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Comment: The role of the Head of Studies

In this featured comment, the Student Council of Biochemistry contribute to the debate on the role of the future Head of Studies at the new merged Faculty of Science. They argue for connection and cooperation with the students as the most important assets

With the merger of the former Faculty of Life Sciences and the Faculty of Science, there is now, at the new Faculty of Science, a discussion of what the requirements of the Head of Studies should be. In this comment written by the Student Council of Biochemistry, the council explains why they think that the way their Head of Studies does his job should be taken into consideration.

In the comment, the Head of Studies’ name will remain unwritten, as the Student Council of Biochemistry argue, that his dedicated work should serve as an example to all – both familiar and unfamiliar with him.

True interest

Two years ago, at the start of a new academic year, a first year student listened carefully to the introduction speech by Head of Studies of Biochemistry. In the speech, the Head of Studies talked about what was expected of us as students and what we could expect to endure in the coming years.

However, the main point that the first year student took home from the lecture was the Head of Studies’ wish for the creation of a student council, because he strongly believed in the need of a forum where the students could discuss what the various parts of the biochemistry education should contain and how they could be improved.

This point seemed the most significant in the lecture, as it was the first time the first year student had ever experienced that an educational authority had ever shown true interest in what the students felt about their education.

Helping the students

Throughout public school and high school the student has been met with the classical »You are too young to understand this« and »We will take your comment into consideration« but never hearing anything from them again. To experience this kind of interest from the Head of Studies gave the student the drive to engage in student politics again.

While the new Student Council of Biochemistry was being formed, no matter how busy the Head of Studies was, he always found the time to guide us through the confusing world of the institution we know as the University of Copenhagen. When we needed him to make a presentation for a larger crowd of students he was very well prepared (better than us anyway). His presentations got more people interested in the Student Council of Biochemistry than any other kind of recruitment we’ve tried.

His focus was on how the Student Council could help him improve the education and prepare us for the system we were going to face. He made sure we were represented in the different governing bodies where students are invited to participate – for example in the combined student council on the former NAT-FAK, known as NAT-rådet.

A rare kind of trust

Now that the Student Council of Biochemistry had been formed, we are readily improving the education.

Our first idea was to make our own evaluation of the subjects the students had in their first two studying years. With the backing up from our Head of Studies, our evaluation has made great changes to a lot of our subjects and has improved the studying experience for future students.

When we started our most ambitious project to date, a student run homework café [a tutoring café, ed.], the Head of Studies was so excited that he showed up with cake one of the first times the café was held. After six months of operating the homework café, he invited us for lunch to discuss how we could improve this project. With the help of our Head of Studies, we got financial support from our institute for this project. This gave us the chance to hire students to do the job and be less dependant on volunteers.

Our Head of Studies helped us in respect of our desires without any objections. When we asked him to help hire the students to run this project, he dropped everything to make sure he could do it together with us, out of pure interest and care. This kind of trust is hard to find anywhere else. What is most impressive is that – taking everything into consideration – he is responsible for the success of this project.

Cooperating with students as first priority

In short, when you have a Head of Studies who is so interested in what the students have to say, helping them with the various projects they start and taking the time to think creatively on how we together can improve the studying experience for the biochemistry students.

With this help, engagement and cooperation, it is very hard not to do great things for the students. He is in other words indispensable for the Student Council of Biochemistry, and the students in general.

In this article we aren’t focusing on his teaching abilities, despite that he is one of the most popular educators in his experimental teaching methods and pure passion for biochemistry.

So we sincerely hope that when the university management are defining the role of the new Head of Studies they strongly consider the ability of the applicants to connect and cooperate with students to improve education – and not just the scientific credentials.

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