The Academic Convenor
The Academic Convenor will be an experienced member of staff appointed by the Head of Department to support the smooth running of the SSLC through collaboration with the elected student representatives. They are also responsible for ensuring that issues raised by students at meetings are considered by the relevant members of staff (whether internal or external to the department) and that the outcomes of these discussions are reported back to the SSLC. Whilst it is sometimes tempting for staff members of the SSLC to attempt to resolve an issue at the time it is raised at the meeting this may lead to unforeseen consequences. A better approach is to use the SSLC meeting to clarify the nature of any issues and then to discuss these within the department, or with relevant staff elsewhere within the University, before providing a considered response. It may also be appropriate to coordinate (with the Chair’s permission), the attendance of a member of staff more familiar with the issue at hand to address the SSLC directly.
The Convenor is also responsible for encouraging the Chair and/or Secretary to complete the SSLC Annual Report form on time, agree its contents with relevant student representatives and upload this to the SSLC Portal.
Duties of the Academic Convenor
To ensure that new students are made aware of SSLC procedures through induction meetings and Course Handbooks.
To provide assistance to the Students' Union in the organisation of the elections for first year undergraduates and to organise the elections for all other undergraduates and all postgraduates. These elections normally take place in the second week of the Autumn Term (or shortly after the relevant course(s)/cohort commences where the start date differs). It is essential that they are conducted democratically and Convenors should arrange formal election dates or deadlines for second, third and fourth year undergraduates and postgraduate students. It is up to the department to determine what method/format of election is most effective at encouraging student engagement and participation.
Whilst SSLCs are student lead the Convenor may at times need to provide support and encouragement to the student officers of the committee. In particular they may need to take the lead in organising the first meeting of the academic year if officers have not previously been elected. If they have not previously been elected then the officers of the committee should be elected at this first meeting. The Convenor should ensure that the required standing items (see Handbook) are discussed by the SSLC at least once a year
The Academic Convenor provides support to the SSLC in the following broad ways:
- Disseminates information about SSLCs and provides advice on the operation of the committee. The Convenor is a main contact point for the University and Students’ Union in communicating with SSLCs.
- Assists the Chair and Secretary in the organisation of agenda items by arranging for the Subject Librarian, Careers Advisor or other relevant representatives to be invited to attend meetings at the committee’s request.
- Ensures that SSLC concerns and requests are considered promptly by the relevant staff and are further discussed at staff meetings,
- Ensures that a student representative is invited, and encouraged, to attend staff meetings to discuss SSLC items,
- Where a student representative is not present at departmental staff meetings, report back to the SSLC on issues affecting students as appropriate,
- Ensures that the Chair and Secretary are aware of their responsibilities, including sending the agenda and minutes of meetings to the Departmental Secretary, Faculty Representative and Students’ Union Academic Voice Coordinator and of uploading them to the SSLC Portal.
- Ensures that the operation of the SSLC is effective and responsive to the needs of the students and the department, encouraging student leadership and dialogue between staff and students, and adheres to the SSLC principles set out in the SSLC Code of Practice and online Handbook.
In undertaking their duties, SSLC Convenors are able to seek the support or advice of the Academic Voice Coordinator or the Assistant Registrar (Teaching Quality) either in the operation of the SSLC, the means to address issues raised by students if a local resolution is not possible, or any other matter pertaining to the successful operation of the SSLC.
Checklist for Academic Convenors
- Ensure the SSLC is mentioned in departmental/course handbooks
Start of Autumn Term
- Convene elections for SSLC representatives. First year undergraduate student's elections can be assisted by the Students' Union.
- Forward the names and University numbers/library card numbers of SSLC representatives to the Students' Union Academic Voice Coordinator.
- Disseminate information about the SSLC system, including the Handbook and information on training events
- Organise the first meeting of the academic year, ensure that the previous year’s Annual Report is considered and Chair and Secretary are elected (if not already done)
- Brief new SSLC members, both staff and students, about how the interests of the committee are represented at departmental level. This should include a description of how the discussions of the SSLC are reported to the other relevant departmental committee(s) and of the general approach to the resolution of issues raised.
- Ensure that copies of SSLC minutes and Annual Reports are kept on file in the department for internal and external reviews
- Ensure that the Secretary receives appropriate support for photocopying and room bookings
- Ensure that the Secretary understands their responsibility to send agendas and minutes to all SSLC members, the Faculty representative, SSLC Administrator and Departmental Secretary and that these are also being uploaded to the SSLC Portal. This may require encouragement and reminders in the case of Undergraduates or courses with annual turnover of membership.
- Ensure that invitations to staff meetings are extended to student representatives where relevant
- Provide organisational assistance for pre-meetings prior to the main SSLC meeting
- Attend any briefing sessions/meetings organised for Convenors
- Ensure that any significant changes to courses and modules that the department is proposing are brought to the SSLC for discussion in good time
- Ensure that the most up-to-date version of the External Examiner Report(s) relevant to the courses covered by the SSLC is made available to the SSLC to review annually. This should be the complete version with departmental commentary.
- Ensure that the results of the NSS, and publicly available reports from any internal or external reviews of teaching, e.g. from accreditation bodies, are discussed.