Conferences about students without students – no longer

Apologies for my recent erratic blogging …
This is largely because there is so much interest in student voice in Australia it seems that for 2018 I am hugely busy with a full program of speaking engagements and workshops and working on the Student Voice pilot set up.
The great thing about each invitation is an affirmation of the importance of this work and of progressing the embedding of student engagement across the sector. As some of you will know, my sessions take the form of conversations with students, and other presenters are doing the same on all manner of topics affecting higher education. This format provides a hugely valuable opportunity for attendees at these events to engage with the insightful views of student leaders and student representatives in a less formal way and to learn from those at the heart of the sector.
Next week I am speaking and running a workshop with a group of student leaders at the TAG conference in Melbourne. Shortly after I am taking part in a workshop at Flinders University in Adelaide entitled: Students as partners in work integrated learning: is this really possible? and in June I am speaking, together with students, at the Student Retention and Success 2018 Conference in Melbourne and the CISA Annual Conference in Cairns. It seems that no longer do we have conferences about students without students and this is a major step forward.
Importantly it is students who are driving opportunities to be heard at these forums. Leaders of the peak student bodies organised sessions at the Universities Australia conference and in the Hot Topics satellite the following day. In the latter session they provided a wide range of perspectives on Student Wellbeing from the experiences of their particular cohorts – undergraduate, postgraduate, indigenous and international – separately and together. There was overwhelming support for the value of this session and I hope that these opportunities will increase as we all work together as members of the sector towards enhancement. Our five national student leaders are a big part of the program of the upcoming HEQN Conference Assessment, Integrity and Review on 7th and 8th June in Melbourne which many of you will be attending.
It is so good that we are following comparative sectors, which have long embraced student views in all their discussions.
And I can’t finish this blog without mentioning my latest adventure. The ‘Sally road show’ extended to China recently as I delivered two presentations in Beijing at events organised by the Chinese University of Political Science and Law and Renmin University of China. The gathering was entitled: Sino-Dutch Public Law Forum – Accessibility, Accountability and Autonomy of Higher Education: China, Europe and Beyond. What a fantastic opportunity – to join with 9 other academics with a strong interest in higher education law and governance from Europe, the US and South Africa and to hear from a large number of academics and students from China on all range of topics relating to the university/student relationship – law and governance. The simultaneous translation over two very full days was a new and exhausting experience but hugely interesting and rewarding.

Finally, it is with some incredulity (or I could say, alarm) that I realised today is May day. The year is speeding past and while the Student Voice pilot is not quite up and running, we are moving closer towards having everything in place. I am confident that we will get there shortly with all of your support.
In the meantime, student voice is definitely making headway in institutions across the sector and in national bodies. Most recently, it was announced that Sadie Heckenberg, the President of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Postgraduate Association (NATSIPA) is among the new appointments to the Higher Education Standards Panel. Go Sadie!

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