Student Representative Handbook
Academic year 2016/2017
Table of Contents
- An Overview of Student Representation
- RCA and Union Committees
- How to Represent?
- What should I do if my peer…?
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Key Dates
- Contact details of Sabbatical Officers
- Addresses of Union Offices
Dear Student Representative,
May I take this opportunity to thank you for being a representative and, if you are new to the Royal College of Art, offer a very warm welcome to the College community.
The role you have agreed to fulfill provides a very important link between the student voice, the Programme teams and technical staff, and all parts of life at the RCA: having undertaken such a role as a student, I am aware of the responsibility you have agreed to take on in representing your fellow students, and also the great sense of reward that can come with making a positive contribution to the student experience and our commitment to working in partnership. I hope the experience of being a rep will be valuable to you now and in your future career.
I am delighted to have been invited to contribute my welcome to this handbook. The Student Union sabbatical officers, who are committed to ensuring your experience of the RCA is as positive as possible, have developed it with considerable thought and consultation. At times of change in higher education, we look to you to help in addressing challenges, enhance the student experience, and continuing to ensure that the RCA remains the #1 University of art and design in the world.
I wish you every success in your role.
Professor Naren Barfield PhD, FHEA, FRCA
- An Overview of Student Representation
The student representation at the Royal College of Art (RCA) is a mechanisms that helps reflect on and enhance the student experience. It allows students from across all disciplines to become involved in the challenges and decision-making processes behind their education, which are otherwise intangible.
The student movement here is key to bringing in the expertise and experiences of those most involved with the day-to-day existence at the College – the students – in dialogue with the academics and managers across its various Programmes, Schools and Departments. With 70 representatives across both the Research and Masters student bodies, it is important to understand on which level, feedback should be addressed.
Overall, feedback at the RCA is a multi-channel system between students, student representatives, and tutors, Heads of Programmes, Deans of School, Directors of Departments, Registry, Rectorate and Royal College of Art Students’ Union (Union). It is crucial that feedback passes both ways between each point in the system, and comes back in a full circle to students with acknowledgment of how their feedback is being acted upon or discussed.
2.1 ROLE DESCRIPTION
Student representatives are elected by their peers to represent the views and interests of students to College staff, and to provide student input into the monitoring, development and planning of academic Programmes. Every Programme at the RCA has a minimum of two positions of MA student representatives, one each from the first and the second year and one research student representative. These are elected no later than by 31 October, and serve from 1 November to 30 October annually. Following on the introductory training, student representatives share the views of students on College committees.
2.2 MAIN RESPONSIBILITIES
- To be available to listen to fellow students’ views, concerns and academic issues;
- To feedback the results of their representations to their fellow students.
- Must read their Programme Handbook – available on Space
- Should read the RCA Regulations, mainly sections 5-19, available online
2.3 MAIN ACTIVITIES
- To attend the Students’ Union and School Assemblies
- To attend the Senior Leadership Team as a representative of the relevant School and to feedback student views; two student representatives to attend each meeting
- To attend Programme Review Committees
- To feedback the results of their representations to their fellow students
2.4 MAIN CONTACTS
- Students on your Programme/School/College, or fellow research students
- Head of Programme/Dean of School
- Research and Knowledge Exchange Research Administrator: Carla Bull (for MPhil/PhD Envoys)
- Programme and School Administrators
- Union Sabbatical Officers: Francesca Tamse (Schools of Fine Art and Material), Hannah Evans (Schools of Design and Architecture) and Ailsa Sinclair (Schools of Communication and Humanities)
- Academic Quality Officer – Academic Development Office
2.5 TIME COMMITMENT
- Student representatives decide amongst themselves the necessary time they will devote to representation. On the other side they should be able to point their peers in right direction and be available to attend necessary meetings
- RCA Committees and/or the Students’ Union/School Assembly usually do not last longer than 2 hours
Note: When considering your time commitments throughout the year, it is important to remember the main reason you are here is to study and ultimately get a degree. If your work as a student representative gets in the way of this, please talk to someone within the Union or in your programme.
