Hi, I’m Gareth, Faculty Association Representative for Business and Law. I’m going to explain that I’ve been up to in a typical week in my role.
First off, Faculty Association Representative is a bit of a mouthful, so you are more likely to hear us referred to as FARs or Faculty Reps. I absolutely love my role as a FAR and see it as being the best of both worlds when it comes to being a student representative. We get to be both internal facing, engaging with our respective faculties on a wider variety of issues and initiatives, as well as external-facing, to our fellow students and Association members. It is this variety that keeps the role exciting and challenging.
A common question we are asked is ‘What do we do?’. Well in this article, I want to give you an insight into a typical week for myself. However, it is important to remember that our workload can fluctuate quite a bit. The presentation starting and ending points can cause a significant spike in what we need to do, as can events like Freshers and Student Voice Week, whereas there are some quieter downtimes too. If I had to describe my role in 1 word, it would have to be ‘conduit’. I see the role as being the lynchpin between the faculty, its students and the Students Association.
Typically, I try to keep both Monday’s and Friday’s free as my dedicated study days. Alongside being a student representative, I am currently in the last year of my law degree, so keeping time set aside for this is important, though they very rarely remain completely free. This Monday happens to be one of them days. It started with a tutorial first thing in the morning.
However, on leaving the tutorial I noticed that my inbox has started to build up. Most emails are general enquiries asking for comment on something or a viewpoint, but on this occasion, I have received an email from a student with an issue related to academic references. I signpost them in the right direction but also flag up the potential issue to my contacts with the faculty as academic references are an ongoing issue at the moment.
Most of the day is dedicated to studying, though I do answer emails as they come in, and today I have received 22 emails to my representation email address. The day ends with me and the other FARs hosting a drop-in session for other student representatives for them to get to know us and how we can work together as a team.
The days starts rather boringly with a trip to the dentist for my son. Unfortunately, he is having some work done at the moment at the Hospital Dentist department, so this takes most of my morning out of action.
During the afternoon I have a few meetings in the diary, including:
- A discussion on how to promote upcoming EDIA events hosted by the faculty.
- 50th Anniversary Steering Group
- A meeting with the Law School Teaching Director and Head of Student Experience for Law regarding a Student Voice Week event
- I also answer some emails, with one of the most enjoyable being the picking of observers to attend a huddle with the Associate Dean for Student Experience in the faculty which I co-chair.
- Meeting with other Student Leadership Team members to discuss an event for Student Voice Week around degree value and its perception.
The day finishes with me attending an OU Law Society Committee meeting in my role as treasurer. A quieter day for emails with 16 received today.
A busy day for meetings today for me kicking off with the AL Contract Implementation Board, which meets fortnightly. I sit on this board on behalf of the Association to ensure that the consequences to students on any decisions made are considered at the highest level.
After this, a meeting takes place of SCiLAB, which is the faculties scholarship programme where I have helped coordinate the creation of a student scrutiny panel for any projects with plans in place to involve students in the actual scholarship work. Scholarship work is really important in the OU as it helps to underpin developments in improving student experience and learning.
A meeting then takes place with me, Hanna (Area Rep for Wales) and staff from OU in Wales regarding a Student Voice Week event where both myself and Hanna will be taking over their Twitter account. Logistics are discussed and agreements are made regarding this. This is followed by a meeting to discuss another Student Voice Week event based around Accessibility Events, which I am involved in and have also arranged other students to take part in.
The next meeting is of the Students Association Position Statements group, a new group set-up to help coordinate our responses to internal and external events as they arise, ensuring our members, volunteers and staff know what is happening and what we are doing about it.
The last meeting of the day for me is covering for Fanni (VP Engagement) at the Core Systems Replacement Steering Group. Core Systems Replacement is a long-term project at the OU that will have massive implications for the student journey experience, and it is important that they get this right. Having representatives in the room ensures that we keep students at the heart of the discussions.
Emails today are around average, with 19 received.
Had the morning set aside for paper reading and report writing. The first load of papers to read were for the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales’ Student Outcome and Achievement Committee which I would be attending the following week. I sit on this committee as the part-time student representative for students within Wales, again ensuring that their voices are heard. The next batch of papers was for an upcoming Curriculum Partnership Committee meeting. This was an interesting read for me as it will be the first time I attend this committee. Finally, I needed to write a report to be included in the Law Schools submission of their annual quality monitoring programme, referred to as a QME report.
During the afternoon, I met with my fellow rep, Heather, and AL reps from the Law Board of Studies to discuss a paper I am taking to the next meeting to highlight the issues faced by students in obtaining academic references. This meeting proved productive, with an agreed, coordinated approach and contributions coming from all involved.
The day ended with more volunteering, though admittedly this was not OU related. I needed to attend training as part of my role as a Governor at my children’s primary school where I chair the Finance, H&S and Personnel committees. Emails today were really busy, as is usually the case on Thursdays and Fridays with 33 emails received.
As mentioned previously, Fridays are one of my dedicated study days, so with the exception of clearing my inbox towards the end of the day and one short meeting to plan a session for the following day, it’s the quietest day of the week. Quite a few emails come in, mainly involving Student Voice Week planning.
The meeting is with Alison, Head of Finance, at the Students Association to plan a training element for the following day’s Societies’ Committee Meeting. Emails today hit 27 as everyone tries to clear their to-do list for the week!
With the exception of participating in the aforementioned training session, giving my experience in account submission, this weekend is rather quiet. Weekends as a student volunteer can be hit and miss, with some quiet weekends where no work is done, to CEC weekends where the whole weekend is taken up with discussions.
This week covered a busier time of year, especially with regards to the emails as Student Voice Week planning is taking up a lot of time at the moment, though it is an important aspect of the role that we are delighted to be able to do.
There are currently opportunities to join our Student Leadership Team, including as the FAR for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths).
Read more on The Association website.