[Brad Johnson | Deputy Editor]
This year, the Student Representative service at Hertfordshire Students’ Union has been totally overhauled and developed. As stated in the Union’s core principles, the Students’ Union is the ‘Independent Voice of Students’ and this is at the heart of the whole Student Reps programme. As part of this major revamp, the team launched the new look Student Representative Conference, Repstival!
The Repstival saw a host of headliners including Vice Chancellor, Professor Quintin McKellar, Sophie Stephens from Citizens UK and Professor Ian Campbell, Deputy Vice Chancellor. The event was opened by Ross Renton, Dean of Students who highlighted the importance of being a rep at the University and also focused of the benefits that students can achieve through being reps on their course. It was evident from the amount of senior University staff members present that the Student Representative scheme is a very important part of the university and the overall student experience.
Following on from Ross Renton’s opening speech, Sophie Stephens from Citizens UK took to the stage in the Western Auditorium to give her keynote speech to a packed room of Student Representatives. Sophie is a Senior Organiser with North London Citizens and famously got David Cameron to have a discussion with Citizens UK regarding child imprisonment following issues with the expiration of their visas. Sophie raised some key points about how the student voice can create change at all levels.
One key soundbyte that went viral and was retweeted various times at the Repstival was: “If you’re not round that table, you’re probably going to be on the menu.” This shows just how important it is for students to be in discussion with their programme leaders to ensure that all change is in the best interest of the students on the course.
Following Sophie’s rousing keynote speech the conference broke into four breakout sessions with either elected officers or staff members of the Students’ Union.
The ‘Representing a Diverse Student Population’ session hosted by Jack Amos, Vice President Democracy & Services; Rana Omer Farooq, Vice President Education & Welfare and Phil Mackay, Chief Executive of Hertfordshire Students’ Union, looked into how reps can identify keys issues that affect certain groups at the University that can often be overlooked. Jack Amos opened the session by displaying some key statistics including student ages, ethnic origin and disability.
Zeeshan Hasan Khan, a Business Administration student explained how there is numerous problems with transportation back and forth from Ridgeview accommodation in London Colney, he said, “all of [us] have the issue with the bus timings.”
Phil Mackay, CEO of Hertfordshire Students’ Union followed up by agreeing with the student and adding that: “It impacts on student experience because you’re dictated to by when the buses are going to take you to and from the university.”
In a different session, Grainne O’Monghain shared how she balances her time amongst her studies but importantly stated how vital prioritisation is and that her “degree always comes first”, an important piece of information for all Student Representatives.
Scott Grace, Research & Representation Manager said, “I am really impressed with the turnout from our Student Representatives. It is great to bring them altogether to hear from some great speakers and give them the best start in their roles.”
The highlight for many students at Repstival was the ever anticipated annual event of #QuizQuintin. This is the students opportunities to grill, without restrictions, the Vice Chancellor of the University.
Many points were raised by students at Repstival and Professor Quintin McKellar replied to all of them. A few key points included Quintin announcing that part of the new strategic plan of the University would focus on being “internationally renowned as the UK’s business facing university.”
Parking at the university was one key theme raised at #QuizQuintin sparking numerous tweets during the event. An anonymous Dietetics Student Representative raised the point that students who commute and arrive after 10am find it very difficult to get parking, even including the Park and Ride car park.
Professor McKeller replied by explaining how the university has been “re-configuring the car parks”, believing there was “sufficient car parking space” and he “didn’t realise we were beyond capacity already”.
Another point that Professor McKellar “wasn’t aware of” following a question from a Postgraduate Computer Science Student Representative, was how the route to the LRC from the Forum Hertfordshire has a “badly damaged” pavement and they “can’t imagine what it is like for someone who is in a wheelchair or is not physically able to get through that bit”.
Professor McKellar stated how he “walks that area occasionally” and “they will address” the issue if it is deemed to be dangerous.
Jack Amos, Vice President Democracy & Services, who is responsible for the Student Representative programme at the Students’ Union said: “It was great to see so many enthusiastic student representatives and SSROs at Repstival. The feedback after the event was so positive and I’m glad they found it useful and beneficial! This year is set to be a fantastic year for student representation and this event was the perfect way to kick it off!”
Other key points were raised by the Student Representatives, which Trident Media will continue to cover in future articles. This includes issues regarding accountability and the university’s commitment to its students.
Repstival was closed by the Dean of Students, Ross Renton. The event was a huge success and inspired the next generation of reps at the university. If you would like more information about the Student Representatives programme, head to: hertfordshire.su/reps
Were you at Repstival, comment and let us know!