Ghent University has a long-standing tradition of student involvement. At Ghent University, student involvement can take different forms: student representatives contribute to and participate in the decision making process with regard to education at different levels (at the level of the study programme, the faculty and the university). In addition, individual students make themselves heard in annual surveys: course feedback, study programme feedback, Master’s dissertation survey, etc. In 2016, student involvement was highly and explicitly commended by the institutional review committee.
To honour this long-standing tradition, and to anchor it even more firmly in our quality assurance policy, Ghent University’s Quality Conduct 2.0 (in Dutch: Eigen Regie 2.0) provides for so-called Student Reflection sessions. These sessions are organized for and by students on a three-yearly basis.
The purpose of the Student Reflection is threefold:
- introducing into the study programme a broader and more diverse student perspective than the one obtained through student representatives;
- generating a qualitative reflection on the entire study programme that goes beyond the individual course feedback, and adds additional in-depth information to the quantitative study programme feedback;
- deepening dialogue within the Programme Committee and identifying possible points of concern.
The Student Reflection contributes to Ghent University’s Strategic Education Objective No. 4 ‘Participate’. Participating students are invited to reflect critically and to help give shape to education policy, quality assurance and its assessment.
Being an integral part of Ghent University’s Quality Conduct, the Student Reflection will receive its due place in the Education Monitors, and comes under objective DS-0034:
"The study programme actively involves students in various commissions and boards, whereby students have a true impact on education policy and quality assurance. The study programme stimulates these students to act as ‘representatives’ and encourages them to be in close contact with their fellow students. The students also help determine the study programme monitor and assist in defining and executing the quality improvement plan. The programme committee (OC) discusses the results of student reflections that are carried out at least every three years in the presence of student representatives. This is recorded in the monitor."
Having a recent Student Reflection in the Education Monitor is one of the eligibility criteria for screening by the Education Quality Board.
Ghent University’s Quality Conduct 2.0 (in Dutch: Eigen Regie 2.0) is based on trust. We therefore encourage students to take command of the Student Reflection process as much as possible, all the while, of course, providing the necessary prerequisites to support them in their autonomy.
The following elements are important:
- programme committee student representatives are an important preferential partner for reaching and involving a broad and diverse student group. That way, Student Reflection sessions can cover the entire study programme;
- preparing for the Student Reflection, students will always be asked to use as a starting point the most recent study programme feedback, and to formulate critical feedback on this. The purpose is to collect more in-depth and constructive feedback, identify points of concern, strengths and possible improvement suggestions from a student perspective;
- the Student Reflection consists of focus group sessions that are meant as a qualitative addition to the quantitative data from the study programme feedback. Specific care must go out to the involvement of minority groups (e.g. students working their way through university, international students, etc...) in order to obtain a sufficiently diverse student perspective;
- the Student Reflection culminates in a critical and constructive reflection report that focuses on strengths, points of concern, possible improvement suggestions, all the while taking into account lecturers’ individual privacy. This reflection report is included in the Education Monitor;
- the Student Reflection takes place at least every three years and is part of the screening by the Education Quality Board;
- study programmes are expected to discuss the Student Reflection on their Programme Committee in the presence of student representatives. Strategic choices can be motivated or further explained. This discussion is included in the Programme Committee minutes and uploaded to the Education Monitor and, as such, submitted to the Education Quality Board;
- to guarantee high-quality Student Reflection sessions, Ghent University provides support and training:
- together with Ghent University’s Student Union, the Education Department offers bi-annual training sessions for student representatives who will organize the Student Reflection. These training sessions zoom in on the purpose and objective, and offer a set of practical skills: how to prepare for and moderate focus group meetings, how to take minutes, how to draw up a written report, how to interpret data, etc... Additional learning materials are made available as well;
- the faculties’ quality assurance staff can offer practical support, e.g. by way of scheduling the sessions, booking rooms, informing the students via UFORA;
the Education Department recruits “student co-ordinators” to co-ordinate and/or monitor the Student Reflection process in the faculties. Student co-ordinators are all students with a part-time job, appointed for the duration one or more terms. Student co-ordinators act as contact person for student representatives from the different study programmes. If student representatives find themselves unable to carry out the Student Reflection, and/or the faculty quality assurance staff are unable to provide support, the co-ordinators, in consultation with local student representatives and the faculty’s quality assurance staff discuss all the options. If necessary, they take over from the local student representatives.