The Union of Students are responsible for academic representation. Students elect 500 Programme Reps each year to represent your views to the University. One of these opportunities to represent views comes at Programme Rep Conference, which took place on Wednesday 22nd November. At this conference, a panel debate was held where reps asked questions about academic and facilities issues to the Vice Chancellor of the University, Kath Mitchell, Pro Vice-Chancellor for the Student Experience Malcolm Todd, PVC Deans of College and representatives from the Library, Estates, Union of Students, Joint Honours and Student Wellbeing.
Many questions were asked and answered in the debate, but those people who asked questions and didn’t get the chance for their question to be answered have been provided with answers by the Union of Students and the Student Experience Team.
Here are your questions and the Union and University’s answers:
One Programme asked if the cost of printing could be covered by the University given the cost of tuition fees?
Trudy Newton, Head of Campus Services for the Estates Department replied that free printing is not something a lot of universities offer across the board. Your fees are 55% less than the benchmarked universities. There are also environmental issues. Free printing is not something we are going to look at now.
Sarah Cooke, First Year Programme Rep for BSc H Child and Family Health and Wellbeing asked what would be done for the free busses to Markeaton Park & Ride from Brit Mill to be available from after 5:40pm? When lectures go on till 7pm and it isn't safe for students to walk round there in the dark.
Trudy Newton said that the safety of students taking our buses is the top priority and the University is constantly reviewing the daily operation of the Unibus service and also making sure that our scheduled services are aimed at meeting both the needs of travellers between campuses and from key locations such as the railway station. We have made changes in both the number of services available and most notably the fact that all these services are free of charge to ensure we can help students get to Uni. This has proved to be extremely popular - as an example in October alone, we had almost 110,000 people use the service which is 58% higher than the same time last year when students and staff had to pay.
The Student Experience Team added that whilst we cannot provide an individual service for every need, we do know that we always want to improve our service. We always welcome details of areas where we could look to do so, as well as ensuring we keep monitoring and tuning the services we offer to our University Campuses, Halls and the surrounding areas.
Jonathan Upton, Third Year Programme Rep for Graphics Design asked about why Markeaton Street closes at 9pm and that it was a major bugbear for students that can't access the equipment they need.
Kevin Bonnett, PVC Dean for Arts, Humanities and Education said this was due to issues the safety and security. Advised we would need to look at how we are working with technical support staff. It is a work in progress.
Kath Mitchell noted that she had a meeting about this last night and has requested a pot of money be put forward to supporting this. She is not currently sure what this will look like, but key times will be addressed to meet needs where's students are doing practical based studies.
Warren Manning, PVC Dean for Engineering and Technology also said ongoing conversation about access with estates currently underway.
Programme Reps based at St. Helena’s Campus in Chesterfield asked if a sports gym could be provided at Chesterfield, as well as a wider range of food and review the policy regarding parking at St. Helena’s.
Peter Dewhurst, Director of Strategic Projects and Michelle Brown, Deputy Head of Department for Healthcare Practice have been looking into a policy for car parking on site. They have been looking at the KR car parking criteria to see if this could be used as a starting point. I know they were planning to work on this with the College Rep. With regards to the gym membership, I know that Rhondell Stabana was looking into this when he was in post as Vice-President (Sport).
Francesca Lee, First Year Programme Rep for Events Management noted that the dyslexia enrolments are very good because it settled me in my course, however my ID badge is not working on the outside building at Buxton? What do I do?
The Buxton Library and Estates team said that the Security Office would help improve your access to University buildings at Buxton.
Jack Rotherham, Second Year Programme Rep for IT asked that since IT courses moved from Kedleston Road to the Markeaton Street STEM building, students have been traveling between to campuses with back to back lectures over the two sites. Lectures till 8pm then 9am the next day. After 5pm facilities at BM and MS are incredibly limited. What can be done about this?
Kath Mitchell advised the timetabling issue shouldn't be happening. Albeit sessions do happen from 8am -8pm. But the facilities issue does need looking at.
