My Experience as an English Literature Course Representative

By Ella Garrett

When I joined the University of York I was really anxious about joining societies, making friends and how I could have a positive impact on the community.

After receiving an email from YUSU about Course Reps I knew that it was the perfect opportunity. I had always enjoyed voicing people’s opinions at Sixth Form, I was the Head Girl and the Head of Events Committee, and ensuring that the students were having say in how things are run and making a change is incredibly important to me.

The application process was really easy, just a few words on why you believed yourself to be the best candidate, and before I knew it I was lucky enough to be emailed explaining how I earnt the position of ‘First Year English Literature Combined Course Rep’ (a bit of a mouthful!)
Honestly, I didn’t totally know what to expect from the role. My sixth form had been really small meaning I generally knew the names of everyone and communicating between the students and the staff leadership team only involved a handful of people. A university is obviously a whole new kettle of fish. There are potentially hundreds of people that you represent and you have a responsibility to make your name known to as many as possible. However, there are actually so many ways to do this so don’t let it put you off! You can have the “band aid method”, for example, which is speaking in front of a lecture theatre (something quick and slightly painful due to the weary-eyed looks at 9am) or you can take advantage of social media.

Social media ended up playing a really important role this year for the English Course Reps. We had many successes from the start which really proved the power of student voice. The Teaching Committee and Board of Studies approved a lot of what we campaigned for to make the community a better place for students and I thought I would share a few:

  • We pushed for Lecture Capture being opt-out after conducting an online survey where a huge percentage of students were in favour.

  • After many students being left disgruntled due to the lack of formative work and therefore lack of feedback to prepare for summatives, we campaigned successfully to have these reintroduced.

  • We also (after a pilot year) voted on the continuation of electronic submission for essays, as well as rolling it out to more years.

  • And where I previously stated how important social media had been… After starting an online petition, shared across Facebook (over the student to staff ratio in the department) we had the opportunity to meet with figures such as the Deputy Vice-Chancellor and the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities where we discussed the need for improvement and ultimately the department were given the chance to hire new members of staff.

It’s clear to see that just across this academic year that the Course Reps have been so successful and I have been incredibly lucky to be a part of aiding such positive change to the English department.

There are so many positives to becoming a Course Rep and they deserve your consideration as a position every year. I had the chance to build friendships across the undergraduate and postgraduate groups that I’m so grateful for, as well as become more aware of how the department I am a part of is run. I think the latter is vital as being part of university shouldn’t be 3 years of anonymity and then obtaining a degree. Being at university should involve making a positive lasting impact on those around you and proving your abilities as a student and an individual. Without having become a Course Rep, I wouldn’t have had the chance to speak regularly with staff and come out from the shadows of a student number and I certainly wouldn’t be able to say that I helped in making a difference to those who deserve to be heard.

I hope that when joining the University of York, the application for Course Rep is taken in to consideration as it deserves to be inundated with students willing to make that change for both themselves and their peers.