I started studying at the OCA this year and became a representative on the Student Association very soon after. At the first meeting, I was asked to write a blog post about the association. This may seem unfair, but I realise that, as an inexperienced newcomer, I am well placed to deliberate on the Student Association’s role in supporting students.
Previously the Student Association has been described as the “student voice” and “the vital bridge” between students and the OCA. Its aims are to advance and support the education of its members and students of the OCA; to represent the interests of its members; and to act as a channel of communication for students in dealing with OCA and any other relevant bodies.
What does this mean for the majority of OCA students? It is my impression that many (perhaps most) students are perfectly content to do their studies without ever considering the need for a ‘bridge’ or a ‘voice’ and without ever feeling the need to be associated with other students. But the work of the student association in supporting students should be acknowledged and applauded.
The student association receives £5 per member per year, which provides a budget of over £7,500. Approximately £3,500 is available for student led events like workshops, study visits and organizing group meetings, for example the Thames Valley group. Students can apply for these funds if they want to organize their own activities. The funding application is available on the website here. Please apply. These funds are available and will not be carried over to the next financial year.
Representatives of the Student Association meet Gareth Dent (the OCA Principal) every quarter in the ‘Student Consultative Committee’ to ensure that student concerns on issues like fees; assessment and course content are raised.
In 2013, the Student Association carried out a thorough survey of student opinions (which can be seen here). The findings identified certain needs, including:
- More support for New Students, including clearer explanations, better learning tools and easier ways to get connected with other students.
- Improved on-line learning tools for Textiles and Creative Writing Courses and better ways to help these students connect, including study visits.
- Better on-line learning materials for all courses and more Web-based collaboration.
- More support to get students, particularly Level 3 students, connected.
‘Project 2014’ proposed and delivered a number of initiatives to make life easier for students in response to the survey. Student representatives Carol Smith and Miriam Ward worked conscientiously with OCA trustees and academic staff to manage the project. Nigel Monkton’s blog (“Project 2014? Never heard of it”) describes it. “It shows the benefit of close working between the college and the student association.” It also shows that the Student Association listens to students and takes action.
As Miriam Ward, the Textile rep says: “Student representatives motivate and engender a sense of community within the student body, support the implementation of the new systems, take personal responsibility for individual technical problems and liaise with curriculum leaders on course content. Student reps make themselves available to support and assist students in many individual OCA related issues and crises.”
Whereas many students have no need to be represented or to associate, many of us need support and want to connect with each other. The volunteer student representatives play a major role in facilitating this support and communication. So, if you have issues with your course, with the materials or with the on-line environment; or if you want to connect with or meet other students; or if you have an idea for a workshop, study group or meeting please contact your Student rep. For more details see the OCASA website.
Stephanie Cussons, the Creative Arts representative, explains how and why she volunteers:
“I joined the OCASA committee because I was keen to improve communications between the College and students. I participate actively in the OCA student forums and an the Fine Arts Facebook pages, both to pick up on issues raised there and to try to help with problems.
In March, I joined other committee members and students at UCA Epsom where we were quizzed by a board concerning our study experiences. This resulted in the re-validation of the Painting degree. As well as attending committee meetings, I recently attended the first Student Consultative Committee meeting where I raised issues concerning the burden of postal costs, tutor inconsistencies and suggestions for improved resources on the OCA student site. I have designed a new OCASA logo and am currently redesigning the OCASA website.
Studying with OCA has immeasurably enriched my life and I hope that I make a contribution to further enhance the student experience. I am always available for a e-coffee in the Coffee Shop!”
Here are your Student representatives, their roles and how to contact them:
- John Umney, OCASA President, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Nigel Monckton, Vice President & representative for Photography, email@example.com
- Martin Richardson, Treasurer firstname.lastname@example.org & representative for Music, email@example.com
- Miriam Ward, Secretary & representative for Textiles, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Steve (Stephanie) Cussons, representative for Fine Art & Art History, email@example.com
- Jerry Allen, representative for Creative Writing: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Jennifer Boldt, MA Cohort representative
Jerry Allen. OCASA Representative