2.6 USEFUL RESOURCES
- RCA Regulations (1)
- Union Website (2)
- Union Constitution (3)
- The names and contact details of all student representatives at the RCA will be posted on the Union website. (4)
- Chapter B5 of the UK Quality Code for Higher Education (5)
- The National Union of Students NUS Connect Site (6)
- The Student Engagement Partnership (7)
- This Student Representative Handbook
3.1 PROGRAMME LEVEL
First and foremost, at Programme-level, elected student representatives collect and collate feedback from the peers in their year group concerning day-to-day academic business. This feedback is then presented to the Head of Programme in monthly meetings, or at the Programme Forum. Both the RCA and the Union believe that it is best to resolve issues at a Programme level. Local issues can indeed become college-wide issues, but historically communicating problems and seeking solutions in their earliest stages results in the best and quickest solutions.
Attendance: Head of Programme(chair), Tutors, and students from the Programme
Content: The Programme forum is a meeting between the Head of Programme and all students of a year group of a Programme to discuss matters arising. Should take place at least once a term.
Monthly meeting with Head of Programme
Attendance: Head of Programme(chair), Senior Tutor(s), all student representatives from the Programme
Content: All student representatives should be meeting privately with their Head of Programme at least once a month. It is here that student representatives can give the Head of Programme an understanding of how students feel about current projects, whether systems within the Programme are working, and determine the agenda for the Programme Forum. Student representatives should feed back the results of this meeting to their peers.
3.2 SCHOOL LEVEL
On the School level, student representatives from across the Programmes of the School rotate in attendance to School Leadership Teams (SLT) – a monthly meeting between the Deans, Heads of Programme, and project liaisons of a School. Whilst on the student-led side, the Union also organises regular School Assemblies, a School-specific forum that is an additional opportunity to give feedback and updates, especially in relation to the discussions at the School Leadership Team.
School Leadership Team Meetings (SLT)
Attendance: Dean (chair), Heads of Programme, Schools Information, Learning and Technical Services managers, two student representatives from that School
Content: The School Leadership Team meetings is a regular formal gathering between the Dean of a School and its Heads of Programme, to give updates on the direction & strategy of the college, and receive reports from Technical Services, IT Services, the progress of Work in Progress and Degree Shows, and other business. Two student representatives will be invited to this meeting to give the students’ opinion on unreserved business (any issues not pertaining to individual students or staff members).
Attendance: Union Co-President (chair), at least 1 student representative per year MA Programme and 1 student representative per Research Programme, both within the School, Dean (once a term only)
Content: School Assemblies are twice a term meetings gathering all reps of a School, to monitor the feedback process of each Programme. Attended by the relevant Dean once each term, these meetings are a great place to catch up on all issues relevant to that particular School. Any student can attend, and lunch is provided for student representative.
3.3 COLLEGE LEVEL
Lastly on a College Level, all reps are invited to Students’ Union Assembly (SU Assembly), the highest student-led governing body of the Union. It unifies the student voice in a democratic forum, often featuring members of senior management, as guests for Q&As. Specific reps will also be invited from the SU Assembly to attend a variety of college management committees.
Students’ Union Assembly
Attendance: 70 student representatives from both MA and Research Programmes
Content: Twice a term gathering of all reps of a School, to monitor the feedback process of each Programme. Attended by the relevant Dean once each term, these meetings are a great place to catch up on all issues relevant to that particular School. Any student can attend, and lunch is provided for all student representatives.
Information, Learning & Technical Services Forums (ILTS Forums)
Attendance: Information Learning and Technical Services & Buildings and Estates representatives, at least 1 student representative for each Programme
Content: The Information Learning and Technical Services Forum takes place once a term in both Kensington and Battersea. It is an opportunity for student representatives to meet with the IT, Library and Technical Services managers of each area to address any issues regarding provision, organisation, or access to information, learning and technical equipment.
