SAR toolkit

The toolkit we are creating includes a section on student academic representation. This student representative opportunity can begin at course, year or subject level (as appropriate to the course of study students are engaged in). Such a system is seen as having huge value not only in giving a wide number and range of students the opportunity to have a voice in enhancement of quality and their student experience, but importantly also in developing a broad base of students with the experience, ability and confidence to progress through to faculty and university committees and senior governance roles. It provides opportunity for many students to participate in a capacity closely matched with their level of experience and to develop skills in representing fellow students.

The toolkit includes examples around SAR from the symposium initiative sharing session. The first was provided by NZUSA and VUWSA. New Zealand universities, and now some polytechnics, operate a system of course representation which involves having a representative in every class to improve the learning experience for current as well as for future students. Reps provide feedback regarding their own experience as a learner and the experiences of their peers. They are also invited to comment on, and provide input to, proposed changes.

At the University of South Australia, the Academic Student Representative (ASR) Program operates within the Division of Education, Arts and Social Sciences (this provided a Case Study for my OLT project reported on my website). This program operates at the year level to assist with improving the quality and experience of learning and the teaching within the Division as well as helping to improve extracurricular experience. The role may also include attending School Board and Divisional Teaching and Learning meetings and non-academic engagement with Campus USASA Representatives and the Student Engagement Officer to discuss ideas for club and student engagement activities.

These are just two examples of how engagement at the SAR level can be put into effect. There is now a body of evidence from sectors abroad of the value for all in such a system (see…/).

Sally Varnham
4 December 2017

Creating a student partnership agreement

Last week I talked about the toolkit we are developing as one of the deliverables for my Fellowship. This week I want to continue with that topic.

An important area of focus is the development of student partnership agreements. Their value is highlighted by Eve Lewis, Director of sparqs:

“We believe that Student Partnership Agreements will be a useful tool for institutions and students’ associations alike. They are a practical way in which to talk to the student body as a whole not only about what enhancement activity is taking place, but also about how they can get involved in it. This is an important step in helping students to help shape the quality of their education.”

Sparqs has published guidance for development of Student Partnership Agreements in different types of tertiary institutions:
Guidance on the development and implementation of a Student Partnership Agreement in universities

Guidance for the development and implementation of a Student Partnership Agreement in colleges

Although written for a Scottish context they contain many useful ideas and templates that can be used in creating agreements within Australian institutions. There is at least one Australian university that has utilised the sparqs approach and their story featured in the initiative sharing session at the 2017 symposium for my Fellowship.

The ANU Academic Board has endorsed a Student Partnership Agreement developed between the Presidents of their undergraduate and postgraduate student associations, ANUSA and PARSA respectively, and the Pro Vice-Chancellor (University Experience). It was drafted through consultation between the student body, the two Student Associations and the University.

The Student Partnership Agreement consists of two components. Part A outlines the Academic Board’s commitment to working with students as partners to improve the university experience. Part B outlines initiatives that will enhance student engagement. The Chair, Academic Board, Pro Vice-Chancellor (University Experience) and Student Representatives will meet annually to review the Student Partnership Agreement and initiatives.

The ANU agreement provides an inspiring example of what can be achieved in a relatively short timeframe.

Sally Varnham
27 November 2017


One of the deliverables from my Fellowship is a toolkit that aims to provide you with ideas, hints and resources that may be of assistance in your journey to embed student partnership at your institution. It brings together insights from institutions in Australia that are doing good things with respect to partnering with their students in decision making processes. The Australian examples we draw on were featured during the initiative sharing session at the final symposium for my Fellowship.

In places the toolkit refers to the good work being done by organisations such as sparqs that are further along the road to student partnership and have developed excellent tools that you will find useful. Some of those tools are also mentioned in the Australian examples included in the toolkit.

The key aspects of student partnership that feature in the toolkit include building partnership. Building partnership with students is a challenge for institutions as this may require a culture shift amongst at least some of the institution’s stakeholders.

Developing student partnership in an institution takes time. Time is needed to build trust and common understanding and to address concerns that stakeholders may have around what student partnership means in practice.

Nonetheless institutions are embracing this challenge. The toolkit provides examples of Australian institutions that are doing just that. One example, the Student Partnership Agreement, is from the Australian National University, and I will discuss this further in my next blog.

