Tuesday 01-03-2016 - 16:01
NUS’ annual Course Rep Conferences were held last month in London and Leeds, and brought together over 300 students to learn, network and build their skills. Here are a few things we took away from the gatherings.
1. A quality education looks different in each discipline
Course reps engaged in a creative plenary session on the quality of education, which is a hot topic in the higher education sector in light of the proposed Teaching Excellence Framework. Groups of students on similar disciplines discussed what a quality education looks like in their subject context, and made posters highlighting key points. Although there are some aspects that cut across all disciplines (quality feedback, challenge and support, inspiring teachers) each discipline requires the development of specific skills, knowledge and experience.
2. Course reps are activists and can help to change society
The closing plenary with Sorana Vieru, NUS Vice President (Higher Education) saw course reps writing messages to Jo Johnson, the minister for higher education about the damaging proposals to link teaching excellence scores to raising tuition fees. Sorana also ran a session on creative campaigning, encouraging course reps to identify and overcome the barriers for students engaging in campaigning.
3. Course reps can help make education more inclusive
A key strand of the conferences was inclusive education, including workshops on liberating the curriculum and tackling the attainment gap for Black students. The gap between Black students and white students attaining a first or 2:1 is currently a shocking 16.1 per cent, and many students’ unions are working with their institutions to understand and overcome this. Course reps came away with resources and practical tips to review the inclusivity of their course.
4. Feedback and assessment could be better
Consistently the lowest scoring section of the National Student Survey, feedback and assessment has been a big issue for course reps for several years. Two workshops dealt with it: in one, course reps discussed how they could help make their assessments more authentic; and in the other, they used the NUS Feedback and Assessment Benchmarking Tool to explore areas they might want to work on back at their university or college.
5. Being a course rep gives you valuable skills
The Future Leaders stream of workshops focused on articulating and building on course reps’ transferable skills. Reps learned strategies for effective communication and influencing; explored what it’s like to be an elected sabbatical officer; and discussed how the skills they acquire as course reps can boost their employability. Course reps are indeed Future Leaders!
You can download resources from the conferences here.