The establishment of student council plays an integral and important role in the student community. Student councils provide a representative structure through which students can debate issues of concern and undertake initiatives of benefit to the college and the wider community.
Students have a voice and a contribution to make to their college. It is important that they are given the opportunity to express their views on issues of concern to them in the college. It is equally important that they are listened to and encouraged to take an active part in promoting the aims and objectives of the college.
The guidelines mentioned in this manual are intended to provide practical guidance to student council members in the establishment and operation of the student council.
What is Student Council?
A Student Council is a representative structure through which students in the college can become involved in the affairs of the college, working in partnership with the management, staff and students for the benefit of the college and its students.
Why have a Student Council?
The Student Council is an increasingly common feature in many colleges and has worked to the benefit of the institutes. Students have a valuable contribution to make to the betterment of their college and their involvement in the operation of the college is itself a valuable part of the education process for the students. A Student Council provides an opportunity for students to engage in a structured partnership with teachers, students and management in the operation of their college. Research indicates that Student Councils can improve academic standards and reduce dropout rates in colleges. Student Council can create a sense of ownership of the college and its activities among the student population.
The establishment of a Student Council gives students an opportunity to acquire the sort of communication, planning and organisational skills which will be of benefit of them in their future lives. It enables students to take responsibility for projects and to demonstrate that they can manage and bring such projects to a successful conclusion. Moreover, the contribution made by a Student Council to the development of the college policy in a number of areas can have significant benefits for students and the college. College policies are far more likely to be successful where they are clearly understood and accepted by all partners within the community. At the end of the day, a Student Council will thrive only if students themselves are committed to the concept and to making it work.
The role of the Student Council
A Student Council will set its own objectives. Some general objectives could include
- To enhance communication between students, management and staff.
- To promote an environment conducive to educational and personal development
- To promote friendship and respect among pupils
- To support the management and staff in the development of the college
- To represent the views of the students on matters of general concern to them.
A Student Council will identify activities that it would like to be involved in organising, although the final decision on the activities of a Student Council should be agreed with college management. A Student Council should not through its activities interfere with or detract from, the authority of college management or the teaching staff of the college. It is therefore not a function of a Student Council to discuss or comment on matters relating to the employment or professional affairs of the Principal, teachers and other staff of the college, or to become involved in any issues that fall within their professional competence.
The Student Council and the Management
The college shall establish and maintain procedures for the purpose of informing about the activities in the college.
The college shall encourage and help students to set up a Student Council and shall assist a Student Council when established.
The college shall draw up rules for the establishment of a Student Council which shall provide for the selection of members and the dissolution of a Council.
The college will have a role in considering the rules governing meetings of the Student Council, and the conduct of its affairs.
Management will give active support to the student council. This could involve designating a student advisor in the college to communicate with the Council on an ongoing basis, as well as assisting the Council in drawing up a constitution and in planning and organising its activities.
The Student Council and the Principal
The role of the Principal is of central importance in the establishment and operation of a Student Council. In Assisting the Management in the development of college policy, and in working with teachers and to implement it at the day-to-day level, the principal is centrally placed in all aspects of the college’s operations.
In the initial stages, the Principal, together with the other teachers, will assist in the development of a Student Council in several ways, for example, by discussing with students the role of a Student Council and the role of individual representatives on the Council and by advising on an appropriate constitution or statement of objectives. As the Council develops and begins to expand its role, the Principal will assist in guiding the Council’s development, so as to allow for a constructive and purposeful Council.
More generally, the Principal can promote a college culture which recognises the potentially valuable input that students can make, through a Student Council, into the development of the college.
The Student Council and Teachers
Development a spirit of partnership and co-operation between a Student Council and teachers has benefits for both. The Student Council can play an important role in recognising and supporting the work of teachers. Similarly, the interest and support of teachers will be of great value to a Student Council, particularly during the early stages of its development.
It is generally desirable for a member of the teaching staff to attend the meeting of the Council. The support and guidance offered by a teacher will be very useful to a Council when planning its activities, and providing for a teacher to attend Council meetings will help to build a co-operative and good working relationship between students and staff of the college.
Key functions of the Student Council
The functions and activities of a Student Council should support the aims and objectives of the Council and promote the development of the college and the welfare of its students. In planning and undertaking activities during the course of the college year, the Council should:
Work closely with the management, teachers and students, Consult regularly with students in the college, and Involve as many students as possible in the activities of the Council
There is a wide range of activities of benefit to the college community which a Student Council may wish to undertake, some of which are outlined below:
Representing the views of the Student body to the college management
This should be one of the fundamental aims of every Council. It involves talking and listening to the student body, considering their views and concerns, and discussing these with the college managements on behalf of the students.
Promoting good communications within the college
Improving communication within the college community is a shared responsibility and a Student Council can contribute to this process. Making presentations at staff meetings to keep staff informed of activities, keeping a Student Council notice-board or organizing a regular newsletter is just some way the Council can communicate with the students and staff.
Supporting the educational development and progress of students.
The Student Council can contribute to the learning environment for students in the college by, for example, setting up study groups for students in exam classes or homework clubs, or organizing lunchtime activities such as language clubs.
Assisting with induction and/or mentoring for new first-year students.
Starting college life is a challenging new experience for 1st-year students. During the mentoring programme, senior students help new students to find their feet can help their integration into the college community.
Contributing to the development of college policy.
The Student Council can actively contribute to the development of college policy in a wide range of areas such as bullying, uniform requirements, behaviour code and extra-curricular activities. The Council could form sub-committees to consider individual policy issues.
Assisting in college sporting and cultural activities.
Student Council can assist in organizing and developing sports and cultural activities within the college, including, for example, sports days and drams or musical events.
Assisting with or organizing fund-raising events for charity.
Student Councils can organize events both within the college and involving the wider community, for the purposes of raising money for designated charities.
Bridging with Student Councils in other colleges.
It may be useful for a Student Council to bridge with Student Councils in other colleges, particularly in the organization of sporting and cultural activities and when fund-raising for charity. An existing Student Council could have a useful role in helping and advising a newly formed Student Council in another college.