Does student representation matter? Does it matter whether there are students involved in decisions about course regulations, the support services offered, or how students receive their coursework?
Massey staff often seek the input and advice of students. They see the need for a student view. Supporting their view, the Government has stipulated in new legislation that students must be involved in decisions about student services. So it seems the answer is yes, it is important to have students involved.
But what about students? Do they see the need for student representatives to be engaged with the University about issues that affect students? If the University is going to seek student opinion then won’t Massey just ask students when they need too? Isn’t that good enough?
Well, no. It is not good enough for an institution where adults are being taught. Research shows that institutions that engage with students as adults and provide opportunities for students to influence their learning environment rate best for student satisfaction and success.
Feedback that is provided by disparate comments without full understanding of context, and consequences is not student engagement. At worst it can be used to justify institutional goals, at best it will support initiatives that benefit students in an ad hoc manner.
An organised, connected and resourced group of elected students can provide coherent and accurate feedback to the University. Such a group will understand the context of what they are being asked and the impact of what they are saying. This is where students can influence their environment, and prevent student feedback being used for out-of-context purposes.
So it matters that students are involved, but importantly, it matters how they are involved. I will be advocating for a Student Council to be set up for the purpose of representing students to Massey. This body will have representatives elected from the entire student body and will advise Massey on matters that affect students.
It is the student associations that carry the responsibility of moving to a representative system that is not connected to association membership and allows all students to have a voice in their learning environment. This will be a key goal of the President of EXMSS in 2012.