A bespoke training programme for effective student representation


  1. Vaccari E
  2. Huneke N
  3. Franklin H
  4. Patel L


Student as teacher


University of Manchester


Manchester Medical School (MMS) is among the largest in the UK with over 2300 students spread across five sites. Student representation was restructured in 2010-11 with the addition of programme representatives. Their responsibilities include leading the team of student reps, representing the student body at executive meetings within the medical school, and feeding back the results of the representatives' work to the student body. In addition, a number of regular meetings were set up to facilitate communication between the various student representatives and members of staff.

It was recognised that a tailored training programme would help representatives adapt quickly to the complex structure, enabling them to better fulfil their roles.

Summary of Work

The content of the training was designed through discussions with student representatives, academic staff and senior administrators. The training was delivered jointly by staff and outgoing student representatives through four interactive evening sessions. 

General aims:

  • Familiarise representatives with their specific roles as well as those of staff, the school and the university
  • Provide an opportunity for the representatives to meet and start thinking of themselves as a team
  • Equip student representatives with the skills necessary to work successfully from day one

The training programme was evaluated through an anonymous feedback form distributed to participants of sessions 2, 3 and 4. The form included two Likert style questions on usefulness and enjoyability of the sessions and two open questions asking for the best aspects of the session and for areas in need of improvement.

Summary of Results
  • 25 feedback forms were returned from Session 2 (86% response rate), 24 from Session 3 (83% response rate) and 1 from Session 4 (5% response rate).
  • The sessions were more useful for new student representatives. Eighty-nine percent of new representatives rated session 2 as extremely or quite useful, compared with 67% of re-elected representatives. All participants rated Session 3 as extremely or quite useful, but more new representatives found it extremely useful (47% vs 14%).
  • The participants enjoyed the sessions. None rated them as not very or not at all enjoyable.

Within the two sessions, the most highly rated component was the scenario based workshop. In addition, student representatives found the explanations of their role within the representation system very useful and some would have liked more time spent on this. Finally, the opportunity to meet the other student representatives was recognised and rated highly, with 21 of 25 responders stating this as one of the best aspects of Session 2.

The single response we received from session 4 rated the session as very enjoyable and very useful. In particular, the questionnaire building workshop was mentioned as one of the best aspects of the session. This should be viewed as an individual's opinion rather than a general evaluation of the session.

Areas of improvement identified were timekeeping and making presentations more interactive. The feedback was used to improve the following year’s training.

Student representatives have since demonstrated exceptional team working and leadership skills through a range of innovative projects such as a student-led award for the excellent teacher, the production of a rep handbook and other projects. Their contributions are consistently commended by staff.


MMS’ new training programme has enabled student representatives to contribute effectively from early in their role and to develop as leaders and team workers. In a large medical school, an effective student representation system is necessarily complex. A bespoke training programme is vital for the system to work well.

Large medical schools should provide specific training to allow their student representatives to achieve their full potential.

Take-home Messages
  • A specific training programme can help student representatives to perform to their full potential.
  • Ensure the sessions are interactive, fun and informative.
  • Use the training programme to build up to the first working meeting between representatives.

We would like to thank the members of staff who have contributed to this training programme and the student representatives, who, over the years, have added to the programme through their comments and feedback. 

Summary of Work
Summary of Results
Take-home Messages
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