Each year the student body elects, in advance of the first meeting (see Terms of Reference), representatives to the Student/Staff Liaison Committee (SSLC). This provides a forum for discussion about the nature and quality of the education and facilities provided well as any problems that might arise. Topics range in scope from ideas for new programmes to the type of snacks available from the vending machine on the first floor.
Elected representatives are expected to inform themselves about matters of general concern to the student body and to represent these views at the committee meetings. Minutes of these meetings are prepared and are published here:
Two student representatives from each discipline (normally the SSLC Chair, and one other chosen from among themselves) attend and report to the Department Meeting. In addition, one of the representatives is elected to serve on the Department Education Committee. All these committees provide an opportunity for students to inform themselves about the facets involved in running the Department and to express their views on matters that directly concern them. (See also the applicable University Code of Good Practice.)
During the year, the University's Accelerate system will be used to enable students to provide their views upon the quality of the teaching provision by completing on-line questionnaires. Students are encouraged to take this exercise seriously by participating, giving considered answers to the structured questions and making constructive responses in the free-format sections. The general rule is that there should be one set of questionnaires for each module, irrespective of how many instructors share the module or of how many students attend the module. (It is possible for the instructor to negotiate exceptions to this, subject to the prior agreement of the Director of Education, if there is a particularly compelling reason.) At the end of the year there is programme questionnaire covering the overall experience for an academic year.
Analysed results of these questionnaires are published here:
and are used to inform the Annual Monitoring and Review process and discussions at SSLC Meetings.
Students' views on how things are going should be sought when a module is approximately 20% through. This consultation is particularly important for new modules (or modules under new management) as it can help to avoid later problems. A data-projector slide such as this:
can be used to stimulate brief written comments from students identifying any difficulties that they may be experiencing. A variant of this method is to use a show of hands to identify issues and/or allow to indicate their reaction to the proposed solution, e.g. 'stop going through detailed derivations in lectures and use the time saved for additional simple examples' to be voted on.
The survey facilities provided by ELE are also useful in some circumstances. To avoid 'questionnaire fatigue' it is good practice to limit such surveys to a small number of questions that will yield unambiguous answers that can guide actions. Consider for example a case where 30% of students answer yes to 'Is the level right?'. Do the remaining 70% think the module is too easy or too hard? Perhaps neither is the case and 35% of students think it is too hard, 35% think it is too easy, and in fact the level is correct. Another disadvantage of ELE (and MACE) surveys is that not all students will answer them, which leads to selection bias in the answers.
Tutorials provide a valuable communication channel between students and instructors. Students can raise any matter of concern about the teaching or management of the Department with their tutor. Instructors will often ask tutors for feedback about how students are handling particular modules. (See also the Guidelines for Tutorials.)
All students studying in the Department, are encouraged to join, and participate in the running and activities of:
Student societies are sponsored by the Guild of Students (the Student Union) and new students will be invited to join at the start of their academic year.
SSLC Chairs for all disciplines in CEMPS attend a termly meeting with the Associate Dean for Education.