Student Perspectives: Rongzhen Chen (GU)

How should students be involved as co-creators in Higher Education?

Students, and others involved in the process, should be able to contribute to it and propose new ideas: both at the initial stage when the core principles are being developed, and later on at the stage when practices are evaluated. That stage of reflection and evaluation is really important as a follow-up to implementation: there will always be something wrong in the process, and there should always be space for reflection, for asking ‘is it working?’

I really enjoy reflection, and I think students should be part of a structured process (as Amina was saying) for reflecting on policies and thinking about how they need to be evaluated and revised. Policies and regulations are hard to change, especially on a regular basis, but they are made for students, so students should be involved in evaluating them. 

One idea to help people to communicate more easily and anonymously is to use digital tools to blur people’s faces, or represent them with an avatar, so you can still talk to staff and they can talk back to you, but they don’t know who you are. You could redact your identity and feel safe, and if you want to close the case you can just close it. It might increase the workload for those responsible, but it would be a good starting point for handling these things in a practical way. I think it would be good if we had the resources to do it – from an IT perspective it’s not that hard. 

Are there any inclusive practices at your university that you would like to highlight?

In my faculty, probably because it’s an international programme, and all the teachers are from international backgrounds, they really push students to fill in the evaluation form. You can say anything anonymously, and you’re not even allowed to leave private information. Later, the student representative will be called for a meeting at the end of the course, by the programme manager. The student represents the other students based on the comments in the evaluation form: there are statistics from the forms about how people felt about the course, but the student rep also comments on issues not reflected in the forms, like teachers who can’t be heard from the back of the room, or a screen that doesn’t work so the teacher is just talking and students don’t understand the lecture.

So we have an effective teaching forum, but it does create an extra workload for students: it’s good for gaining knowledge, but bad from the workload side. Also, this process covers academic issues, but there is a lack of attention to anything that isn’t related to studies. So we should use this same process but include other perspectives.

At another Swedish university, if students are facing discrimination, the rule is you don’t talk to the teaching staff about it, you go to the student office and talk to the administrators there. They are trained to handle this procedure anonymously so you will not share private information with anyone. Instead of trying to teach everyone, each faculty has this stable group you can reach out to. Those people, the administrators, are relatively isolated from teaching staff. They can help us, and they are based everywhere in the university rather than in an independent department.