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Workshop program draws to an end

Between April and June we have run 7 workshops around the country involving around 250 participants from 37 higher education providers and including student representatives from a significant number of institutions. Our workshops have engaged senior university managers, and university employees particularly those who have student engagement roles, as well as national student associations. We have also received a good number of written response…s to the workshop questions via our Survey Monkey portal.

Workshop participants have readily engaged with and supported the need for student partnership in university decision making across all aspects of university decision making. Notions that there may be areas where student input might be inappropriate have been challenged. The capacity for students to participate as thoughtful and responsible partners has been readily displayed. At the same time, students have shown great courage in raising tough issues and challenging positions that may not be universally true. The workshops have again demonstrated the wide range of student partnership practices that are already happening within the sector.

There is still a lot of work to be done in translating the input we have received from the workshops and online into a draft set of principles for consideration by the sector. However, at this stage there are some clear messages. The first is that the Australian higher education sector shares many of the challenges observed elsewhere in creating a sector wide approach to student partnership in decision making.

Communication and culture are hurdles that need to be dealt with. Training and support are clearly critical elements of success as is providing for continuity amongst a necessarily transient population of student representatives. Key challenges are ensuring that there are processes for all student cohorts to be heard, and the consideration of a range of incentives for those in representative roles in order that their efforts are recognised. A very clear message from the workshops is that for a culture of student partnership to continue its development and be sustained there is a need for support from the sector as a whole. How this may be achieved is a key consideration.

The input from participants will provide not only broad principles but also rich discourse underpinning those principles. It will also make available an invaluable array of examples of these principles in practice that will benefit all within the sector.

Sally Varnham
26 June 2017

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