Student Leaders’ Student Voice Summit

An important initiative I am working on with NUS and TEQSA is a national student leaders’ student voice summit. This is something that is already happening in New Zealand and the program they ran in September 2017 provided a great blend of sessions looking at student leadership from diverse perspectives. While there was a focus on the quality agenda, the sessions included a look at the way decisions are made in universities as well as sessions focussed on helping student leaders to understand what partnership looks like and to help them more effectively carry out their roles.

Importantly, it brings together the outgoing and incoming student leaders across the sector with the aim of both knowledge transfer and capacity building among high level student representatives.

At present there are a number of national opportunities for Australian student leaders to come together but these are typically under the auspices of various national student bodies.

These gatherings are of course important to furthering the aims of those bodies. Nonetheless it would be highly desirable to see an opportunity for student leaders to take part in a forum that transcends specific agendas. This style of gathering is will require some support from institutions to make it possible for their outgoing and incoming student leaders to attend.

The various national student associations – NUS, CAPA, CISA and NATSIPA – have stated a commitment to work together to further student partnership. The Summit as proposed creates an opportunity for the timing of their national meetings to be aligned so that student leaders could efficiently attend different national engagements. This in turn might encourage greater idea and resource sharing and streamline meeting agendas by reducing duplication of sessions.

There is plenty of food for thought on how best to set this up. There are already examples of student summits running at the local level such as the student leadership initiatives running at Charles Sturt University. At a national level we need to start somewhere and as we become more sophisticated, the model will be refined (as has been the case in New Zealand).

A clear goal has to be to make such a leadership summit available to all student leaders regardless of what other affiliations they may hold. This means that even if the summit needs to be hosted by a particular association it should not be seen as being only for members of that association.

Sally Varnham
18 December 2017

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