Thursday, March 06, 2008

Supporting student governors - learning lessons from Scotland?

This week I discovered the sparqs website. It is a free service which is funded by the Scottish Funding Council to assist and support Scottish students in improving promoting quality improvement. I am not aware of anything similar in England – we could perhaps learn from our devolved cousins.

On the sparqs website there is a useful Supporting College Student Governors Handbook. (We’ll have to forgive whoever forgot to proof read the web page about it. The odd typo creeps onto this blog so I won’t cast the first stone.)

The Supporting College Student Governors Handbook sets out key information for student governors including how they can engage with their fellow students.

In the Handbook I did find some confusing wording on the difficult issue of to represent or not to represent. It notes: “Governors do not represent particular groups or interests, and as such they cannot be mandated.” Yet elsewhere: “Although you gain your position on the board as a student representative, remember that all of your decisions as a board and as an individual member will impact on other stakeholders too.” I would suggest that student governors are not student representatives but are there to give a student perspective – not least in a providing a reality check in what can be an isolated governance bubble. (I would suggest that the same issues arise for resident members on housing association and ALMO boards – or indeed any board members who are customers.)

I would also query the relevance of the examples of conflicts of interest in the Handbook. They are not likely to encounter the examples given. How many student governors are likely to also be a company director in the construction industry? Examples relating to, say, grants to student unions may have been more instructive when student governors may also be active on student union executives.

Despite my misgivings over some elements of the Handbook, I would like to see something in England for student governors. It would be timely given the profile now given to Learner Voice.

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