This is a guest blog by Andrew Keenan, a member of staff at Imperial College Union supporting the work of Becky – Deputy President (Welfare) and Doug - Deputy President (Education).
Academic representatives – almost 500 of them – are a network of volunteers that span every department, course and research group in College. Run by the Union and supported by College, the network is repopulated and retrained every year, and its members attend up to 100 staff-student committees every term on your behalf.
Reps are who you can go to if there are any problems on your course – poor lecture material, late coursework, rubbish lecturers, underequipped labs, and so on. But to do that, you have to know who they are. That’s more difficult than it sounds. Many courses – particularly postgraduate ones - don’t hold elections for several weeks. Most departments don’t put the details on their websites, and if they do, they are very slow to update it. In courses with massive cohorts – 250 people and up – it’s not likely that you will know who the rep is on sight, or remember their name.
In the Union Survey last year, we found out that one in three students doesn’t know who their rep is. For postgrads, it’s even worse – only half knew who their rep was. In fact, for the first month or two of each year, not even I would know who the reps were – and that’s my job! The information can be very hard to collect centrally from so many departments, campuses, Master’s courses and doctoral research groups. If it’s hard for a full-time member of staff to track, it’s near-impossible for a student to find out simply and quickly who their representative is. That leads to a build-up of unsolved problems, lower-quality courses, and the risk of a deteriorating relationship between students and College.
One in three students doesn’t know who their rep is
So this year, we have built a new database of representatives, and a whole new A to Z on our website that will show you – in only four clicks from the front page – exactly who your representative is. Try it now – it will show you your Year Rep/Course Rep, Departmental Representative, and your Department’s key staff. Plus, if you live in a Hall of Residence or are interested in one of our Liberation Zones – Ethics, Interfaith, Students with Disabilities, and so on – you can get in touch with your wardens and other representatives too.
That’s one of the new functions that Imperial College Union is rolling out for our volunteers. We also have new ways for senior representatives to manage volunteers and allocate tasks in their department, and ways for me and Sabbatical Officers to track activity and progress in great detail across all of College - without even stepping away from our desks. I might blog about them another time, but for now I’m too busy playing with them and thinking of new, complicated things for our Systems Coordinator to code.
Having our representatives presented online this way is a big step for us. I hope it leads to a surge in usage of reps, and a vastly improved flow of communication within the representation network. Ultimately, I hope it will underpin a more energetic contribution by students to educational quality at Imperial.
You can play a part in that. Has anything annoyed or bothered you about the teaching or supervision that you received? Thought so. Want something done about it? Well, now you know where to go.
Education & Welfare Manager