Warren Manning added that the transition from Kedleston Road to Markeaton Street did cause some teething issues we are working with students to resolve the facilities issues.
A Programme Rep made a note that some vehicles parking by the Union entrance did block cars in the disabled parking spaces from getting out.
David Lochtie, Student Voice and Development Manager at the Union of Students replied that the Union are constantly trying to seek ways to improve access into our buildings and are working with the University to ensure disabled parking spaces are maintained by reviewing the possibility of marking a specific drop off zone for deliveries that does not impede upon the disabled spaces. We will write to all suppliers who use the area to make drop off deliveries to inform them not to block any disabled parking spaces in the course of making deliveries. Reports of any supplier not adhering to this practice shall be noted and follow up communication will be sent to the company detailing the date and time of the incident for them to identify the driver and issue further reprimand.
As for driver behaviour, we will continue to reinforce to suppliers that this is not acceptable and would ask for help in letting Reception / Security know as soon as an incident happens, so we can address it.
Should you experience any further problems please email email@example.com with information of the time and date of your incident and name of the delivery vehicle and we shall take the appropriate action.
One question came from Twitter about what steps were being taken to standardise referencing across the institution.
The Student Experience Team replied that referencing may be different in subject areas for a number of reasons. It may be that the professional body require a specific approach, it may be that it's a standard for that subject. With that in mind, the University has a strong support system in place through the library and online tools. https://www.derby.ac.uk/campus/library/study-skills/citing-referencing/.
Joint Honours Students
Waleed Elahi, Second Year Programme Rep for BA Mechanical Engineering asked with regards to JHS there are engineering students that are interested in doing the business side of projects too. Is there a possibility of students doing a JH degree is engineering and Business?
The Student Experience Team replied that Joint Honours has 44 subjects available to students to mix at the moment so there's a lot of choice. We have realised that the availability of some of our Engineering subjects is a big opportunity to expand the scheme and the options available to students. Thank you for the feedback; we're actively looking into what's possible.
One JHS Programme Rep via Twitter said they had some issues with the timetabling for their Joint Honours course.
Joint Honours follow strict timetabling rules to open up as many options to students as we can. It's not always possible to make that happen for every optional module, but we guarantee a clash free timetable for all first years, and for all prescribed modules. If that's not happening for you, please do visit the Student Centre so we can investigate.
Scarlet Moss, the Joint Honours Students Officer noted that opportunities and resources seem to be at a Programme level rather than College so disparity exists for JHS.
Suzanne Wigley, Head of Joint Honours, said that JHS can be a litmus test for disparity and can offer us valuable insight into these positive aspects as well as the negative.
Kath Mitchell added that a JHS community is important. The benefits that you get include a range of disciplines and experiences. We won't get a parity, but a community will help.
Since this was raised, the JH management team have been gathering information from across the JH subjects to look at material disparities and are addressing any that come to light. There will always be differences, and it's these that enhance and add to the experience of JH students, and the skill set that employers are looking for.
Many questions were asked about the library services. The Library Services and Student Experience Teams have provided the following answers:
We get positive feedback about the zoning in the libraries but appreciate that sometimes users don't always choose the most appropriate zone for their activity. If students are being disturbed by inappropriate activity/noise in a zone tell a member of staff and we will deal with it. We do have staff who regularly patrol the library, and they will address issues. We have noise alert system in place where users can simply email firstname.lastname@example.org to report any concerns with noise levels in a particular area of the library, enabling us to send a member of staff there to address the problem.
If students are being disturbed by inappropriate activity/noise in a zone tell a member of staff and we will deal with it. We do have staff who regularly patrol the library, and they will address issues. We have noise alert system in place where users can simply email email@example.com to report any concerns with noise levels in a particular area of the library, enabling us to send a member of staff there to address the problem.
A Buxton-based Programme asked via Twitter if later library opening hours could be made available at the library there.