Another example of a key student partnership initiative is that of the University of South Australia. It has developed a Student Engagement Framework to provide an enhanced student experience and increased student engagement across the University. This involved extensive consultation with staff, students, alumni and industry partners. Student Project Support Officers are working on a range of projects in collaboration with staff in the delivery of an enhanced student experience.

Queensland University of Technology have also been developing student partnership processes.

Pilot projects saw staff and students working together to re-imagine curriculum. Their goal is to embed student partnership across the institution, while encouraging approaches that will complement individual discipline’s cultures. An interdisciplinary Working Party of staff and students was formed to guide implementation across the Institution. The Think Tank-Academic Governance (TTAG) has also been established to improve the way students engage in academic governance at QUT. The Think Tank members include students in representative roles on Committees and Boards, other students who are not in formal representative roles, and professional and Academic staff representing the co-curricular space, faculties and the Learning and Teaching Unit.

The QUT examples highlight the need for flexibility. Clearly a one size fits all approach won’t work. Nonetheless student partnership remains relevant no matter how students engage in learning. Students have a right to participate in shaping their experience and they have much to offer.

Sally Varnham
20 November 2017

Should institutions review their student engagement?

All institutions are involving their students in decision making processes in various ways and to varying degrees. Would it be useful now for them to ask themselves critical questions around where and how they are engaging their students? Sectors overseas have seen this to be a valuable step as institutions and their student cohorts progress towards student partnership.

During my OLT project we saw examples where institutions lacked an overview of where their students were involved in decision making. Institutional websites with difficult to navigate information about opportunities for engagement are a part of that story. Inconsistencies between survey responses and anecdotal evidence of engagement provided to me at conferences and supported by subsequent follow-up told another part of the story. It is clear that lots of people are doing good things but it is a shame that the message isn’t permeating as thoroughly as it could.

The other side of this dilemma is the question of how students are engaged and there is plenty of evidence that institutions often still see ex post facto consultative models as engagement.

Although it requires an investment of time a good starting point on the road to effective and sustainable partnership for institutions is to examine where and how they are engaging students through a review or audit process. It would be useful to ask all members of institutions where and how they believe students are engaged in their decision-making whether academic or otherwise. That input could then be compared with documentary evidence in policies, websites, statutory instruments. Parameters that could be considered include the number of students engaged, how they are recruited, the duration of their engagement, how they are expected to interface with other institutional stakeholders in the process, what training and support they receive and how successful that engagement is. On the question of success, measures such as students turning up, actively participating and following through on assigned tasks (if there are any) are useful.

Simply sending out a survey is not enough although it is a start. Surveys are typically plagued by poor response rates. It would be of more use to delve deeper and to prioritise this activity as not just another piece of busy work. The time commitment per individual should not be significant but gaining comprehensive feedback would be. Opportunities such as student flash pizza sessions (to borrow from our friends in Adelaide) provide a good way to gather evidence. Brainstorming sessions during faculty, division or school meetings are another.

Armed with this information institutions could start to map how they are interacting with their students and where the gaps are. A picture would form of styles of engagement and where attempts at engagement are not working. This would open channels for a dialogue around how things can be done better.

Opportunities to consider how student engagement is communicated arise and again gaps can be identified. Institutions would also benefit from turning the spotlight on innovative and effective practices occurring in their midst that may have gone largely unnoticed.

The opportunities for improvement, removing ineffective and time-wasting processes and replacing them with more effective options, learning from one another and above all enhancing student experience would I believe make the investment in this process well worthwhile.

Finally, although I have expressed this process from an institutional perspective ideally the process of reviewing student engagement should be carried out as a partnership between all stakeholders ensuring that the process is robust and respected.

