What I Do as a Course Rep
I recently found out that some people on my course had no idea what a course rep actually was. I was slightly surprised, having just started my second year as one. So I thought I should shed some evidently much needed light on what course reps get up to and why they’re so important. I might even convince you to become one…
What is a course rep?
Course reps are a very important part of student representation through the student union. They are students who work together to gather feedback from their course mates and pass it on to staff at departmental student staff liaison committee (SSLC) meetings. There are different course reps for each year group and each course year group must have at least one rep.
The feedback that course reps deal with is on a departmental or university-wide level. We can pass on timetabling issues, feedback on modules and options, issues with campus facilities, IT problems and more. An it’s not just about complaining; we can pass on anything that students would like to see happen.
Why be a course rep?
‘Boy, that sounds important!’ I hear you cry, ‘but why should I do it?’
Well, there are plenty of good reasons. First, it’s a great way to make sure that you and your course mates are getting a clear voice within the university and SU. You can make sure that feedback is heard and acted upon. It gives you a level of power too (although you know what comes with great power — you must make sure everyone has a voice, it’s not just for you to complain).
Second, it’s a great way to see what goes on behind the scenes of your course and feel like you’re making a difference. This was especially interesting for me as my course (Integrated Science) is new, so last year we were really helping to get through all the teething problems and we were very much appreciated by staff.
Lastly, it’s useful experience. It demonstrates that you can hold a position of responsibility and trust. It gives you experience of gathering and handling feedback, contributing to meetings (and potentially chairing and taking minutes) and following up on action points.
Becoming a course rep
To become a course rep, you need to stand in the SU elections which happen every year, a few weeks into term 1. Some courses might get a bit competitive, in which case you may have to write a little manifesto explaining why you think you’d be good for the role. As my course is very small, I’ve had no issues being elected as a rep for my first and second years. Everyone on your course can vote for the people they think will make the best reps.
Once you’ve been elected, you need to complete a training session (mine have both been online) so that you know what is and isn’t expected of you and have some tips on how to effectively gather and present feedback.
What we do
After you’ve completed your training, you can begin doing your job as course rep. We have two SSLC meetings each term, one towards the start and one at the end. For the last two years my meetings have all been online, but hopefully the next one will be in person. To prepare, you and your fellow reps need to gather feedback. I tend to use a Microsoft Form for this which I email round, sometimes with a prompt in our course group chat as well. I usually include specific quesitons about aspects of the course — you want feedback to be as clear and detailed as possible, so questions like ‘What do you like about the course?’ don’t tend to do the trick. You want to get positive feedback as well as points for improvement.
We then go through this feedback and try to identify common themes and issues, and come up with how to present these and what we’d like to see happen. We can take this to our SSLC meetings, where each course year group has an allotted time to go through feedback with staff.
Last year, I also had shared responsibility to keep and distribute minutes for the meetings. This year I’m chair, which means I lead the meetings, making sure everyone gets the time to speak and keeps to the rules. This also means I sometimes attend short meetings about what was discussed.
It’s important to make sure that feedback is acted upon, so we tend to send a quick email to the relevant staff members summarising the action points for the meeting. It’s a good idea to have clear deadlines for this action to be taken and to follow up on them. It’s also important that we ‘close the feedback loop’ — pass what’s happened back to the students to let them know their feedback matters.
I hope I’ve managed to demystify what course reps are and what they do. Hopefully I’ve persuaded you to consider nominating yourself when the elections come around again next year. And hopefully I’ve convinced you to fill in those annoying feedback forms that get sent round — they really do make a difference!