Maria Carnegie, Head of Library and Learner Support, said that all our libraries have differing opening times, reflecting usage trends on the different sites. Opening times are regularly reviewed. Students are able to use any of the University Libraries; so a student studying at Buxton, who lives in Derby is able to use libraries in Derby. We're pleased to have increased our opening hours this academic year and will be monitoring use. Opening hours will continue to be reviewed. Students are able to access learning spaces on the Dome Floor outside library opening hours.
One Programme Rep noted that since STEM courses moved to Markeaton. there is a need for a library with the books/resources that we need.
Paul Ruane, Head of Property for the Estates Team said that we have had discussions with the library about a potential Amazon type services for books in which students at sites like Markeaton Street can request books and pick them up from a point at the site which they study at.
The Student Experience Team said that current Library provision is based on core libraries that support a range of sites. Like most Universities, we do not provide a library on every University site but ensure that there is access to a library within the locality. The free bus service available in Derby supports students moving between different sites to access central services. Students at Markeaton Street may wish to use facilities at Britannia Mill and/or Kedleston Road. Books can be reserved to go to either site for collection and return. We will discuss with the College of Engineering how to best support students accessing library resources and services going forwards.
Mohammed Ali Yousuf, Postgraduate Research Students Officer asked Nick Antonopoulos, PVC Dean of Research, that it takes on average three years to complete research and there needs to be consistency of opening hours for facilities to aid research.
Nick replied that from an academic perspective, we're really working with the colleges to produce Apps to address this within the context of research.
Malcolm Todd, PVC for Student Experience added that growing research rapidly and needing to catch up with this growth. Our accommodation needs to catch up with our aspiration.
Warren Manning, PVC Dean for Engineering and Technology said that a potential swipe card system for access out of hours would be considered.
Programme Committee Meetings
Lizzie Knowles, College Rep for Health and Social Care (Healthcare Practice) asked what happens to MERs if student feedback is not ready when presented at PCM? How are they actioned? Who reports on bad feedback?
Paula Holt, PVC Dean for Health and Social Care discussed the procedure with Lizzie and it should be that the Module Evaluation Reports (MERs) are dealt with at the next Programme Committee Meeting (PCM). She also feels that now that “you said we did” is on blackboard this should be more transparent. I have since asked Lizzie Knowles to monitor this and to let me know if they are not covered.
A student on Twitter noted that there are lots of online resources available like Blackboard and UDO, but a lot do not get used due to no input from lecturers and lack of awareness. Could these platforms be used better?
Students will see and get to use a new UDo in 2018. This will offer students, and staff, lots of new functionality and resources. Students will also see a massive improvement as the new UDo is mobile friendly which the current version isn't. Course Resources is looked after by a team that is rolling out further staff training sessions so that all users can understand the possibilities within it.
Another student wrote on Twitter that the Derby Uni app doesn’t work properly and asked if this was being fixed?
The Student Experience Team's replied that in the new year students will see a brand-new UDo. This will also include a refresh of the Derby Uni App that will improve the experience students have when using it.
A question from a student via Twitter asked why some courses break for 7 weeks at Christmas and others less than 3 weeks.
The Student Experience Team replied that there are standard undergraduate programmes that follow the Academic Calendar and there are some Professional programmes (e.g. Nursing) that have a longer academic year. There are also differences where some programmes have placements built into them and others are accredited by external authorities.
A student on Twitter wrote that some lectures they attended finish early and a reply from the lecturer gave answers like "I only plan for 20mins worth of content, you (students) need to engage more". Why do I pay £9,250 a year for 20mins instead of a full hour its timetabled for?
June Hughes, the University Secretary and Registrar said that it is difficult to address this issue without all the detail, so she advised details will be picked up across the year. She also stated stated there is more that can be done.
Malcolm Todd and Kath Mitchell advised Programme Reps to talk to your staff SE to let student know who SLOs are, so they can report early finishes here. He also said speak to your College team. Catering needs considering but when you are on site make best use of the resources available to you.