Sally Varnham
13 November 2017

Architects of their experience- what the report found and what it means for us – Student Academic Representative systems (SARs)

In last week’s blog, I briefly mentioned the recent report Flint, A., Goddard, H. and Russell, E. (2017) Architects of their experience: the role, value and impact of student representation systems in Higher Education in England, TSEP,…/. This week I want to share with you an overview of some of the key points made in that report and what it means for us here in Australia. While the tertiary education sector of each country has its own special unique character, it is important that we learn from the experience of others. The overall message of this research is that the engagement of student voice is of value to providers, to students and to higher education as a whole. It does however recognise the challenges in implementation of processes for authentic student engagement and offers suggestions from which are useful. The report was published by The Student Engagement Partnership (TSEP), a partnership of the National Union of Students, the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA), the Higher Education Academy and the funding council HEFCE (about to become the Office for Students). This group champions and develops student engagement practice in the English higher education sector. The research was undertaken by a team led by Abbi Flint, an independent educational developer and researcher who is a Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy with specialist interest and experience in student engagement and partnership.

The research was born out of TSEP ‘s recognition of the importance of student representation in quality enhancement and learning and teaching and the absence of current analysis of English student representation systems. TSEP promotes the view that “the continued success of representation systems is rooted in collaboration between the provider and their student body”. The report analyses a limited qualitative research study exploring how higher education providers and their students’ associations perceive the role, value and impact of their student academic representation (SAR) systems.

What does Student Academic Representation (SAR) look like?
There is no universal model in England- both strategy and operation are diverse ‘… it is adaptable and flexible to different contexts and organisational cultures’. Important influences are the culture and ethos of the institution and students’ association, other organisational factors, individual perspectives and external drivers including institutional reputation and changing national policy. In short it is a system that exists in a complex landscape with many demands impinging on how it operates. Many of those demands resonate with experience here in Australia.

SAR tends to be framed in the broader context of student engagement and voice, with a common purpose around enabling student perspectives to be gathered, listened to, and to inform enhancement and educational change. SAR continues to be valued highly with potential benefits for multiple stakeholders and is perceived to influence change in academic and wider aspects of the student experience. However, there are also common challenges and areas that provide opportunity for future development, and there are numerous local developments underway to ensure that SAR remains relevant and effective in the changing context of HE in England.

Where student voice has traditionally rested on consultation (which is often the case in Australia) there are challenges for institutions in implementing a partnership model. For some the effective exercise of SAR may be impeded by the reality or perception of power imbalances between institutions and student bodies, and by institutional culture. It was seen that there is still a need to build support for and engagement with SAR as a partnership model and for developing strong working relationships between institution, staff, student bodies and student associations is seen as critical to success.

Responsibility for the development of SAR systems tends to lie with students’ associations though often it may in reality be shared with their institutions Training tends to be led by students’ associations. Roles in recruitment and selection processes for representatives vary. Joint activities typically include: promoting SAR, collaboratively acting on issues raised through SAR, recruitment and selection, and developing shared strategic visions and documents relating to student engagement and representation.

The articulated purpose of SAR varied with interviewees. Generally it included dealing with academic matters such as quality, curriculum design, development, validity and delivery, and wider student experience issues. A key question was whether the SAR operates mainly to provide feedback on current experiences, or whether it is permitted to have a more proactive role in areas such as curriculum and course development. Student voice towards quality assurance and quality enhancement was a common element of how SAR was defined and articulated.

While this purpose may vary across disciplines, faculties and campuses essentially it is seen as being integral to gathering student voice, to feeding into discussions and developments, and as part of decision-making processes.

More could be done to clarify and communicate the overarching shared role of SAR as a system:
Without a clearly articulated purpose for SAR, there can be misunderstandings and a lack of clarity around the role of individual student representatives and how they work with provider staff at the local level’.

The report questions where the boundaries of SAR lie, and what activities could be legitimately included in the definition of ‘representation’ (a matter which was discussed extensively during my collaborative workshop program).

Many participants recognised the inclusivity of SAR as a challenge, in the context of the changing nature of the student body and modes of study, and were thinking about how to address this (in some cases collaboratively)’. Among the challenges there were those relating to student demographics, for example student groups with limited campus contact.

Staff engagement with SAR is essential and currently varies according to their attitudes to and understanding of the system and its value. Factors identified included pressures on staff time and resources, and difficulties in accepting student views which were uncomfortable. Student representation is perceived to be strongest where there is a positive commitment from staff (at all levels) to the SAR process and generally to wide student engagement in the institution. The Report reinforces the importance for staff to be supported, resourced and trained to work with SAR systems (also discussed extensively in my workshops and during my dissemination activities).

