written by Paulina Krawiec Final Year School Rep for Visual Communication
Your journey from a Course Rep to School Rep
School representatives can only be students who volunteered as Course Reps first, for at least one year of their studies. I was a Course Rep in my first year at BCU and I was selected to be the School Rep in my second year. Since then, for the past two years, I have been supporting the staff and students in improving the student learning experience. I have represented views of students and helped create solutions to problems.
Course Reps represent the views of students only on their course level. However, School Reps represent views of all students in the whole school. Each school is made of multiple courses which means there are more students and therefore more views to collect, review and represent.
My journey to a School Rep was very exciting and opened so many doors for me. In the past three years of being involved in the Representation System, I have met some wonderful people, helped with improving the student experience at BCU and I have developed both professionally and as a person.
Why did you want to be a rep?
I applied to be a rep because I wanted to be more involved and make positive change!
After my first year of studies I had an idea of what the students needed and what was possibly lacking. The main thing was a lack of sense of belonging and events that could bring the school together.
As much as collaborative modules were provided, I heard many comments about how students wished there were more chances to meet other creatives without the stress of marked modules with learning outcomes. Something for FUN. I was also aware of other issues and comments made by students and I wanted to use my initiative to work on these suggestions.
How is a rep important to students?
I believe that school reps are an essential part of every school and faculty. The role of a comes with a few more responsibilities than the role of a course rep. Therefore, all school reps are supported with a £500 bursary every academic year.
In order to receive the bursary, all reps need to submit termly reports summarising issues and solutions raised by students and collected by course reps. I think that on average, a school rep should dedicate about 3-5 hours a week to their role, but this can vary.
School reps act as a communication channel between staff and students and are required to provide both positive and negative feedback at relevant meetings such as Feedback Forums.
What achievement are you most proud of from being a rep?
The biggest achievement for me as a rep was creating a whole new brand for the School of Visual Communication called Viscommunity. Having reviewed the feedback from my first year of being a student, I knew sense of belonging was somehow an issue. My plan was to try and create a bigger feel of community within the school. After multiple meetings with the Student Success Advisor (SSAs), Head of School, other school reps and staff, we came up with different ways of how we could make that happen. With time, this small idea turned into an Instagram account (@viscommunity) with about 1,300 followers and it is now used as a platform to promote school events, clubs, ideas and students’ projects and success.
In addition, I have also created stickers, posters, and a suggestion box, all with a colourful logo to represent the creative community in the school. With time, the platform has turned into a themed fortnightly club with tea, coffee, snacks, competitions and mental health support.
Are there any personal challenges you have been able to overcome whilst being a rep?
I think my biggest personal challenge was being confident enough to speak during meetings and sharing negative feedback. Being the 'messenger' can be uncomfortable in some situations, especially if the feedback is anonymous as you can’t obtain more information from the student who shared it.
Some feedback was about my personal tutors and it was challenging to share the negative comments. However, the staff in my school have been understanding, supportive and helpful and they are aware all of this is part of the rep role.
How do you think being a rep has contributed to your employability prospects?
As a rep, I have developed leadership, project planning and event management skills. I had to quickly learn how to manage my own time and workload and self-motivate myself to complete tasks and use my own initiative.
The University and BCUSU Student Voice Team offer unique training and development opportunities which are excellent for networking and enhancing CVs. There are different meetings school reps should be attending, such as Student Feedback Forums, faculty meetings, BCUSU meetings, meetings with the head of school, course directors or the Student Success Advisors.
How do you include and represent the views of different people?
As a rep, I always tried to collect feedback in different ways, both in person and online, to include all students. By approaching students and chatting with them, it was easy to get feedback on the spot. In addition to being a rep, I was also employed on campus as a student monitor in Parkside and this job enabled me to receive all sorts of feedback from students using the workspaces and studios.
Another great way of collecting feedback are Feedback Forums. There are school ones organised by the staff, but you can also organise a course specific one and collect feedback from students by asking them to write anonymous comments on sticky notes.
By having a suggestion box attached near the Viscom offices, I was able to read anonymous comments and suggestions. These type of comments were more honest and detailed as it gave the students the freedom to share what they really think. This gave me an idea to create an anonymous online survey. I shared it on Viscommunity and the response has been excellent. Since then, I have been using this method for the past two years.
How can change be implemented through the student feedback?
I know from experience that student feedback can achieve a lot and make positive change by dealing with feedback in the right way. Collaborating with the school staff and the Students’ Union is crucial.
One example is the current situation with the COVID-19 lockdown. By collaborating together Course Reps, School Reps and staff can have a better understanding of what support the students might need, such as mental health support, more online resources, and financial support.
The students in Arts, Design and Media have been affected by the lockdown as the final year showcases and exhibitions have been cancelled/ postponed. Therefore, all ADM school reps have teamed up to come up with ways of how we could move the shows online as a temporary solution, and how we cold showcase the work to potential clients.
You may not be able to make the changes you want to see yourself, but in a team, you can achieve a lot more.
What makes a good rep?
A good rep should be driven by wanting to represent views, make positive change and should be passionate about their school. Also, a willingness to learn new things and work as part of a team are essential. It is important to remember to review all feedback without bias. Some issues raised might be of a more sensitive nature and it’s important to deal with them carefully and confidentially, as some students might wish to share their feedback anonymously.
Would you recommend the role?
I would definitely recommend this role to anyone who wants to gain new experience, meet some amazing people and get paid while improving the student experience at BCU. In addition, at the end of each academic year, your Students’ Union organise a themed Rep Ball for all School Reps and Course Reps, with an awards night to celebrate the success and hard work of the team!
Register to become a Course Rep or a School Rep now!