Student partnership is an ethos not an activity

All my research internationally and in Australia stresses the importance of building a culture of universities working in partnership with its students.  All members of the institution share the same aims of enhancement of courses and what the university provides, and the university experience. Clearly this is best achieved through acting as a community.  However the thinking and the initiation of processes must start somewhere.  For universities to develop partnership as their ‘way of doing things’ requires a commitment to take a serious look at their current student engagement practices and policies and work towards implementing measures based on true partnership.  For students it requires the adoption of a positive and professional approach to engagement, not only in their studies but in all the university does – a sense of ownership.  Many of the moves in this direction being undertaken by Australian universities currently were highlighted as case studies in my OLT project and appear as an appendix to the Draft Report on this webpage.  Many more great ideas are now being thrown up in discussions and online input as my Fellowship collaborative workshop program progresses.  These are things which are already being done or are ideas for implementation.  This is exciting!  In this and future blogs I will be highlighting many of these ideas:

For example:

The sharing by universities and student organisations of success stories of student involvement which have made a difference and experiences of students with partnership generally.

University Vice-Chancellors making student leadership more visible to the whole community by introducing student leaders at commencement ceremonies, and explaining to all students how they may become involved.

Institutions inviting students to be part of the identification of issues in the wider university, and to be instrumental in working out solutions.

A recurring theme which stands out above all is the importance of a course representative model forming the foundation stone of both developing student leaders and embedding the principles of partnership from the early stages of a student’s university experience.

In the words of one DVC Academic who attended my workshop launch: ‘Universities are the students and the students are the university’.

Sally Varnham

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