Students’ perceptions of SAR were also seen to be challenging: how to encourage students to appreciate they could become representatives, for them to know how or with whom to raise issues, and for existing representatives to see their role in the context of the wider work of the students’ association.

There was also the view that operation of SAR through institutional structures and mechanisms can be problematic in creating power imbalances and a lack of flexibility in promoting student representative participation. Participants reported exploring more informal and interactive models of engagement.

These findings reinforce our view of the huge importance of training and support for both students and staff.

Training for representatives
Training was identified as an area where work needs to be done to ensure that it is delivered effectively to student representatives and that the content delivered is addressing student representative needs. This includes differentiating the training for representatives in more senior roles.

The value and impact of SAR
This area is obviously of most importance to the sector in Australia as we work towards facilitating sustaining student partnership models. The research found that SAR has benefits for institutions through ‘contributing an alternative perspective to ensure the currency and relevance of the offer to students’ and keeping ‘the student perspective at the centre of what the provider does’. It is also seen as an opportunity for sharing practice between disciplines and as having value to the culture and community of an institution.

SAR benefits individual student representatives through personal and professional development, and students’ unions through building reputation and credibility with the provider leading to political benefits. SAR should also benefit the wider student population and there are also developmental benefits to individual provider staff.

SAR was reported to drive and inform change in diverse aspects of academic delivery and quality including teaching quality; module and assessment design; responding to course survey feedback; influencing plans for course moves, closures, and redesigns; influencing changes in module selection processes; changes to the academic framework and timetable; input into specific learning and teaching projects; and informing Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) submissions.

What this means for us
The importance of this research is the value it places on the exercise of student voice through student representative systems. Of equal importance is learning from the challenges the research identifies and the responses it suggests.

The strongest lesson is the importance of building relationships and embedding an ethos of partnership, and supporting all participants within the system. Partnership models that seek to address power imbalances are essential.

It is important to recognise that student representative systems are neither static nor can they be uniform across our diverse tertiary education sector. They need to be adapted to institutional context and to a changing landscape.

This research is both timely and encouraging.

Sally Varnham
6 November 2017

The fate lies with funding

As I mentioned in last week’s blog, the challenge for the Australian tertiary education sector in advancing and embedding student partnership is largely a matter of funding. My work has uncovered a considerable commitment in individual institutions which needs to be supported nationally.

When we look at the initiatives that took place in the UK, a lot of activity was driven from the quality agenda and there was buy-in from sector associations and agencies. For the most part it seems those agencies and associations had access to funding that made it possible for them to implement programs directed at advancing student partnership. The moves were also driven to a large extent by national student organisations. While a lot of the activity was around training student representatives it was necessary for institutions at the same time to develop their own practices to permit meaningful engagement with trained student representatives. These representatives were ready, eager and able to engage in partnership leading to a more sophisticated interaction with decision making and evaluative processes. As a result, the agenda has widened and the range of activities has expanded with it. There has also been opportunity to reflect on how the UK sector is progressing with student representative training. The recent report Flint et al (2017), provides insights into what has been achieved, what has been learnt and challenges that still need to be addressed. There is also a short blog reflecting on some of the findings available at:

The Australian sector is of course much smaller than the UK higher education sector. Consequently, the various agencies and associations command much smaller budgets than their UK counterparts which in turn may lessen the likelihood that funding can be spared for student partnership programs.

In the absence of a suitable funding source, the way forward through training and support programs may well end up being one of user pays, where willing institutions and associations participate in such a program that will be to their benefit but at the same time will serve to develop student partnership in Australia. A measure of altruism may be needed to resource the necessary support services that will provide and facilitate this program. It is important that institutions see the benefit to be gained through the enhancement of the quality of their courses and the experience they provide for their students.

Consequently, there could be a ‘snowball’ effect with institutions joining other institutions, agencies and associations to contribute to programs for student training and support. In turn these programs may be able to generate some modest funding of their own through hosting events such as seminars, workshops and symposia.

It would be a great shame for the will and expertise within the sector not to be further developed and shared. Consequently, we really need to explore how best to structure our next steps for funding sustainable student partnership.

Students and their representative bodies of course are critical to this process and need to be front and centre in driving this forward. For that reason, perhaps one of the most important steps forward will lie in ensuring that national student associations have access to permanent staffing with responsibility for sustaining this agenda.

