What's it like to be a Rep?

 

The Reps Routes project was undertaken in 2014/15 to look at the experiences of a group of Student Reps during the year. The aim of the project was to help us to understand and improve the experience of Student Reps and to gain insights into how reps perceive their role and where we can change or improve the support we provide.We worked with twenty Student Reps from across the institution to understand the route they took to into representation and the challenges they encountered throughout the year. 

Read the full project report here

Key Findings/Recommendations :

1. Selection or Election

  • Reps were appointed/elected in a range of inconsistent ways. Only 13 out of 20 were elected in some way (show of hands, online, peer nomination) with the rest being appointed by staff or selected by default.
  • The method of election or selection seemed to impact how reps and students perceived the role with those who weren’t elected feeling that it had negatively impacted on their visibility, credibility and connections with the students that they represent.

2. Navigating the Partnership

  • There are a number of differences between Schools in terms of Student Rep structure and support.
  • Student reps felt that although they were listened to, their opinions and feedback weren’t engaged with. Responses differed across the faculties with students from FLS and MMS reporting more positive experiences of engagement with their representative role compared to their peers in HUMS or EPS.
  •  Student reps believed that although working with the Union in their capacity as a rep could result in further opportunities for them, understanding the organisation was challenging and inhibited their ability to be involved.  There are three overarching reasons why the engagement of student reps with the Union is limited: managing their time, difficulty in understanding what their role is within the Union and distance from the issues in their school.

3. Impact: Having a Voice and creating change

  • Student Reps reported that they had negative experiences of trying to create change on their programmes mainly due to timing, lack of handover between reps of issues and difficulties in communication between staff and students.  Student reps also emphasised that this affected their relationship with their cohort, because if they are unable to create changes they are seen as less credible resulting in lower levels of engagement.
  • Student reps, particularly those who have taken on the role for the first time have found allocating time to complete the role as well as understanding previous changes or ongoing issues challenging.
  • Most participants reported that they had difficulties in finding out and contacting relevant members of staff.
  • Many reps felt that it often wasn’t clear to students where positive changes had been made as a result of successful rep activity and hard work.

4. Community

  • It was felt that there is a lack of a shared Rep community which was considered crucial to enjoyment of the role, as well as providing an important opportunity for reps to share best practise, work together on issues and share success stories. A shared Community would also help to strengthen links between reps and Students’ Union Officers.
  • Reps felt that the Students’ Union has a role in creating an independent place for reps and for bringing reps together.