Engaging student voice in strategic planning

The university recognises that its staff and students are their beating heart and need to be placed at the centre of all they do”.

Last week I attended a vibrant and energetic workshop of students aimed at gaining their ideas for my university’s future strategy.  There is a strategic planning exercise known as 2027 underway and engaging student voice is central to hearing the views of all the university community.

In order to engage the views of as many and as diverse a range of students as possible the university has enlisted the expertise of the Design innovation Research Centre.  This was the first in their series of workshops and they have just released their report for this: UTS2027 Strategy: Student Engagement Workshop Playback and Insights Report.

A snapshot from the Report:

Students’ ideas for strategy broadly fell into three themes:

  1. Connect university experience to the real world: make university experiences practical and relevant for the real world, along with developing closer ties to industry, alumni and community;
  2. University as a mentor: facilitating opportunities for personal growth and exploration within the university setting to help students find their purpose and realise their potential;
  3. University-sector interface: finding opportunities to have real impact on broader society through core university experiences as well as extra-curricular activities.

Importantly, the students expressed strongly a desire to know why the university was engaging with them and what it would do with their input.  This reflects a theme which came through all my Fellowship collaborative workshops.  Transparency and clear communication are seen to be essential elements of building the trust and respect necessary for authentic and effective student engagement by institutions across the sector.

The buzz which was immediately obvious at the workshop, and the professional approach taken by the students to the task in hand was incredibly affirming.  Well done UTS management and students.   I look forward to being involved in more university/student partnership initiatives.

Sally Varnham
2 July 2018