Rebecca Bridger, the Loughborough Students' Union President, will be writing a regular blog for Label Online throughout the entirety of the current academic year. You can contact her by commenting below, writing directly to firstname.lastname@example.org or tweeting @LufbraPresident.
Yesterday, I went to London to present on 'developing the learning experience to meet the demands of students as consumers'. So, up at 5am and almost missing my train, I managed to make it to Westminster in time. Unfortunately (thank goodness!) my time on the podium and the panel was not recorded! But, I thought I'd share what I said in my opening speech. I'd absolutely love to hear your thoughts… good, bad and completely random!
"On Tuesday I found myself in front of about 60 class 9 students, who were starting to make the decision of whether they should go to University or not. Stood on stage looking down on this room of 14 year olds looking up to me to tell them what it would be like if they made the decision to go to University, it dawned on me how different my decision to go to University was 3 years ago compared to the decision they were faced with.
With the newly introduced fee system, if they choose to go to Loughborough, they are going to have to pay £9,000 as of next year and probably as much again in living costs. Those who choose to go to University and accept potentially a lifetimes worth of debt, are not going to be as tolerant as I was when elements of my University experience failed to deliver.
Loughborough is a fantastic University, consistently top 10 for teaching in the NSS and number one in the country for my chosen topic of Sports Science. If I had the chance to go back, I would do so without a moments hesitation but I realise looking back that there are things that I never should have tolerated and will not be tolerated by prospective students and parents raising questions about what they will get for their money.
In the Telegraph recently, there was an interesting article that highlighted how for the average student, for a ticket to see your lecturer for an hour, it would cost you £50 at many institutions. Now, for that money I don't expect Florence and the Machine, but I would expect that individual to be able to communicate effectively to me during that hour. It is no wonder that students are requiring a certain degree of quality assurance for the investment they are making.
I can certainly say that one module was worth every penny. Dr. Keith Tolfrey taught me the principles of feedback. From a child's development to an athletes training, feedback needs to be specific, timely and accurate to be effective. When coursework which dictates the final mark I receive on a module that will define if I pass my year or not, and is the result of many hours of hard work, is received back with nothing more specific than a tick or a cross, weeks after it had been handed in and no indication during it's writing if it was on the right track, it's safe to say that some of my lecturers failed to deliver this basic necessity.
I wonder what the tutors think when they get poor feedback from students on the quality of their lectures ? Too often they turn around and blame the student. Students in the future will not tolerate this from the investment they have made. Going to university I did expect learning to be very independently based, and so it should be, however I also expect my tutors to inspire me in my chosen topic, drive me in the right direction and provide me with feedback that was effective enough for me to develop.
I had the compensation of a great Union and a great all round student experience, Students want more beyond the academic. They expect a good time and opportunities to try new things; to develop their leadership, communication and other skills. whether by starting a recreational running club as I did or volunterering with the old and the young as over 2000 of our students do. And they do expect to leave with a future career.
What we have at Loughborough is fantastic, this is reflected in the NSS and winning the best student experience award. However, we are still failing some students.
As a students union we have made proposals to work in partnership with our university to address these shortcomings. Ensuring there is access to feedback that students give on their individual modules, that we’re providing support for our student academic representatives and producing joint reports to students on the progress we’re achieving.
Ultimately though it is the person you become. How many 23 year olds get the opportunity to address a meeting like his? And for that I've got to thank my university, my students union and this Westminster forum."
After the speech, I sat on a panel with three other speakers and was asked numerous questions. If you're interested in what I was asked (or what I answered) I'd be happy to post more information. I hope you find this interesting!
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