- How to Represent?
The crucial aspect of your role as student rep is to represent the views of your peers in a variety of official RCA settings. To do so, however, you have to find out what your peers’ views are, and then account for them at the appropriate meeting, at the appropriate level. There are three simple steps to do so:
- Collect feedback from your peers (at least 7 days before a meeting)
- Report this to the relevant forum/contact in advance (at least giving 4 days notice)
- Report back to your peers with their response (no later than 2 days after the meeting) or follow up if there is no response
If you follow this simple mechanism you will ensure that the local channels of representation are always used, whilst making certain that issues can be resolved quickly and responsibly, with a greater benefit for all as a result. Below we will outline each step of this process, with our suggestions for best practice. However, please note that this is just a guide and can be adjusted for individual Programme needs.
4.2 COLLECTING FEEDBACK
The first step in representing your peers is to collect their feedback. This means that sometimes, issues you raise may not match your own views but this is what representation is all about – making sure everyone’s voice is heard. The most effective ways to capture people’s views are to go out, listen, and talk to other students.
Often, you’d be surprised what you learn by just listening to people talk. By being an active listener, people will feel comfortable to talk about issues affecting them and if it appears these issues really matter to them, you can ask if they would like them to be raised at the appropriate meetings. If you hear several people have the same issue, make a note of how many people and this can give weight to the issue in meetings.
Listening isn’t where your role ends! By standing up to be a student representative, you put yourself forward and this is the first of many occasions you will need to. An effective student representative is always talking to students about issues that arise. Before meetings, go and talk to your peers about what appears on the agenda and get their views. If there is something you think is particularly important, discuss ideas and suggestions.
There is no right or wrong in how to gather responses – this will suit your personal style as much as anything else. It will also depend on the meetings you are going to. You can do it face-to-face, via email, online surveys, and using social media to name a few. The variety of methods you use will help you get the broadest responses. Those who work away from college may find it easier to communicate electronically, students who regularly work in their studios may want to meet up. You can distribute surveys at the start or end of lectures, send emails through Programme Administrators to gather email responses, or use the programme’s Facebook group – the list goes on. The more peers you can speak to, the better and more accurately you can represent them.
4.3 REPORTING AT RCA COMMITTEES
As a representative, alongside the meetings organized by the SU, you will be invited to official meetings with RCA staff, as well as college committees. Having gathered feedback from your peers, depending on the nature of the feedback, think about which place it would be best to address the students’ views. When you start as a student representative, check with administrative staff in your School which committees you are invited to attend and what they are for. If there are meetings you don’t think you are being represented at but should be, contact the Secretary/Chair of that meeting and ask to be invited – especially to those meetings relevant to specific issues that come up.
Before you go into a committee or meeting, you should make sure you know:
- What the Committee or meeting is responsible for: the ‘terms of reference’
- Where the committee or meeting fits into the decision making process
- How often/when the committee or meeting takes place
- Who to ask if you want to put an item for discussion on the agenda
- How far ahead of the meeting are the agenda and papers for discussion sent out
- Who else is on the committee or meeting?
4.4 YOUR CONTRIBUTION TO COMMITTEES AND MEETINGS
A crucial part of good representation is to ensure that students’ views are heard through your active participation at college committees & meetings. Please note that there is certain protocol that all involved should follow, most of which also apply to meetings organized by the SU.
Committee papers are normally distributed 5 working days in advance of the meeting, including the agenda, minutes from the last meeting, and matters arising (the issues to be discussed) – in order to maximise the time you have to discuss points at the committee, you should always read the papers beforehand. At this point, you can also add points you want to discuss to the agenda by contacting the secretary of the meeting.
If you are unable to attend the meeting, or you are sending someone to attend the meeting in your place, you should contact the Secretary of the meeting to let him or her know in advance.
