Student representatives programme wins national award

Campus shot of Rottenrow Gardens

A project aimed at accelerating the election and training of student representatives at the University of Strathclyde has won a national award. 

The StrathReps project, a collaboration between Strathclyde and the University’s Students’ Association, has been named the winner in the Partnership Initiative in A University category of the sparqs (Student Partnerships in Quality Scotland) Awards.  

The project used leading-edge digital technologies to transform support for student academic representatives. 

The awards, which have been presented biennially since 2015, demonstrate successful and impactful partnership working on the quality of the learning experience.  

The StrathReps project aimed to bring greater consistency and cohesion to the process of electing and training student representatives, which was conducted with the use of different methods in different departments. It was also designed to speed up the reps’ registration with the students’ union and the delivery of their support and training. 

The project used open-source mobile development frameworks Ionic and Cordova and emerging technologies such as Spring and React Native, while placements in the project team and stakeholder engagement workshops ensured students were involved throughout the creation of the new system. 

StrathReps led to 95% of reps being elected and registered within four weeks and 70% being trained within four weeks of their registration., 

At the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the project was able to refocus its activities and was rescheduled to adjust for home working, furlough of students’ union staff and social distancing.  

Gill Watt, Director of Student Experience & Enhancement Services at Strathclyde, said: “We have great pleasure in receiving this award, which reflects the priority we, as a university, place on our people and the importance of optimising the experience our students have with us.    

“The project became even more important during the pandemic in providing a remote way for reps to be democratically elected, facilitating two-way student feedback and between reps and departments when they couldn’t meet in person. 

“It became a lifeline for those who were at home, scattered across many countries, and a community quickly formed within weeks of more than 650 reps.” 

Donna Brawley, Collaboration Services Manager with Information Services at Strathclyde, said: “This solution has standardised processes and reduced staff admin time while amplifying the student voice on campus. The whole process of submitting nominations, voting and announcement of results is now completed in three weeks.” 

Chelbi Hillan, the Students’ Association’s Vice-President Education, is the author of the policy which has guided the StrathReps project and helped outline how the representation structure at Strathclyde works. 

 She said: “During this project, we closed gaps in representation and saw an increase of more than 150 reps in the first roll-out of the StrathReps platform; this gave us a total of more than 600 student academic representatives. We also created new representation roles which helped give voice and power to traditionally underrepresented groups such as Post Graduate Research students. 

“In addition, we designed a platform which aided election and contacting of reps, helping students stay more connected with their reps and allow them to follow up queries. We also built better communication channels and a central MyPlace page, where rep communication can happen efficiently. 

“I couldn’t be more grateful to have worked with such an amazing project team and I’m certain this project will have lasting impact for students at Strathclyde. I would like to give special thanks to Donna Brawley, Andi Anderson, Leo Howes, Iain MacLellan and the rest of the team for all their hard work on this project. 

“Undoubtedly, the student voices which fed into this project led to it being so successful. For that, I would like to thank Marc Schachtsiek, Andrew Merchant, Emily McIlhatton and Victoria Welsh.  They are all amazing!”