Student Representation at Wittenborg University
Student input to the services provided to them during their studies are common place however nowadays students are also required to reflect on the proposed content of programmes within Netherlands Universities and Universities of Applied Science.
In the past, Wittenborg students have often been represented by student bodies, such as a students' union or a society, however institutes of higher education are increasingly being encouraged to involve students in the development of programmes and the review of processes within the University through pro-active student participation. Wittenborg has decided to separate the function of student representation and the support of student union initiatives. In the future the Student Union will be supported only it's role of organizing and managing events for students, and as an external lobby group, for instance towards government policy.
Traditionally the majority of student feedback, given by one of the student union initiatives, or by individual students at Wittenborg has been as a reaction to what students have experienced; I.e as a reaction to events or quality of education or services, generally through the complaints procedure. Feedback was always fed bottom up into the organisation, through students talking to admin staff, who were responsible for feeding the suggestions and complaints to teaching staff and management. With the introduction of student representatives last year, Wittenborg aims to create a higher level forum of student and institute discussion, working preemptively rather than only in retrospect, on the basis of complaints.
The representatives are students who have put themselves forward as so-called 'student reps' and have been involved in the development of their own function from the start. Student Reps hold discussions directly with management, in principle every three weeks. The discussions are open, and informal, based on feedback that the Reps have gathered from fellow students and on issues that Management has gathered from teachers and admin staff. At the Student Rep meetings, management can also gather informal feedback on curriculum content and teacher performance, as well as views on services such as student housing / accommodation, IT solutions and literature and study material lending services.
The current StudentReps,Grace Wakesho Wamanda (Kenya), MarQuinho dos Santos (Netherlands), and Nomabandl Mabandla (Zimbabwe) joined the Student Rep’s because "we think it's important to share ideas, discuss problems and create solutions". Grace explains “I joined the Student Rep’s because I believe by listening to students’ views, problems, suggestions, ideas, concerns and interests we can make our school a better place.” Nomabandla adds “I hope it brings some noticeable changes and improvements to the school.” both students believe that through their input, directly to management, they can have more influence in the development of services and programmes.
MarQuinho: “I’m part the Student Rep’s to represent the needs of our students and advocate for student rights to make Wittenborg even a better environment to study” By approaching issues from a top down discussion,the students hope that their input is taken seriously and that their views will forms significant part of the solution. Management has said that it hopes that these regular meetings will give them the opportunity to inform students of running issues and changes to the curriculum in advance, providing a forum in which solutions and explanations are understood and reported to the student body, thus avoiding feedback having tone dealt with through the complaints procedure.