This was the first of an expected five such gatherings that one is booked to attend over the course of this academic year. All of the university’s course and school representatives assembled in meeting room 1 at Student Central to discuss topics such as timetabling, academic support tutors and democratic engagement.
The timetabling representative informed us that he and his staff were working with technology from 1998 (ironically the same vintage as most of the attending students) and that they had received this year’s student details four days – as opposed to the usual three weeks – before the schedules were due to be published. Several representatives complained about having one lecture per day, requiring a commute to campus to spend many hours idle. There were also reports of problems with short-notice room changes and classes being given venues which had the wrong capacity (some needing to bring in additional chairs, others being lost in a vast void). It was said that only two lecture theatres in the university were capable of seating more than fifty students.
Moving onto academic support tutors, the same points were raised that I heard at the student-staff forum; many had never been seen. Most people in my course have yet to meet their tutor. A third year student complained that his tutor had never even sent an email.
We were finally asked to give suggestions on how to improve the role of representatives. There were musings about turning faculty representatives into salaried positions, as well as changing the school representatives to self-nomination rather than election (since turnout tends to be very low and many positions are co-opted unopposed). Support was lent to the idea of “clinics” between representatives and their constituents, analogous to surgeries with members of parliament. The education officer wondered aloud about creating a course representative society, though the general consensus was that students would only attend for free pizza. I remember two years President Gill saying much the same. Some things never change…