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Educational and Student Policy

 

This page sets out the ways in which the University expects Schools, Faculties and Departments to engage with students.


Expectations of the General Board

The General Board expects faculties and departments to have explicit and effective arrangements for:

  • obtaining and considering student opinion;
  • acting upon it as appropriate;
  • providing prompt and detailed feedback to students on the outcomes of the consideration of their feedback.

 

Membership of Faculty Boards and equivalent bodies

Formal arrangements for student membership of Faculty Boards and similar bodies apply throughout the University. Student members may benefit from the help of officers of Faculty Boards in order to undertake their roles effectively. Further details about elections and ways in which Faculties can support student representatives are available on the Student Election pages.

Please also see the guidance about use of Reserved Business.

 

Membership of Staff-Student Joint Committees

Arrangements for discussion with students outside Faculty Boards are not regulated by Statute or Ordinance but they are a vital part of the engagement between students and senior members. It is important that provision is made for both undergraduate and graduate students (including PhD students) to be represented.

In some cases students are included in the membership of the faculty or department's Teaching Committee. More often such discussion takes place in Staff-Student Joint Committees (SSJCs). A larger number of students can be members of SSJCs than of Faculty Boards and more time is normally available for discussion of educational matters than is possible within the confines of the Faculty Board agenda.

The Council and the General Board consider that arrangements of this kind should be in place in all faculties and teaching departments and normally each department within a faculty would have a SSJC.

For further information please see the guidance about Staff-Student Joint Committees in the Committee structures section of this site.

 

Obtaining and responding to student feedback

It is essential that faculties and departments obtain systematic information on the effectiveness of the teaching for which they are responsible.

The General Board does not prescribe the format and frequency of the consultation but those responsible for local feedback arrangements are encouraged to take the following suggestions into account.

Suggestions for reducing survey fatigue and obtaining meaningful feedback

  • Review the frequency, content and targeting of local surveys to ensure that students are only surveyed when necessary and that all questions are relevant.
  • Consider whether it is necessary to issue surveys for each lecture course/module or whether random checks or focussing on new lecturers might be appropriate in some cases.
  • Engage students in developing local arrangements; for example, by asking them to contribute to survey design and explaining the importance of their feedback and how the department has sought to streamline feedback mechanisms.
  • Review the timing of local surveys and when findings are communicated to students in light of student commitments and the timing of University-wide surveys. Where possible surveys should not all be left until the end of the academic year as changes will not benefit those who gave the feedback. By contrast, simple changes could be introduced in Lent Term as a result of feedback given in Michaelmas Term, which would encourage students to give constructive feedback in the future.
  • Recognise that surveys/questionnaires are not the only, or necessarily the most effective, means of obtaining student feedback. Surveys can help identify concerns and gauge how well existing arrangements are working but other mechanisms, such as focus groups, can explore matters in far greater depth. Informal feedback from individual students is also invaluable and some institutions designate an officer as Student Adviser who is available to receive feedback.
  • Publicise arrangements for obtaining and responding to feedback and designate one or more senior members of the institution as having responsibility for this matter.

Suggestions for ensuring that local feedback arrangements are comprehensive

  • Ensure that adequate mechanisms (not necessarily surveys) are in place for collecting feedback about each level of the course; i.e. it is important to collect feedback at course/Tripos level as well as at individual paper/lecturer level.
  • Check that feedback mechanisms are satisfactory for shared courses.
  • Review feedback arrangements for taught and research postgraduate students to ensure that they are adequate. The relatively brief length of MPhil courses, together with the wide variety of MPhil students' backgrounds, requires a particularly timely approach to seeking, and acting on, their feedback.

Suggestions for acting on, retaining and responding to student feedback

  • Develop means of exploring specific matters raised in the feedback further with students (e.g. via focus groups, the SSJC, a general meeting or a targeted questionnaire).
  • Consider how best actions resulting from student feedback can be relayed to students (e.g. via student handbooks, informing SSJCs, through the department’s website, or emailing students directly etc).
  • Keep written records of the analysis and consideration of responses to student questionnaires and make these available to students, subject to the normal conventions for confidentiality where particular individuals are identified.
  • Keep student feedback forms for the last 3 years as they may be required as part of the material submitted to Learning & Teaching Reviews. It may be useful to keep feedback for 3-5 years to help identify trends (or perhaps longer if major changes are introduced).

 

Other methods of engagement

Student representation on the Council of the Schools and the Faculty Board (or equivalent body) is compulsory and a range of other forms of engagement occur within faculties and departments. These may include:

Membership of other committees

  • Staff-Student Consultative Committees
  • Teaching Committees
  • Other Committees

Surveys and questionnaires

  • Course/year level
  • Lecture or paper block level
  • Individual lecture or seminar level
  • Surveys designed and conducted by students

Indirect feedback

  • Via Directors of Studies
  • Via Supervisors

Anonymous feedback

  • Online 'fast feedback' facilities
  • Suggestion books or boxes

Informal consultation

  • In practicals or small classes
  • During site visits, field trips or social events

Feedback meetings

  • Open meetings
  • Between academic staff and students or particular student cohorts
  • Consultation as part of internal reviews
  • Between particular staff members (e.g. the librarian) and students

Other

  • Feedback, chat and discussion facilities provided in online learning communities (e.g. CamTools)
  • Newsgroups
  • Students' Union and faculty representatives liaison