President's Blog - Introducing Student Voice

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Last week I held RGU:Union's first 'Student Voice' meeting, and while we didn't get the highest turn out, it was a positive step towards a more open and transparent Union. The students' union is run for it's members, and we work for the interests of all students and it's important students have the ability to be aware of and question the work it's union is doing. Once a year, we host our Annual General Meeting which is the main way for students to present motions to be voted on about policies they want to union to be doing, ask questions to their elected officers, and scrutinise the work of the union. One of my aims last year was to increase the number of students participaing in the AGM, luckily I managed to achieve my aims by increasing AGM attenance from 65 members to 165 members. 

Outside of the AGM, the union usual holds four 'forums' which are supposed to allow that student engagement, policy setting and transparency that we want. That works for the societies and sports forum, but over the past few years running the 'Your University' and 'Your Aberdeen' forums have been incredibly challenging, with pretty much nobody attending them when I hosted them last year. To be honest, I get why people didn't come. There didn't seem to be much point, they were mostly feedback sessions with no real influence. The AGM with it's voting and motions and big ideas feels like a chance to really chance something.

Taking all that in mind, this year, I decided to merge the two forums, and introduce 'Student Voice' as a mini-AGM/Forum hybrid with hopefully the best of both worlds. Student Voice will act as the main representative forum for students to engage in the union's activities. It will discuss and consider all the feedback the forums used to, but also have similar powers of an AGM to present, discuss and vote on ideas for change. Part of the new Student Voice is a concept called 'ideas' where on the Student Voice webpage any student can submit an idea of something they want to see changed. Other students can then up-vote and down-vote ideas and discuss what matters to them. Those with the most votes will be presented at Student Voice, and the rest will be discussed by the Executive Committee at RGU:Union. 

The hope is that this new mechanism will bring students closer to the Union more often, with meetings four times a year and a chance for students to always suggest ideas for changes. We held the first meeting on Thursday 20th October, and while the turn out was low, I learnt a great deal and got a good amount of discussion and feedback which we will be able to act on. Some of the key points from the meeting were:

  • Students got to hear an update from all three sabbatical Presidents on their plans for the year;
  • Students asked questions to elected officers on their plans;
  • There was a really useful discussion on the academic restructing of the university, with it noted that students in health courses noticed very little change, while those in the former business school had noticed change. There were courses where the message that the changes would not affect their course has been useful, but they still weren't totally sure why it had happened. There was also concerns around the School of Communication, Information and Marketing and the impact the change would have on the reputation of the degree and the nesssity to keep the 'business' aspect of the degree;
  • Students got an update on the suggested themes for the Student Partnership Agreement for 2016/17;
  • Students got an update on the status of the 'motion on the academic calendar to move exams before Christmas' and were informed that a working group at the University had been established and a wider survey was ready to be launched soon;
  • Students raised feedback around continued issues about wifi and printers. These issues have been raised with IT and we're waiting for a response on them;
  • Students raised concerns over feedback, and were given an update on the learning technology program to introduce lecture capture and recorded feedback. 

Overall, the first Student Voice meeting was positive, and I think it's the first steps to improving the voice of students at RGU. I still have work to do to try and improve the timing of the meeting so that more people can attend. The full informastion on Student Voice can be found at the website by clicking here. The next meeting will be on Thursday 8th December. 

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