relevant FLTCs.

Terms of reference

15.  All SSCCs should have terms of reference that define their membership and their role.  These should be approved by the relevant board of studies, but as a minimum should include the following:

a. To provide a means of communication between staff and students on all aspects of the educational experience of students in the department/school.
b. To ensure that where issues are discussed at SSCCs, these issues and any resulting action are effectively communicated to the student body.
c. (In the case of SSCCs responsible for undergraduate programmes) To consider the results of the National Student Survey, and proposed departmental/school responses to these results.
d. (In the case of SSCCs responsible for undergraduate and/or taught postgraduate programmes) To receive and comment on the reports of external examiners, and draft departmental/school responses to these.
e. To receive and comment on the reports of periodic reviews of the department/school undertaken by the University.
f. To consider any issues referred to it by the department’s/school’s board of studies or learning and teaching committee.
g. To consider, on an annual basis, any issues from disabled students studying within the department brought forward by the Departmental Disability Representative.

Election of student members

16. All students have the right to stand for election to the relevant SSCC.

17. Departments/schools should ensure that the process for nominating and electing student representatives is made known to students (for example via student handbooks, duo).  Departments/schools are encouraged wherever possible to provide an opportunity for representatives to the SSCC for the previous academic year to speak to students in order to explain and promote the benefits of serving on the SSCC.

18. The election of student members to SSCCs should normally have taken place, and the names of those elected forwarded by the department/school to the Academic Support Office to support the training of student representatives, no later than the end of Week 4 of the Michaelmas Term.

Frequency of meetings

19. All SSCCs should normally meet at least once per term.  Meetings must take place at a mutually convenient time for staff and student members, and should not be scheduled to take place when students have timetabled commitments as part of their academic programme.  The dates and times of meetings should be agreed and published in good time.

20. Where a programme is delivered by distance learning, meetings of the SSCC may be held online for example via duo.

Conduct of meetings

21. Approximately two weeks before each meeting, the secretary to the SSCC should contact all members of the committee to request items for the agenda for the next meeting.  The expectation is that student members will pro-actively consult with those they represent in order to identify issues for agendas.

22. All SSCC agendas should include as a standing item reports on progress in respect of previous meetings of the SSCC.  This should include (but not be limited to) receipt of the relevant extract from the minutes of the board of studies detailing consideration of the minutes of the previous meeting of the SSCC.

23. The final agenda will be issued by the secretary to the SSCC normally no less than five working days before the meeting.  The agenda should also be published in duo or on a website that is accessible on an ‘internal-only’ basis, and all students should be emailed to inform them of this.

24. The purpose of the SSCC is to allow constructive engagement between staff and students, in an atmosphere of mutual respect, and the agenda and conduct of meetings should reflect this.  For example, when considering items for discussion all members should consider both issues where some response or action might be needed by staff or students, and examples of good practice in learning and teaching that members of the SSCC have become aware of in order to support the department/school in enhancing the quality of its provision.

25. Following the meeting, the secretary is responsible for drafting the minutes of the meeting for consideration for approval by the chair.  These minutes should identify all actions agreed by the SSCC, who is responsible for undertaking these actions and a clear schedule for their completion.  Once approved by the chair, these minutes should be circulated to members of the SSCC.  They should also be published in duo or on a website that is accessible on an ‘internal-only’ basis, and the secretary should email all students to inform them of this.

26. The chair of the SSCC is responsible for ensuring that actions agreed by the SSSC are taken forward, and appropriate reports on progress are made to the SSCC.  While it is recognised that not all issues discussed at the SSCC can be progressed in the short term, students should be kept informed of action taken and those areas where action may not be possible or appropriate and why that is the case.  This is a shared responsibility of staff and students.  The chair of the SSCC is responsible for ensuring that the actions agreed at SSCCs are progressed as far as is possible, and ensuring that the SSCC is updated on this progress.  Student members are responsible for reporting on this progress to the students who they represent.

Reporting

27. The minutes of all meetings of SSCCs should be considered by the department’s/school’s board of studies.  The head of department/school is responsible for ensuring that this happens, and for ensuring that any items referred to the board of studies are considered and appropriate action agreed.

28. At the end of each academic year, the chair and secretary of the SSCC should prepare an annual summary of its work.  This should briefly outline the key themes and issues considered over the course of the year, and the action taken as a result.  A draft of this summary should be considered by the SSCC, and finalised after the final meeting in light of this discussion.  This annual summary of the work of the SSCC should form the basis of the section on SSCCs within the department’s/school’s annual review report form (and through the inclusion of this summary within the annual review report form, the summary will be considered by the department/school as a whole through the annual review process).

29. At the start of each academic year the department/school should circulate the summary of the SSCC’s activity in the previous year to all students, in order to inform students of changes made by the department/school in response to student feedback through SSCCs.