Flint, A., Goddard, H. and Russell, E. (2017) Architects of their experience: the role, value and impact of student representation systems in Higher Education in England, TSEP,…/

See also sparqs (March 2017) Celebrating Achievement

Sally Varnham
30 October 2017

Reflections on Australian universities and embedding student partnership

The 2013 Newman Lecture delivered by Glyn Davis at Monash University’s Mannix College provides an important reminder as to the history of Australian universities. Titled The Australian idea of a university, the lecture traces the origins of Australia’s universities and the philosophical debate that preceded them regarding purpose and culture. The result was that Australia’s universities in their early days presented a hybrid persona drawing from English, Scottish and Irish traditions, eventually also recognising the German research promoting ethos.

It could be argued that today those origins have been surpassed by global influences and the market demands of which Glyn Davis also spoke in his lecture. Nonetheless it is important to recognise that even as universities globally become more similar to one another, Australian universities are still diverse and unique with some significant differences to universities such as those which make up the English, Scottish and Irish sectors. At the same time, there are sufficient similarities for comparisons to be drawn. The same may be said for student representation here which has differences in its history from other parts of the Commonwealth and from other parts of the world.

Throughout my student voice project and Fellowship, I have looked to the experiences of the UK sectors and others who are more advanced in student partnership. They provide insights and expertise on how it can develop in Australia. Many Australian universities have benefitted from institution personnel from overseas joining their ranks and bringing with them their experiences of student partnership. This was reflected in the range of activities I encountered during my Australian research. I have seen a national community ready and willing to share information and expertise to assist others in promoting student partnership.

So, as we move forward with endeavours to embed student partnership across the Australian tertiary education sector it is important to bear in mind the uniquely Australian aspects of our sector as well as its diversity. These factors will play a significant role in how we adapt what we know to the Australian landscape. We start from a position where funding to progress student partnership must be found. We start without government agencies with a clear mandate to progress student partnership. We start with the various national student representative bodies showing a clear interest and enthusiasm for working together to promote student partnership, but we need to focus on the resources needed to allow them to make it happen. We start from a position where it seems that, rather than a national approach as elsewhere, the best road to buy in from institutions is one at a time.

We are driven by the body of evidence from abroad showing clear benefits of authentic student partnership for sectors, for institutions and for students. We are heartened by the evidence developing also from initiatives underway in individual institutions here. So, while acknowledging the differences in the Australian sector, particularly the lack of a national approach as yet, there are many signs that student partnership is progressing here. Importantly we are seeing a will in institutions across the sector to make it happen.

Sally Varnham
24 October 2017

Walking the talk

I haven’t blogged for a couple of weeks but student partnership has remained high on my priorities as we work towards finalising my fellowship and ensuring there is a path forward for student partnership in Australia.

This year has provided some truly inspiring opportunities. It has been really heartening to see the quality of student leadership at the national level and to have the opportunity to work with these amazing young men and women. At the institutional level, again there have been some fabulous student leaders that I have had the pleasure of working with. It has also been impressive to see the number of Australian tertiary institutions that have student partnership programs up and running or who are working hard at developing them. The sizable group of initiatives presented at my recent symposium bore testament to that. There is a dedicated cohort of staff working in the student engagement space both in institutions and their student associations to make this happen. My aim is to ensure that they receive assistance and support in terms of resources and training. Congratulations to ANU, I believe the first university in Australia to work with their student leaders to develop a Student Partnership Agreement. Also to TEQSA who have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding for partnership with students in their processes.

Collaborating with our colleagues in Scotland, England, Ireland and close to home in New Zealand provides great insights. Recently we sent Sophie Johnston, the current President of NUS, to attend the New Zealand student voice summit for student leaders and to bring back ideas for what can be done here. This summit is held annually as a collaboration between their Academic Quality Agency and the New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations. The focus is on the professionalism of student leaders and student representatives in terms of knowledge transfer from current to new officers following national and university elections. To my mind to institute a similar event in Australia would go a long way towards addressing the issue of transient student leaders and student representatives and would help to create similar opportunities for student leaders to develop processes for succession to build experience and expertise here.