There may be occasions on which College committees discuss sensitive matters. Students, like all other members, will accordingly be expected to respect the confidentiality of the discussion, and, at the chair’s behest, should not discuss the committee’s deliberations with others. Often this arises in moments when possible institutional partners or research grants are discussed.
Taking Notes & Reporting Back
As you participate in the discussion at the committee, do not forget to write down information relevant to your peers’ concerns to report back to them after the meeting. Doing so completes the feedback mechanism, making sure information has been communicated both ways and so students stay informed.
The key people on each committee:
- Chair: This is the person to lead each meeting, making sure all items are addressed and that decisions follow necessary rules and regulations. These people are often members of staff with management responsibility for the areas being discussed.
- Secretary: This person works with the Chair to prepare the agenda for the meeting, circulate papers, takes minutes (notes of what is said) and follows up on action points. These people can offer help and advice about the committee you sit on, and can also provide you with former papers, minutes and the terms of reference.
- Other Committee Members: The other people in these meetings are there due to their positions (lecturers, administrators, student reps), because they have been invited to represent the School staff, or because of their expertise. Always check the membership of a committee
- What should I do if my peer…?
Below is a list of recommended actions in response to common issues that you may be asked to address as a rep, on behalf of one or a group of your peers. As was mentioned, ideally all issues should be resolved locally and informally.
5.1 HAS A PRIVATE ISSUE
Personal Tutor should be the first point of contact in regards to pastoral care. Student Support and/or Students’ Union are here to provide alternative. Student Support (2nd Floor Frayling Building, Kensington and Mezzanine Floor, Sculpture, Battersea) provide expert support in the following areas:
- Visa and immigration issues
- Disabilities, including dyslexia
- Finance and scholarships
- Housing and accommodation
- Counselling services
- English for academic purposes for non-native English
- Faith-based welfare support through the Chaplaincy
5.2 WISHES TO MAKE A COMPLAINT
A student who is dissatisfied with an aspect of their Programme or some part of College life which is within the College’s control should inform his or her personal tutor or supervisor. Not all such problems can be resolved but a student is entitled to ask whether steps can be taken to resolve the situation. Please encourage students to raise issues with their personal tutor or supervisor in the first instance. If an issue can’t be informally resolved, later along in the process the Students’ Union can support students in their complaints.
5.3 WISHES TO MAKE AN ACADEMIC APPEAL
A student may, on specified grounds, appeal against a decision of an Interim Examination Board, a board considering return from leave of absence, a Critical & Historical Studies dissertation assessment or a Final Examination Board. If student is considering an appeal, please advise them to consult the Students’ Union and/or the Student Support Office for advice directly. A student will not be disadvantaged because he or she has made an appeal.
For more information on Student Complaints and Academic Appeals, please look at the RCA Regulations, pages 32 -37 (available online).
- Frequently Asked Questions
Why do student representatives have to be elected?
Elections are held to ensure that there is a transparent and democratic process to decide upon who will represent students. This means that both students and staff can feel confident that academic reps have been fairly chosen.
Why don’t we get elected for the entirety of our degree?
Holding elections each year means that new students have the chance to get involved each year. Also – some students may not want to commit themselves to be student representative for more than one year. However – student representatives are allowed to re-stand each year, and subject to being re-elected may continue in position year after year.
What support will I get to be a rep?
Training is provided to all student representatives via a training course that will take place during the first School Assembly. There are also additional training sessions run as appropriate and student representatives can request additional training if they feel this is required.
This handbook is intended to support you throughout the academic year.
What’s in it for me?
You will gain the following, which will look great on your Curriculum Vitae: experience and skills in communication, negotiation, teamwork, committee participation, leadership, problem solving, motivating others, organisation, lobbying, community service, presentation and confidence!
What if I don’t want to be a rep?
