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Where I can make change...

Luke talks through some of his key meetings and what impact they have...

Image of Luke McCombe, BCUSU's Vice President Academic Experience

One of the key requirements of being an Executive Officer is being a beacon of representation for students, this includes attending and leading meetings within BCUSU, but also with the university.

Each Officer attends different meetings to fit the role and manifesto you elected them for, as your Vice President Academic Experience, the meetings I attend focus on everything education related.

Here are some the meetings I attend and the matters that can be covered specifically to represent you:

Learning and Teaching Quality Committee

One university-led meeting that I attend the most is the Learning and Teaching Quality Committee (LTAQC). In this meeting a panel of members, chaired by the Pro-Vice-Chancellor Education, discuss key areas of learning and teaching at BCU that people want to change or maintain. While some of the items are confidential, LTAQC members might discuss things around degree classification, assessment moderation, or access and participation within the University.

As VP Academic Experience I'm asked to represent students' academic views. To do this, I incorporate student feedback that BCUSU receives into all conversations where possible, which is why it’s really important to give us your feedback - through surveys, Student Voice Assistants, and talking to your Student Reps -  because ultimately your Officer Team work to ensure your feedback is heard.

When important student issues are not being discussed, I try to ensure those conversations are present and a priority for the committee to respond. For example one of my manifesto points, that I was elected on, concerned Personal Tutoring. To push for new, better practices on Personal Tutoring, I asked the Pro-Vice-Chancellor to give me a section at LTAQC on Personal Tutoring, where I was able to create and deliver a paper informed by student feedback on how the University should deal with the tutoring system going forward.

Academic Board

While every committee is important in its own right, Academic Board sits slightly higher in importance when compared to LTAQC, as it’s where some bigger changes in policy that go through committees such as LTAQC are approved and finalised.

At this committee I represent the student voice to the best of my ability. Much like other committees, I have voting rights meaning I'm able to cast my vote to determine some key changes to how the university operates, based on what I understand students would most want. This sounds like a really daunting task, but it’s honestly not as bad as it seems. If anything, it’s a really great honour to be able to represent students on this level, which is the reason I signed up to this role in the first place!

Board of Governors

As VP Academic Experience, I also get to represent students' views as a whole, not just from an academic perspective. At Board of Governors, I am a co-opted member for the University. Board of Governors is a committee of 24 people appointed by the Vice-Chancellor to help make key decisions in how the university as a whole moves forward strategically.

While many of the decisions made at Board of Governors are strictly confidential, being on the Board is a lot of responsibility and comes with the ability to make really powerful decisions that will impact the University for years to come. One of the key decisions I helped the Board make this year concerned the appointment of our new Vice-Chancellor, Professor David Mba. My input in these decisions concerns what I understand to be the best way forward for students and Officers are often called to give opinion on many discussions due to their unique student experience perspective.

I am also partially responsible for regularly reporting BCUSU's activities to the Board of Governors. These reports update the Board on what we’re doing to improve student experience as a Students’ Union - and we can support this using student data we collect through surveys. Board of Governors meeting is quite literally the highest meeting you can have at any University – this means that I am partially responsible for delivering your voice and feedback to the very top of our university structure.

Timetabling Operational Group

One of the meetings I have that feed into the above committees is Timetabling Operational Group. High quality timetabling is a massive priority for quite a lot of individuals at Birmingham City University – myself included. I’ve been pushing for more visible, earlier timetables to be released from the moment I started the role, and one way I push for this is through our Timetabling Operational Group, chaired by our Head of Timetabling at Birmingham City University.

While this group is quite new – and coincidentally only started during my tenure – I’ve already had plenty of space to fight for more consistency and transparency surrounding timetable release dates, which I think has been received very well by the University, who have been working with me to ensure that our shared vision can become a reality.

The Group indirectly feeds into LTAQC and Academic Board, meaning that for every discussion that’s had surrounding these issues – I’m positioned in to receive full discussion. While you might think this would make my conversations a bit repetitive, that repetition is really important, as one of my additional roles in these meetings is to ensure that people are being held accountable to what they have promised.

If something is said at a meeting that is later contradicted at a meeting further up the hierarchy – I am more than willing to use my voice to remind people of their agreed responsibilities. I haven’t had the chance to do this yet but it shows the level of influence that Officers have in these meetings.

NSS Working Group

Working groups are designed to tackle a specific problem, and include specific people to tackle related issues. The NSS Working group aims to to improve results to the National Student Survey (NSS) – a survey taken by final year undergradate students. The University is really interested in your NSS survey results because ultimately they want to know where they’re doing well and where they can improve.

My role at this meeting is to help figure out how we can reach as many students as possible to answer NSS each year. I do this by providing direct input about what I believe should be given out to students for completing the survey, and also by providing input on how the survey should be distributed. By doing this correctly – the hope is that we get more NSS responses, and have a better understanding of how the University is performing.

Key one-on-one meetings

A massive part of my job is keeping in touch with important figures at the University, to update and be involved in decisions to ensure every person I speak to is working for students' best interests. 

My first ‘big’ one-on-one is with the Pro-Vice-Chancellor Learning and Teaching, Professor Julie McLeod. In this meeting, Julie and I discuss my manifesto in detail and she regularly helps brainstorm solutions I might have during my tenure. Also, Julie regularly listens to feedback that I have from students and does what she can to help solve concerns I raise.

Another ‘big’ one-on-one I arranged quite early on in my tenure is with the Director of Student and Academic Services, Hannah Robinson. Hannah is directly responsible for a number of important functions at BCU, and in our meetings we find solutions to timetabling issues. Together, we resolve student queries both on an individual and group scale – which is a unique privilege I have in my role.

A final example of an important one-on-one I have is with Polly Jones, a former Officer at BCUSU, who now works in BCU's Transformation Team. While in my last two meetings we tend to focus on big-picture issues, we use our time work on big projects that impact academic experience. For example, we are in the process of developing a periodic review system for Faculty Student Centres, which can allow for student insight for future improvements. These projects are invaluable to student experience, and all stem from the smaller scale conversations that I’ve been able to set up with people like Polly across the university.

So, to conclude…

I hope this has provided some insight to how I represent your voice at different key meetings, as VP Academic Experience. In many ways, the meetings I go to are some of the most exciting parts of my job, as I get to inform change that benefits your university life in some big ways.

They’re a lot of responsibility, but with that responsibility comes a mountain of experience that I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere else, and for that I’m truly grateful to be an Officer.

 

Want to be an Officer? Nominations are open until Friday 2nd February, midday

Stand in our Officer Elections

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