All in all, I feel that our achievements in working with the sector have been considerable and the capacity to truly embrace student partnership is steadily growing. That said we need to remain vigilant regarding the challenges we face going forward. Rather than simply congratulating ourselves on our progress we need to make sure that we really walk the talk when it comes to student partnership. The first challenge is to make sure that student partnership in decision making is really understood by the sector as an ethos where students are part of all decision-making processes from the beginning – from deciding what the issues are through to determining how to solve them. While I feel we have gone a long way towards this in our engagement with individual institutions, national engagement is needed.

I have learnt from colleagues abroad the importance of sufficient time and resources to enable students to participate in this way. With effective training, mentoring, support and briefing there is no reason why students cannot be part of all decision-making processes even those that may be deemed too time sensitive or complex. My research shows that authentic student partnership is a win-win – for institutions and the sector the enhancement of quality and the student experience they provide; for students a valuable opportunity for professional development as readily employable critical thinkers, innovators and citizens.

Students are experts in their leaning experiences and they have plenty to teach us. I have worked with some incredibly confident and talented young people during my three years of the Project and the Fellowship and they have definitely enhanced the ways in which I have been able to carry out my fellowship activities.
It is important to recognise that the future of student partnership will be best served by working together and utilising the experience and expertise that has already been developed.

Promotion, development and exploration of student partnership remain important pursuits, best carried out collaboratively in the sector, in a spirit of sharing between institutions and students, and institutions and institutions. I have been so impressed by the work being done in a large number of institutions to establish student partnership processes. We need now to build on this progress for such a culture to be established as ‘the way we do things’ in institutions and nationally.

Sally Varnham
16 October 2017

STEPUP for quality enhancement

Hot off the press (Twitter actually which these days comes close) …

Sophie Johnston, President of the National Union of Students (NUS), has just signed a Memorandum of Understanding with TEQSA ‘ensuring we’re listening to student voices from around the country’.   The primary objective is to ensure student voice in TEQSA’s activities.  Great work from all involved – particularly Anthony McClaran and Sophie.   The New Zealand Academic Quality Agency has done similar, ensuring student presence on audit panels.  This move there is followed up with a joint summit on student transition and knowledge transfer (below).

Student leadership is key to student partnership.  My research abroad points strongly in this direction, this was mirrored in input from my Fellowship collaborative workshops and is a strong feature of the STEPUP principles and framework (on this page under Principles).  I am particularly impressed with the fantastic group of student leaders I have been working with during my Fellowship, and their moves to collaborate as a joint body promoting student partnership.  Sadly it hasn’t always been like that.  Excitingly now however thanks to the work of these highly motivated students (nationally and within institutions) there are strong inroads into the development of the professional role of student leaders and a realisation that this can exist alongside the political role (which it would be sad to lose).

A concern with student leader involvement in matters such as review and enhancement at institution and national level has always been the transitory nature of elected student officers and often the lack of knowledge transfer and handover.  There are two ways we can work towards changing this in Australia.  One would be the appointment of an executive officer for the joint national student bodies.  This person should be more than administrative but rather his or her role would be the ongoing support and training for student leaders, and research agendas towards promoting the role of students in working together with institutions.  The other would be a summit such as one being held next week in New Zealand following the MOU as a joint exercise between AQA and the New Zealand Union of Students Associations  Sophie is attending this summit and will bring back the ideas so we can institute similar events in Australia.

Sally Varnham
22 September 2017

What participants had to say at my Fellowship symposium

It was a full house at my symposium on Friday – so exciting to have reached the quota of 120 participants with so many students there. It was great to hear of the Irish experience from Cat – hopefully we can follow their path with an Australian ‘flavour’. I thought the ‘speed dating’ session worked very well thanks to the organisers – Aaron and Ann. Everyone threw themselves into the networking and sharing of experiences of student partnership initiatives in their institutions – wonderful to see. We now need to work on the ideas which came out of the panel …

Over the next couple of weeks, I will share some of the great content from the day with you but in the meantime, check the Fellowship website

For now here are some of the tweets from the event. Thanks to everyone who came and to everyone who tweeted.

