I am reaching the end of my BSc Politics and International Relations (waiting for final results now) and have decided to call it a day on being a student member, which includes sitting on the Student Voice Group. I thought it’s about time I write a bit about my experience as a student member, which I have found really interesting. A little bit of background about me – I have a master’s degree in computer science and almost 10 years of experience in the IT industry.
I started as an undergraduate student member of the Systems and Technology Sub-committee (STSC) in 2012. I was appointed to the Academic Committee in the same capacity last year and have been the Chair of the Student Voice Group (SVG) for the last year. The STSC focuses on the technological side – making recommendations and advising on the ways in which ICT impacts on the management of student experience and life cycle including the learning environment and educational resources. Meanwhile the SVG comprises student members from across the International Academy’s committees and sub- committees and meets twice a year to discuss the University’s student engagement strategy.
Committee meetings are extremely formal and require a lot of preparation, this is explained to all members during an induction day organised by the University. The members of the committees are sent the meeting agenda and the related papers a couple of weeks ahead. All the members are expected to read through the papers ahead and come prepared with their feedback and comments. The committee secretaries and the Student Affairs Team are also available to help clear up any doubts or to answer questions. Preparing for STSC was much easier compared to the Academic Committee, given my IT background – there were also fewer papers to read. But my experience of attending STSC meetings came in handy and helped me settle in well at the Academic Committee.
The committee meetings were very daunting initially but it became easier over time. Most of the committee members both at the STSC and the Academic Committee were very receptive to the views of student members. I never felt out of place or uncomfortable. There were always one or two topics that I was passionate about, but I was happy to contribute on various matters even though not all my suggestions were accepted.
I enjoyed attending the Student Voice Group (SVG) meetings the most. As a student not attending a teaching institution, I missed the university atmosphere – the campus, library, chit-chatting with fellow students over coffee, and gossiping about the way things work. SVG meetings gave me the opportunity to meet fellow students and made me feel part of the student community. Chairing SVG meetings has been a valuable experience for me, it helped me improve my listening, communication and team management skills. Most importantly I learnt to be little more assertive in communicating with others, and to wrap up a meeting on time. Imagine a room of 10 to15 enthusiastic students with thousands of ideas all trying to pour out their opinions, suggestions and views on courses, examination, policies and governance – you can imagine that trying to complete a meeting on time was quite a challenge!. To give you a better idea of what happens at a SVG meeting, here are a few of topics we have discussed recently:
- we advised the Student Affairs Team on ways to involve International Programme students in promoting and following up on the Student Experience Survey
- we provided feedback on a draft Student Terms and Conditions document, likely to be implemented in the coming year, to consider the balance of obligations between the University and students
- we looked at a proposed policy for supporting students when teaching institutions close.
Yes, the above topics took a lot of time to discuss but we came up with very constructive suggestions and ideas. Though this group doesn’t represent all International Programmes students and given the fact that it’s not always easy to make sense of feedback from all 54,000+ students based across the world, the SVG plays a valuable role in representing the views of students on policies that affect us all.
During my time as a student member, I also got opportunities to attend programme review meetings and other activities. The most important to me was the Institutions’ Symposium, which took place in March 2015. I was asked to give a presentation on my experience of being a student member involved in University decision-making. Over 80 senior management and staff from recognised teaching institutions from across the world institutions attended this. It was my first time speaking before such a big audience. I spent hours preparing, did numerous dry runs and collected feedback from everyone including my son who is in primary school. Despite all this preparation, when it was time to present my hands were shaking and my throat went dry. After about 45 seconds, my talkative nature took over and I was able to complete it without any issues. The presentation was well received by the audience.
As a student member of committees, I got a chance to experience student life in London without attending a teaching institution. The skills and abilities I gained will be very useful in my future career and life. Above all, I also got an opportunity to see first-hand the similarities and differences of being a student in the eastern and the western world.
I am going to miss it!
The University is currently looking to appoint five enthusiastic and proactive student members for the 2015-16 academic year. Click here for more details.