Welcome to this part about student representation at the University of Groningen. My name is Dion Glastra. I am a student member of the Programme Committee of the Economic Geography Master Programme at the Faculty of Spatial Sciences. And I am Rowanne Degenhart, member of the Council of the Faculty of Law. And I am Sebastiaan van Wijk, a member of the University Council. In the upcoming steps, we will discuss the different roles students can play in the democratic process of a higher education institution. We will do so by telling you about our experiences as students involved in the governing bodies of the University of Groningen. But first, let’s start with the organisation of the University of Groningen.
In this overview, you can see all the governing bodies president of the University of Groningen, and how they are connected to each other. We will only be discussing the governing bodies most relevant for student representation. The top of the organisation consists of the Board of Directors, which governs the entire University. Ultimately, they are responsible for all affairs at the University, including all educational matters. Vice Chancellor Elmer Sterken, whom you have met in Week 1, is part of this Board. The University of Groningen is currently divided into a total of 11 faculties, covering all academic disciplines. Each faculty is governed by a Faculty Board.
Students can represent the interests of fellow students on a university level, on a faculty level, and on the level of a study programme. On the university level, there is a University Council that discusses and monitors the policies that the Board of Directors want to implement. These students are elected every year, and form a Council together with elected members from the staff of the university. Within each faculty, students can have a seat in the Faculty Council, which basically has the same function as the University Council, but then on a faculty level, meaning they talk to the Faculty Board, advising, monitoring, and, where eligible, consent. And finally, all programmes have a Programme Committee in which students can participate in improving individual courses.
The University Council consists of 12 students and 12 staff elected members. As a chosen representative, we have three main tasks, staying informed, giving advice, and making connections. To stay informed, University Council gives an update every month on new or updated policies regarding finance, quality of control of teaching, or a strategic plan, for instance. Being informed means we can give advice properly. We may discuss any topic we perceive as interesting. We also have a right of initiative, which means that we can come up with our own ideas on how to improve the university, regarding education or other topics. Staying in touch with the people we represent also benefits from being informed about recent developments.
More on how to make good connections with the entire student community, later this week. Contrary to the University Council, the size of the faculty council depends on the size of the faculty. For example, the Council of the Faculty of Law consists of nine students and nine staff members, which is the case for most larger faculties. Both parties are chosen representatives from either students or the staff. The function of the Faculty Council can best be described as an advisory body, meaning that the council can provide the board With advice on every matter the Council considers relevance.
The Faculty Councils operate in the same way as the University Council, but focus on issues relevant for that faculty, such as how the different programmes are designed, what the policy on online lectures is, but also how to deal with teaching skills within the faculty. It is important that in every advice, you offer the boards you are actually representing the interests of in your case what you are specifically chosen for. So in my example, the students of the law faculty. Besides giving advice, the Council has the right of consent concerning two issues, the education and exam regulation, and the faculty budgets. Both are discussed once a year.
Finally, the Programme Committee of each study programme evaluates the quality of education of the programme. The programme committees have a similar function as the Faculty Council, but on a different level. Whereas the Faculty Council relates to the Faculty Board, the Programme Committee’s circle of influence is restricted to the specific programme that the committee belongs to. In my case, for example, we discuss course evaluations with lecturers several times a year, and students come to us with problems, remarks, or suggestions for improvement. The most important function of the committee is to detect problems within a specific programme, and to solve them.
Programme committees are often the first to signal a major issue– for example, teachers having insufficient language skills, or programmes with a type of examination, and can inform the Faculty Council, or sometimes the University Council about it. In the next step, we would like to discuss with you how to truly represent the interests of your fellow students. How would you do this, as a student involved in one of the governing bodies? And would it differ if you were elected, like in a Faculty Council, or if you were assigned, like in a Programme Committee? Please share your thoughts in the next step.