Terrific to see this very practical set of guiding principles from @ozstuvox project #STEPUP#ozstuvoice – secure in governance&practice

Exciting day in Sydney for the National Framework for Student Partnership symposium in @UTSEngage #ozstuvox

To feel seen, to feel heard, and to feel understood. That’s what students want. That’s what the word needs. #ozstuvox #highered #trust

So excited @UTSEngage Sally Varnham’s #oltphoenix Fellowship on Student Partnership #ozstuvox Sellout crowd. Real impact! @UniSTARSConf

Sally Varnham at #ozstuvox, Why student partnership? One way to develop critical thinking, innovation, leadership, citizenship skills

No lack of enthusiasm + goodwill in the room #ozstuvox as there is common ground. So to invoke Geoff Scott, what are U going to do on Monday

Listening to insightful and evidence based observations at Sally Varnham’s symposium #ozstuvox on students as partners across the sector

Our fabulous Aust student leaders @CAPAPresident @NUS_President @CISA_National @natsipa_edu_au #ozstuvox And @SalVarnham Our future assured.

“If you actually want something to be sustained and enduring it has to be embedded into institutional capabilities”-SheelaghMatear #ozstuvox

#ozstuvox panel: Where to from here? Enhancement agenda is the key and @TEQSAGov has a role to play

Absolutely privileged to be elevating the future of education – where every voice counts! #StudentVoices #ozstuvox Thank you @UTSEngage !

A question from the floor: should students be on promotion panels? Be involved in uni financials? Yes! [Still full house here] #ozstuvox

Panel agreement that consultation with students is not partnership with students #ozstuvox

#ozstuvox pres of capa says most useful thing he’s been to all year – almost better that ua

@NUS_President: we need to build trust between Unis & students to transform HE partnerships with students #ozstuvox

Great to be @UTSEngage at the symposium on creating a National Framework for Student Partnership in University Governance #ozstuvox

If we want to be #fairdinkum about including students in our meetings we need to schedule them for when they can come @Oddzer #ozstuvox

Accurate, balanced, constructive, depersonalised – elements of effective student feedback. From sparqs @Oddzer #ozstuvox

4 September 2017

Symposium this Friday 1 September 2017

This Friday the final symposium for my fellowship will take place at UTS. The national interest and enthusiasm for student partnership shown by all members of the tertiary sector – managers, academics and students alike – is evidenced by the over 100 registrants for this event.

The symposium focuses on the way forward to facilitate and sustain student partnership across the sector. It has four parts (five if you include the networking drinks at the end). First, we will reflect on the draft principles and framework created from the input of participants at 6 national workshops and other events. We have seen 43 institutions and around 300 individuals – both students and staff – engage in valuable open dialogue on the ‘what, why and how?’ of student partnership in all manner of an institution and the sector’s operations.

Next we will hear from Cat O’Driscoll, National Student Engagement Coordinator from the National Student Engagement Programme, Ireland. Cat began as a course rep at University College Cork, progressed to national student leadership and worked with the European Students Union. She then worked with the Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI), the Union of Students Ireland (USI) and the Higher Education Authority (HEA) on a working group to develop the student engagement principles which led to the inception of the National Student Engagement Programme across Irish institutions.

During the workshops there has been a strong call for sector-wide networking on ideas and initiatives. So the third part of the Symposium is devoted to beginning this process. There are 20 different groups comprising institution staff and students who will take part in an initiative sharing session. Each one has submitted an abstract setting out the student partnership processes they have instituted, and they will be available to discuss their insights and experiences.

Finally, a panel of 8 experts: Karen Treloar, Director, TEQSA; Geoff Crisp, PVC(Education), UNSW; Sheelagh Matear, Executive Director AQA (NZ); Cat O’Driscoll; Sophie Johnston, National President, NUS; Peter Derbyshire, President, CAPA; Bijay Sapkota, President, CISA; and Sadie Heckenberg, President, NATSIPA, will lead a discussion on the way forward.

There will be networking opportunities for participants throughout the day including at the drinks at the end.

In the past few weeks I have received feedback from a number of groups on the draft principles and framework that I sent out to stakeholders. In the next week, I will be looking closely at that feedback and how it fits with the input that gave rise to the draft. From there I will be able to prepare my final fellowship report and present the final version of the principles and framework. These will provide a very good start – we need then to look at support for facilitation and sustainability across the sector.

While my fellowship is coming to an end, the initiatives that will be discussed at the symposium show that there is a widespread will to help progress the student partnership agenda.

Sally Varnham
28 August 2017