Glasgow's guardian of student voice raises the volume
As he walks around Glasgow Clyde College, the impact that student president Barclay McCrindle has had on the college and its inhabitants is clear from the warm way he is greeted by staff and students.
Aged 43 and a with a 24-year career in stonemasonry behind him, Mr McCrindle (pictured, right) is an unlikely student association president. But after deciding to return to education for an access to humanities course, he has thrown himself into the challenge of giving students a voice at the college, which was created through merger only last year.
And now he wants every other college to follow his lead. From the regionalisation process to ongoing curriculum reforms, the pace of change in the sector is fast and it is important that the views of students are not overlooked, he believes.
Mr McCrindle will also have to deal with a potential shake-up across the three colleges in Glasgow. According to plans revealed in TESS last week ("Glasgow colleges play musical chairs with courses"), between 2015 and 2020 Clyde and Kelvin colleges could lose a large percentage of their provision at the same time as the City of Glasgow College is increasing its offering to students in a new multimillion-pound campus.
"My fear is that the decisions become more about what staff want than what students need," Mr McCrindle said. "Students, students, students, that's what I have to make the board aware of. Hence the reason I have asked for students to be on the agenda of every board meeting. After all, it is all about them."
Mr McCrindle took up the post in January after the resignation of the college's first president, and was subsequently elected as president in his own right in May.
One of his first tasks was to implement a system of class representatives of groundbreaking proportions. In all, 598 of these individuals are now in place.
"The reps will take a bit of responsibility and treat the college more like their home," Mr McCrindle said. "We used to have a lot of smokers outside the college, but now the reps move them on and we don't have a smoking problem any more. They also help make sure there is no littering. They are simply pointing things out and picking up on things."
Managing such a large number of student representatives was not an issue, he said: "When you have the structure in place, people will simply get involved to the point they feel confident with."
The initiative has also allowed him to get to know a large number of students from whom to pick his executive team, which he wants to be as strong as possible to best promote the views of learners.
The association has built a strong relationship with the college management team and staff across its campuses. Mr McCrindle is in regular contact with principal Susan Walsh - something he feels is crucial for the success of the association.
"Unlike associations at universities, we can't be autonomous," he said. "We have to work hand in hand with college management to achieve what we need to achieve."
Staff are supportive of the initiatives Mr McCrindle and his team are introducing, including Buddy Study, a scheme where students meet in the business centre at Cardonald Campus at lunchtime and help each other with their maths work.
Within the next few weeks, it will be rolled out to the college's other two campuses and other curriculum areas.
The Glasgow Clyde College Student Association has also established itself within the wider world of further education, and has met with representatives from the Scottish Funding Council and the Glasgow Colleges Regional Board, of which Mr McCrindle is a vocal member.
"People fought to get us into the legislation and for us to be mandatory members of the board," he said. "We cannot take that lightly. Otherwise we will lose the opportunity and the student voice will be lost."