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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

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