SSLCs – I’ve got a hunch that most students at Exeter wouldn’t be able to tell you what the acronym stands for, let alone what the bodies are actually responsible for. Yet, Student-Staff Liaison Committees are one of the cornerstones to ensuring that the student experience at Exeter is continuously enhanced and improved wherever necessary.
So, who are they, and what do they actually do? Student-Staff Liaison Committees are made up of a handful of student Academic Representatives, a Subject Chair, and a discipline’s Director of Education. Meeting at least once a term, Academic Representatives are charged with putting forward praise and/or concerns from their peers about their academic experiences. The aim is simple: to reach a positive outcome for all students. Admittedly, whilst that may sound a little opaque, SSLCs work tirelessly to ensure that students’ concerns are addressed and remedied wherever possible; often by seeking clarifications on methods of assessment, suggesting improvements to specific modules, or highlighting areas in which a department could improve in its engagement with students.
To delve a little deeper, I recently sat down with Filipa Torres, a third-year International Relations student who currently serves as Subject Chair to the Politics SSLC. Initially answering “what don’t we do?!” in response to a question about what the role entails, she provided the following summary of a Subject Chair’s responsibilities.
“A Subject Chair is the contact point between the student reps, the student population as a whole, and the department. I attend meetings, write agendas, keep up with the feedback that student reps are reporting, and engage with lecturers.”
Filipa’s duties are primarily carried out during meetings of the SSLC. From my experience as an Academic Representative, these meetings are thoroughly productive and worthwhile. On chatting to Max Jablonowski, a second-year International Relations Representative, he too described the meetings in a similar fashion.
“The meetings are very chilled. We discuss any questions, the Director of Education comes along, and there’s no pressure whatsoever; you can speak whenever you like, and you won’t be limited in what you do say.”
It’s important to remember that these meetings aren’t a forum for simply expressing negativity, but instead, they provide a unique opportunity to propose creative and innovative solutions to the issues that are raised.
One example of this is the recent creation of a Peer to Peer Mentoring Scheme within the Politics Department. Having received feedback from first-year students that they feel ill-prepared for January exams, the SSLC, in conjunction with the Politics Society and various members of staff, set about recruiting volunteer second and third years to lead workshops on exam technique. The scheme will begin piloting two sessions this December. This is just one case that highlights the positive change that can arise as a result of SSLC action.
So, if you’re not convinced of the good that SSLCs do on your behalf; get involved and stand for election to one when the next cohort is recruited. Or, take it from Max, who reflects that being on an SSLC has provided him with opportunities to “meet plenty of new people, allowing you to build greater relationships with staff and students”, Filipa, who stated that a lot of the satisfaction she draws from being in her position is that “you’re representing a lot of students, and that keeps you going”, or me, in that I wholeheartedly believe that they’re the best way to go about affecting academic change at Exeter.
In the meantime, be sure to reach out to one of your Academic Representatives if you have any concerns about your academic experiences at Exeter; we’re always willing to listen.