Forty years ago this month I was starting the second year of my course but the third year of my studies at college in London. The numerate reader will calculate from this that I had failed a year – in fact my first year.
It was my first time in London, fresh from the depths of the Norfolk countryside. I was the only student that had ever taken ‘A’ Levels from my village or gone to university but in the final year at school and in the first year at London my tutoring had been very poor and the new degree course had not been properly resourced.
In 1968 students were normally not represented on school or university committees. Aggrieved by two years of inadequate support, I joined the national student movement which was then campaigning for an end to the Vietnam war and later became active in demanding a student voice and representation on university committees. The then leader of the NUS was none other than Jack Straw, now Minister for Justice, and two years later, in the heat of the campaign, Margaret Thatcher became Minister for Education.
Student representation was hard won but it is a right which we exercise fully at the University of Lincoln. At every level of the university’s work, from course, through Student Council and Academic Board to the Board of Governors, students are represented and their views respected and valued. I have no doubt that this level of engagement has resulted in high levels of student satisfaction in the National Student Survey and a commendation to the Students’ Union for their submission to the review by the Quality Assurance Agency (the universities’ equivalent to OFSTED), earlier in the year.
At Lincoln we regard students as partners in learning – producers rather than consumers. It is a philosophy which goes beyond a notion of simple representation but is more about a culture of mutual respect and shared ambition for the individual and for the university.
And it is also about freedom of expression. Hence ‘The Linc’ student newspaper, which through the course of this year will no doubt publish articles which will challenge the university – all strength to it.
By Professor David Chiddick
The Vice Chancellor of the University of Lincoln