The Student Experience Team replied that the University is a 9am - 9pm teaching University. Where students are experiencing specific staff finishing early we would request the details of these instances be sent immediately to firstname.lastname@example.org to allow us to investigate and follow up before reporting back to students.
Neil Stewart, College Representative for Business, Law and Social Sciences (Derby Business School) asked why international students not get the £100 bursary?
The Student Experience Team replied that as part of the University bursary there was £100 allocated to a Blackwell's voucher for UK students that was introduced this year. The project board is gathering feedback from students to take recommendations for reviewing the criteria for subsequent years.
Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF)
James Keith, Programme Rep for MA Education Studies asked the panel what their transparency of the TEF looks like for students.
Malcolm Todd said that the University have a submission to the government on the University website that gives a flavour of what UOD is about and the facilities we offer.
All students can access and read the University of Derby's TEF submission. It is available here: https://www.derby.ac.uk/about/tef/
June Hughes advised accountability back to students and regulators via the Office of Students who will cover accountability and transparency and will feed into TEL.
Malcolm Todd noted that the University was accountable to its Governing Council.
Kath Mitchell has written an article about TEF for a national newspaper and said it doesn't buy into a tick box mentality.
Fiona Shelton, Head of the Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching, advised trying to be more inclusive in the things the University does for example, interviews for members of staff, trying to get students to hold us though account through Programme Committee Meetings, encouraging and challenging staff. The Student Experience Framework which the University has produced offers the means of holding students to committee.
Aman Kumar, Programme Rep for MSc International Hospitality Management asked how is attendance calculated for lectures because whenever we tap in our cards it always says thankyou and it would be good for it to say your attendance level? As I feel students do not care about their attendance in class and I hear students say do not worry just complete your assignments. When it should matter, and I think this would make people more aware.
The Student Experience Team replied that in the short term, we will produce a news article that students can read on UDo. This will look to explain the attendance monitoring process and also offer students the chance to ask any follow up questions they'd like more clarification on. In the long term, we think this is a great suggestion and we will include this as a future development consideration.
Bev Matthews from the Student Centre said she could add this feedback to the future developments for the Attendance Monitoring system.
Gareth Rafferty, Programme Rep for Marketing (PR and Advertising) asked a question on what is offered for care leavers & how is this improving?
The Student Experience Team replied that there are several University and Union of Students teams that will need to work on this together. We would welcome student input into this and would also encourage current student parents to reform the Student Parent Society within the Union of Students. When this existed a few years ago it offered a fantastic support network and social opportunity for students and their families.
Union of Students
A question was asked about the provision of food from the catering facilities at One Friargate Square.
Mark Travers, Operations Director for DSRL, mentioned that he has worked with students to put in some catering at One Friargate Square gate.
Victoria Hossack, the Union of Students' Chief Executive advised it's been an evolving process and food (jackets potatoes etc) are now being offered. We just need students to keep feeding back on what is being provided.
Martin Beaumont, Head of Operations at the Union of Students also noted that One Friargate Square has grown significantly since it was opened. This is a journey and it will take a while to get right but we continue to work on this. Continue feedback from students is continuing to inform what we offer. Kath Mitchell said that to make the provision better, the busiest times for students needed to be identified to correspond with opening hours.
One Programme Rep on Twitter asked about why there wasn't much of a Union presence at the Britannia Mill site?
David Lochtie, Student Voice and Development Manager replied that the union shop at BM is run by the union. There is a small union office next door. We piloted last term advertising times when a member of staff was available in this area, but no students came to see us. We plan on promoting this better this term. Help and advice visit regularly for pre-agreed appointments and we send our research assistants to survey students on campus there regularly. We aim to have a big presence during elections and various societies run their meetings at Brit Mill. We need rep help on this. YOU are the union. The office is available for you to book to have drop-ins for students or even use the space (whilst wearing your t-shirt and ID badge!). Please let us know if you would like to do this email@example.com. If nothing else, it can be a quite space to get some work done!