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Following the review process which took place throughout Michaelmas term, a currently confidential report has been released regarding the findings of the ongoing College Review. The report, expected to made available in the coming weeks, will reveal the findings and recommendations made following discussions among the nine review panel members.
The review could see widespread changes to the colleges, and is being approached with trepidation many students and college staff. The stated goal of the review is to ‘consider the effectiveness of the current College staffing structures and to make recommendations for the future to enhance and support leadership within the Colleges.’
The recommendations of the review are confidential but will be discussed at Union Council in Week 3. However, member of the review panel Damon Fairley believes that student representation on the panel had a positive impact on the recommendations set to be announced. “I can’t talk about the recommendations, but what I will say is- student representatives on the panel were listened to and there were a number of things, we had a significant impact on the outcome in terms of, some things aren’t in the recommendations because I believe, specifically, me and Laura rejected to them.
“I can’t say specifically what they were, but by having those seats around the table we maximised that opportunity and we did get wins for the colleges and for the students for some potential recommendations which we felt wouldn’t actually be in the best interest of the collegiate experience in general.”
The review process had been heavily criticized for its lack of student or collegiate representation on the panel. Despite managing to increase the number of student representatives from just one, LUSU President Laura Clayson, to two, with LUSU VP (Union Development) Fairley there is a clear consensus that the review process could have been improved.
Fairley told SCAN that although the review process was largely productive and positive, it could have been improved by greater student representation, and particularly College representation considering the topic under discussion. “We have said from day one, that, as a students’ union, we believe their should be more student representation on there so we are happy that our delegation went from initially just the LUSU president to also include me, so we had two on the panel.
“At the same time we still wanted to see more student representation on the panel and equally we wanted to see more collegiate representation on the panel, because the only representatives from actual colleges there, you could argue would be the provost for student experience, except possible me and Laura. However, we have colleges on our portfolio but we are not necessarily representatives of the colleges whereas I feel, for example, there should have been a space for a JCR president, I also feel a college principal should have been on the panel.”
Prior to the review taking place, former Lonsdale Principal Dr. Keith Davidson told SCAN that he agreed with this sentiment. “The panel seems light on the people who know most about how the colleges currently operate – the College Principals. Assuming that ‘Strategic Lead,’ means a seat on the panel there is one Principal involved. I would have liked to have seen more College representation.”
Despite having two student representatives neither of which were specifically representatives of colleges, something of which Fairley was critical. “As I said, I think there should have been more student representation directly form the colleges.”
However, the VP saw a victory in gaining an extra student space on the review panel and hopes this is this is evident in the recommendations set to be put forward. “If we had had the one student representative I think the process would have been difficult. Because in that room I think Laura and I worked very well as a team in terms of making arguments on behalf of students and I think it would have been a very daunting prospect for one person to have done that on their own and to have been successful in making the arguments.”
Moreover, Fairley largely saw the process as a positive one despite early apprehension. “Coming from a college background myself, I was always extremely skeptical about any time the University would say ‘let’s talk about the colleges’, but I would say what was really apparent throughout this review was that there was a very clear focus on, how could we improve the collegiate experience at Lancaster and how could we ensure that it is working for the best interests of students and how we can make sure the students have the very best experience they can here.
“Colleges obviously make a massive part of the student experience so I do think it is right that the University looked at it and I think there are some interesting recommendations that will go to Council that could have a real impact on that student experience.”
The process revealed the University’s intention to look into and review the organisation, resources, roles, systems and processes in the Colleges required to support the University’s Student Experience objectives and ambitions as outlined in the 2020 strategy. The panel achieved this by calling in small groups of staff from various areas, such as careers, and asking them from the standpoint of their role asking them how they think the colleges function, areas of improvement, how they could operate to support other functions.
In light of the process, Fairley told SCAN that despite some positive results the review process was not as productive as it could have potentially been. “At points we were having a really positive discussion about colleges and a lot of people were saying how great colleges are, and absolutely they are, but I feel that wasn’t always feeding into what we were there to discuss. It could have been more focussed.”
The review is ongoing and recommendations made will not be affirmed policy. The findings and recommendations of the review will be discussed at Union Council on Friday Week 3, and SCAN will keep students updated on the report.