Advice from our student reps

Student reps are here to make your learning journey as enjoyable, engaging and easy as possible. Three of our student representatives got together to compile how they can help, what their role entails and why they want to make a positive contribution.

Why become a student representative?

No matter what level of learning you find yourself at, there should be a student rep there to help you.

It’s a chance for these students to be a vital link between staff and students, to ensure the learning cohort are satisfied, support is plentiful and the facilities are to the required standard.

Daniel Blanco, who came to Royal Birmingham Conservatoire from his native Spain, wanted to become a PhD student rep to “get a better understanding of how Birmingham City University works and become an active part of it".

Meanwhile, Ian Sergeant, a Midlands4Cities-funded student, enlisted in order to “address important issues and support my fellow scholars".

What is the role of the PhD student rep?

For Ian, the main role of the student representative is simple.

“We’re here to listen,” he says. “Most of the time, we know the answer to what the person is asking us – we just need to hear them out.

“I think listening has become a very valuable commodity during these recent times. It’s so important to reach out to each other and provide an outlet for support.”

Daniel feels that student reps should have also possess in-depth knowledge in order to provide better support.

“For me, you have to be a student that knows the institution, the staff, facilities and resources,” he explains. “Not only that, but also the city, its surroundings and what opportunities both of these can offer PhD students.”

Making life easier – for present and future students

Ian believes that he and his fellow student reps are here to make life easier for both current and future PhD students.

“We make every effort to ensure our cohort, both present and future, are able to focus on their research and know that – if they need us – we’re here to help,” he explains.

Sally Bailey, based in the Birmingham School of Art, agrees. “It’s not just support for PhD students, it’s about enhancing the learning experience for current and future researchers.

“We’re here to look at the wider picture and create a community for postgraduate researchers.”

Providing support for PhD students

Daniel advises new researchers to reach out to their peers and begin forming friendships.

“Contact people and become a part of different research groups,” he explains. “Have amazing discussions. Share wacky ideas. Be creative and innovative, and make plans for future projects.”

There are a number of groups that PhD students can join, including the PGR Studio, the PGR Net Facebook group and The Brilliant Club, which sees researchers hone their skills and teach their work to schoolchildren.

All of the above groups include current PhD and doctorate students, and Sally believes it’s vital you contact those with more experience to help your own research journey.

“Make sure you talk to current researchers and get plenty of advice,” she says. “Everybody has a different experience, but it’s not something you have to do on your own.

“Also, take time to talk to potential supervisors – a good supervisory team is key to doing well.”

Fostering real change

Ian believes that now, more than ever, we need PhD students to help introduce real change.

“Come with an open mind” Ian says. “It’s important to have people who are able to see the world differently, ask difficult questions and make things better.”

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