Filip Axelsson - Authorfilip.firstname.lastname@example.org
Roisin Callaghan - Illustratorroisin.email@example.com
Whether you are new at KTH or have studied here for years — you have probably experienced that one course where nothing seemed to work. From lectures that can put the most caffeinated student to sleep, to course information with no apparent structure, to the exam where the questions seemed to have nothing to do with the rest of the course; it can sometimes feel like you are powerless in the face of bad quality education. The wonderful thing about KTH? You can do something about it!
KTH does feel like a big and inscrutable machine sometimes. Can a single student really have an impact on an organization so large? The answer is yes! But depending on the kind of issue that you want to affect, there are different ways to go about it.
In Sweden we as students have the right to influence our education. This applies to both individuals and groups. The participants in a course have the right to influence the course, the students attending a study program have the right to influence the program and so on. At the central level, there are student representatives that influence the entirety of KTH and all education across the university.
But let’s start at the course level. Each course has student representatives that form a course committee (swedish: kursnämnd). They can talk to the teacher and examiner about issues in the course, great if you as a course participant don’t feel comfortable with talking to the teacher yourself (although walking up to the teacher during a break and giving feedback is very much allowed). The course committee usually has a meeting during the course, meaning that issues can sometimes be resolved before the course is finished. Another way to impact the way a course is run is by leaving feedback afterwards in the course evaluation form that is sent out. Check your email at the beginning of the next period!
Most KTH-students attend a program and here we need to make a slight detour to how THS, the student union at KTH, works. THS has the responsibility to appoint and manage student representatives across KTH. Each program belongs to a chapter at THS. If you study applied mathematics like I do then you belong to the Physics chapter (F); if you study civil engineering you belong to the Civil engineering chapter (S) and so on.
Each chapter has a study board (swedish: studienämnd) that organizes the student representation for the programs assigned to them. How it works exactly depends on the chapter but most have student representatives for the bachelor programs and specific ones for master programs. You will hear fun acronyms such as SNO (Study board president), PAS (Program responsible student) and MAS (Master responsible student). Being elected to one of these positions of trust is the best way to have a personal impact on one of the programs of KTH.
I talked to a few students that have been active in study boards at different chapters about their experiences and what study boards do. The Study board president of the CL chapter Moa Wettby gave a good summary of what a study board does: “We work for the students and serve as a link between students and teachers, administration, et cetera. A significant area for us is educational development, where we present students' perspectives during dialogues with those responsible for courses or programs and follow up on courses that have recurring issues.” She also spoke about the other major goal of the study boards: “We also work to foster a sense of community among our students by organizing meet-ups and study activities.”
Emil Vik, the former Study board president of the TT chapter, told me about a time that the Study board had a real impact: "An example where we were able to influence the education was a course that had only a 15% pass rate for newly enrolled students. We approached the ITM School and explained the issues, and through a dialogue, we managed to implement changes in the exam score thresholds to increase the pass rate."
Just being a member of the student union contributes to the collective impact that all students at KTH have. THS represents all students at KTH but having so many members gives backing to the students representatives. The heart of student influence at KTH is the Student advocacy unit (Påverkansenheten) at THS. There are four students working full time and their impact can be huge. Recently THS managed to convince KTH to start implementing anonymous exams, something the students have wanted for many years.
In conclusion: there are many ways to have an impact on the education at KTH. We have a unique right to influence our courses and programs and we should exercise that right. So take the chance, go out there and make your voice heard!
Four steps to impact your education
1. Join the course committee
According to the rules of KTH, every course should have a Course committee (kursnämnd). The Course committee meets with the teachers of the course to discuss how the course is progressing and what can be improved during the course. If there already is a Course committee, then you can ask them to forward your feedback.
2. Fill in the course evaluation form
After each course the teacher will send out a course evaluation where you can give feedback on the course. This will help future participants and teachers are required to present the changes that they made to the course the next time it is given.
3. Talk to the study board for your program
Each program belongs to a chapter of THS and they each have a Study board who are in regular contact with the program director and teachers. They represent all students at the program and can help you if you have issues in your education. The study boards are also open to join, either by getting a position of trust or by just helping out.
4. Become a THS member
Joining THS means that you support the student advocacy work that both the chapters and THS central does. Together we are strong!