There are a variety of reasons why you might want to stop being a student representative. If you would like to stop being a student representative please first come and speak to the Sabbatical Officer who is the point of contact for your School. Alternatively, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and stating the reason for your resignation, and the name of your successor.
- Key Dates
College Assemblies (all to attend)
Monday 14th November 2016, 6-8pm, LT1, Kensington
Monday 30th January 2017, 6-8pm, LT1, Kensington
Monday 8th May 2017, 6-8pm, LT1, Kensington
Space & Resources Forums (all to attend)
Tues 8th November, ArtBar, 1-2pm
Tues 21st Feb, ArtBar, 1-2pm
Tues 9th May, ArtBar, 1-2pm
School of Fine Art
Tuesday 1st November 2016, 1-2pm, Printmaking Seminar Room, Dyson, Battersea (Rep Training)
Tuesday 13th December 2016, 1-2pm, Clore Seminar Room, Battersea
Tuesday 31st January 2017, 1-2pm, Printmaking Seminar Room, Battersea
Tuesday 14th March 2017, 1-2pm, Printmaking Seminar Room, Battersea
Monday 15th May 2017, 1-2pm, Printmaking Seminar Room, Battersea
Monday 12th June 2017, 1-2pm, Clore Seminar Room, Battersea
School of Material
Monday 31st October 2016, 1-2pm, ArtBar, Kensington (Rep Training)
Monday 12th December 2016, 1-2pm, Jewellery and Metal Seminar Room, 3rd Fl Woo building, Battersea
Thursday 2nd February, 2017, 1-2pm, ArtBar, Kensington
Thursday 16th March, 1-2pm, Ceramics and Glass Seminar Room, 1st Fl Woo building, Battersea
Thursday 18th May, 1-2pm, ArtBar, Kensington
Wednesday 14th June, 1-2pm, Ceramics and Glass Seminar Room, 1st Fl Woo building, Battersea
School of Communication
Monday 24th October, ArtBar, 1-2pm
Monday 5th December, ArtBar, 1-2pm
Monday 30th January, ArtBar, 1-2pm
Monday 13th March, ArtBar, 1-2pm
Monday 15th May, ArtBar, 1-2pm
Monday 12th June, ArtBar, 1-2pm
School of Humanities
Tuesday 25th October, ArtBar, 1-2pm
Tuesday 6th December, ArtBar, 1-2pm
Tuesday 31st January, ArtBar, 1-2pm
Tuesday 14th March, ArtBar, 1-2pm
Tuesday 16th May, ArtBar, 1-2pm
Tuesday 13th June, ArtBar, 1-2pm
School of Design
Wednesday 26th October, ArtBar, 1-2pm
Wednesday 7th December, ArtBar, 1-2pm
Wednesday 1st February, ArtBar, 1-2pm
Wednesday 15th March, ArtBar, 1-2pm
Wednesday 17th May, ArtBar, 1-2pm
Wednesday 14th June, ArtBar, 1-2pm
School of Architecture
Wednesday 2nd November, ArtBar, 1-2pm
Friday 9th December, ArtBar, 1-2pm
Friday 3rd February, ArtBar, 1-2pm
Friday 17th March, ArtBar, 1-2pm
Friday 19th May, ArtBar, 1-2pm
Friday 16th June, ArtBar, 1-2pm
- Contact Details for the Sabbatical Officers
Co-President (Fine Art and Material)
Co-President (Design and Architecture)
Co-President (Communication & Humanities)
Board of Trustees Membership
Sabbatical Officers: Francesca Tamse, Hannah Evans & Ailsa Sinclair
Student Trustees: Amit Kalra (Service Design, Y2) & Clair le Couteur (Sculpture, PhD)
External Trustees: Cordelia Cembrowicz, James Birkett, 2 vacancies
- Addresses of the Union Offices
2nd Floor, Frayling Building
London SW7 2EU
+44 (0)20 7590 4211
15 – 25 Howie Street
London SW11 4AS
+44 (0)20 7590 4215