Australian universities are engaging students in partnership in a wide range of activities. These moves open up valuable and much needed discussions about effectively embedding student partnership in decision making across the sector. One such opportunity was the recent Students as Partners Roundtable held at the University of Tasmania on 31 January 2017 which launched Wendy Green’s Engaging Students as Partners in Global Learning Fellowship. National and international experts including Professor Mick Healey (Healey HE Consultants, UK), Professor Betty Leask (La Trobe University) and Dr Kelly Matthews (University of Queensland) explored how staff and students can work together as partners in learning and teaching.
While the focus of my fellowship extends beyond learning and teaching to embrace decision making at all levels of university activity, the learning and teaching dynamic is clearly an important and central element. Participants provided some thought provoking perspectives.
Betty Leask described the role of education as extending beyond creating economic growth and requiring active and reflective participation, and the development of understanding of the positions adopted by and needs of others in a complex global environment.
Mick Healey reflected on the transformative power of student partnership and its role as a way of doing things rather than an outcome. Mick considers “… it should be the norm, not the exception, that students are engaged as co-partners and co-designers in all university and department learning and teaching initiatives, strategies and practices.”
The skills needed for students to participate as effective partners in learning and teaching processes can be both developed and utilised more broadly in university decision making and governance. Understanding of different perspectives and the complex context in which decisions need to be made is critical to effective engagement of students as partners within processes in institutions – both in the classroom and outside. Building understanding that deep engagement with their university is an important part of student life for all students with far reaching benefits for students as individuals, universities as institutions, and society at large is critical.