Hi, I’m Amelia and I’ve been the Biochemistry Academic Rep for 2 years now. I was elected as a rep in first year after submitting a small personal statement, and since then I’ve been a point of call for students on my course whenever they have an issue that they think the department should address. As I’m coming to the end of second year, I thought I’d give you the run-down of what the role entails, and what I’ve been up to this year!
Getting elected and training
Around the beginning of each year, the teaching office will get in contact with students and ask students to apply to be the student rep for their course. I know each department runs this slightly differently, but in BLS you submit a small paragraph about yourself and why you’d like to be a rep. When multiple students apply, these statements are then sent out to students on your course, and they are asked to vote. I was lucky in my second year, as I ran unopposed and therefore could continue with my role!
Once you’ve been confirmed as a rep, the teaching office will register you with LUSU. This means that they’ll be able to add you to the rep team, and you can complete your training. Each year, you’ll complete a short Moodle module on what the role entails, who you can go to for support and your responsibilities as a rep. You need to complete this (as well as a few other things) before being rep will be recognised on your transcript!
There is also usually some additional, optional training. When I began, we had an in-person session one weekend, with a few different activities on working together, the roles of a rep and the different ways that you can collect feedback. This year, there were some online teams sessions, which allowed reps to improve the way they function.
Termly events and responsibilities
Each term, you have two main events that you’ll attend: Faculty Forums, and Staff-Student committees.
Faculty forums run twice a term and are led by students and the rep team from LUSU, with the academic vice-president. You’ll work in a team with the other reps to discuss some issues, review policies and provide feedback to your lead and faculty reps (more about these later!). When in-person, these ran in the evening, and you’d get pizza at the end as a thank you! While they’re online, they tend to run in an afternoon, and we use break out rooms to discuss things in smaller groups. I’ve been at forums where we’ve had presentations from Library staff before the new extension opened, or from IT staff about new projects they’re working on. It’s a great setting to see how things are running across the department and the faculty.
Staff-Student committees are run by departmental staff, usually chaired by the head of teaching and learning, with the head and deputy-head of department, all the heads of the courses, usually staff from the teaching office and faculty librarians as well as all the department’s reps. We’ll discuss things like the LUMS module feedback and possible changes to courses or modules, but this is also the chance for both staff and reps to bring up any concerns they have, feedback they’ve collected, and ask questions. Myself and the other second year reps usually run surveys before an SSC so we can present any concerns to staff. For example, we ran one about online exams before the SSC meeting we had this term, as second years had BLS exams early.
My Day-to-Day work as a rep
While being a rep could be seen as quite full on, it’s very easy to manage. I started by setting up a Facebook chat for Biochemistry students in my year, and by trying to meet as many people as possible!
I keep an eye on our department group chat, with students from all courses in our year, to see if anyone has any particular issues, and usually make a survey in response to a lot of complaints or comments on the same topic. I will also sometimes pop questions in the chat to see how people are feeling, and to let them know what I’ve been up to as their rep.
Other than that, I just try to be about and listen to/respond to questions that students have on the course, and make sure to direct them to the right place if I can’t help them myself. I have also attended a few meetings with a disciplinary board, when someone on the course was accused of cheating or plagiarism, to support the students on my course.
Moving on up
While I’m just a course rep at the moment, there are opportunities for you to become more involved in the rep system. Each department has a Lead rep, who sits on some academic councils and helps you to collate your feedback. There is also a Faculty rep, who looks out for the interests of the whole faculty and helps to run faculty forums. Both roles are elected during the first faculty forum of the year. A lot of vice president – academics also come from the rep community, as you know the system well which helps with getting the most out of the role!
Finishing the year
When you finish the year, you need to fill out an exit survey, where you discuss what you did this year and give feedback on the rep system as a whole. These help the next reps to understand what’s been happening in the department, and rep admin can see all the work you’ve done over the year! This is the other element you need to complete to have your role as rep recognised on your transcript.
Overall, I love being a rep! I find learning about the way the university is run so interesting, and I’m hoping to hold a higher role next year to make even more of a difference! (also, the free hoodie was definitely a selling point for me, although they’re not free every year…)