Reflections of the Reform
The Role of QU Students in University Governance
Reflections for the Future
Published in the Qatar University Reform Journal TAWSOL, June 2007.
In modern terms “governance” has come to mean the way in which an organization conducts its business and addresses the issues of its key players. Good governance ensures that various members within an organization relate to one another in a positive and effective manner supported by mechanisms that empower them to express concerns.2 On the university level, governance refers to the various ways academic institutions make decisions both internally and in relation to their external constituents. Traditionally, the universities have broadly based organizational systems which allow the various members of the community to participate in decision making. This includes faculty, staff, and students. This article will explore the scope, process, and effects of student participation in university governance, as well as make suggestions for further expansion of the current positions available to students.
The role of students in any academic community is a complex and intricate one based on many factors such as institutional size, mission, and values. What cannot be denied, however, at any educational institution is that students are at the center of what any school does. This point may seem self-evident, but often administrators spend a lot of time talking about students, making plans, arranging schedules, designing policies, without ever actually involving students themselves.
Happily, this is not the case at Qatar University. Students are involved in university governance both at the college level as well as university-wide. There are student representatives on committees such as the College of Business and Economics. There are also male and female student representatives on university wide committees such as the Student Affairs Committee and the Financial Aid Committee. If one is suspicious that this involvement is on a surface level only, talking to the students directly reveals that they not only take their committee responsibilities seriously but that these experiences are contributing significantly to their overall development. Student participation in university governance is indispensable both for the university’s ability to incorporate student perspective in policymaking and enforcement as well as for students themselves to hone their group decision making skills through participation. Student committee members through their consistent attendance and contributions to committee meetings, evidence a commitment to the overall goals of the university and its long-term interests. The inclusion of students on committees such as Student Affairs and Financial Aid allows administrators, faculty, and
staff opportunities to consult with students towards making more informed decisions.
Students Talk about Their Committee Experiences
After talking with several student representatives3 who serve on various university committees, it quickly became clear that they saw their participation as having both personal and larger benefits. Among the personal development benefits that students cited included feeling that their opinions were valued, respected, and taken into consideration by the administrators.