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In a groundbreaking move, SUMS Group celebrates the success of its one-year pilot programme, introducing student representation to its Board. Recognising the importance of aligning its mission to help universities improve performance with the interests of students, SUMS Group has strategically welcomed the student perspective within its formal decision-making processes.

As a charity and not-for-profit embedded in the higher education community it serves, the SUMS Group’s vision is to become the expert partner of choice for universities, delivering impactful and sustainable solutions through expressly designed consulting and procurement services. A key part of this mission involves ensuring that the voices of students are not only heard, but actively influence strategic direction.

The recent 2022/23 pilot initiative showcased the successful addition of a student representative into the SUMS Group Board. Lorren Harvey, at the time a University of Reading undergraduate, was appointed to this pivotal role. This innovative approach provided SUMS Group trustees with vital firsthand understanding of current student challenges, highlighting areas requiring more attention, and emphasising opportunities for service development.

Reflecting on the experience, Lorren Harvey said: “Joining the SUMS Board offered invaluable experiences for me and the SUMS Group. The chance to collaborate and share my opinions at board-level was an unmatched opportunity for someone starting out in the world of work. It’s an initiative I think more organisations in the HE sector should actively adopt. Much of what we discussed directly impacted students like me, and I could offer direct insights on real-time issues that mattered to me and my peers. This in turn allowed SUMS to gain greater understanding of the challenges facing students and be a catalyst for positive change in the sector.

Following the success of the one-year pilot, the SUMS Group is thrilled to announce that a student representative will now be a substantive role and that Sebastian Southon, a third year Reading undergraduate, has been appointed as the new Student Board Representative. Both Sebastian and Lorren joined the SUMS Group through summer internship schemes, showing the SUMS Group’s clear commitment to nurturing young talent and providing growth opportunities within the higher education landscape.

Sebastian Southon said: “I was very honoured and pleased to be invited as the student representative on the SUMS Board. I will not only have the opportunity to contribute on student related matters, but also gain insight into how the Board of an organisation operates.

The SUMS Group Board looks forward to its continued collaboration with student representatives, recognising the essential role they can play together in shaping the future of higher education for the better, and reinforcing SUMS Group’s dedication to excellence and inclusivity.

SUMS Group highly recommends that other organisations across the sector also consider adding valuable insights to their work through student representation. For support with this, or to hear more about the successful pilot, please contact sums@reading.ac.uk.

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