It’s so easy to play down the importance of student elections. For those who haven’t been involved with the Students Association, it can seem like an abstract concept with little or no connection to, or impact on, your life. But the reality is very different. These elections really do matter. And here are just five reasons why:
1 Students Association Reps represent the academic interests of students
Representing the academic interests of students is at the heart of all student representative organisations. Elected student Reps sit on influential committees with the Vice-Chancellor and other senior University leaders. They are therefore able to influence decisions that impact the strategic direction of the University and, by extension, the value of qualifications obtained from the University to the wider world, including potential future employers.
2 Students Association Reps fight to improve the student experience
Elected student representatives, in plain terms, represent the student voice in discussions and debates across the university. This means that where there are issues of contention, a strong elected rep can make a huge difference. This could be in the way that course content is delivered, what services should be available for disabled students, or university policies around mental health. Effective student reps build good relationships across the University and act as a ‘critical friend’ in discussions to ensure that the interests of students are never forgotten.
3 Students Association Reps engage with other Student Unions/Associations/Guilds and beyond
Issues that impact the lives of students don’t just happen inside the University. The wider higher education sector is alive with debate and discussion, and Students Association reps bring the views of Open University students to that forum, ensuring that the experiences of distance-learning and part-time students – that are often marginalised – are well represented.
Moreover, in the past, Open University students have been involved in campaigns that have had a major impact on government policy. This means that strong and effective elected student leaders can drive change both internally for Open University students and externally for the wider student population.
4 Students Association Reps should be diverse and representative
The average Open University student is now 27 years old and in full-time employment. But the OU and the Students Association caters for an enormous range of students of different ages, ethnicities, disabilities, sexual preferences, and professional and educational backgrounds. Just like the OU wants to open up education to everyone, the Students Association wants to open up representation to everyone. The more diverse our elected student body is, the more powerful its voice. There is no such thing as too young, too old, too inexperienced, or too different. If you are enthusiastic, we will support you to be the best rep that you can be.
5 A good turnout provides a strong mandate for Students Association Reps
Voting matters! Even if you aren’t thinking about standing for one of the elected roles, it’s still important to engage with the elections and take part. The Open University has the largest student body in the UK, and as such a great turnout in student elections provides real credibility to Association Reps when they are in meetings with University senior leaders and influential individuals outside of the University (yes… politicians, regulating bodies etc.). It takes a few minutes to head to the 2020 Elections website, and read the manifestos of candidates, it’s possible they will be representing you for the next two years, so it’s a few minutes well spent! Additionally, you can get involved in the debate via the online forums and social media, to find out what the candidates think about the issues that are important to you.
The saying ‘you get out what you put in’ is particularly accurate when it comes to student elections. It goes without saying that the Students Association and the wider Open University benefit from a more engaged student body. But more importantly, you will benefit personally from taking part, whether that means having a say in who your elected Reps are, getting involved in the debate to highlight issues important to you, or standing for an elected role to lead the Students Association, it all makes a difference, and it all matters!