Student initiatives – new year thoughts

New Year thoughts …
Over the break I have been able to reflect on the moves being made in Australian institutions towards embedding cultures of student partnership. Over the past two years I have discovered so much that is going on within institutions and it is very exciting. How best to sustain and support this trend into the future? There is such a diverse range of institutions and student bodies and it is clear that this diversity is reflected in the processes which have been put in place in different institutions. There is much strength to be gained from the initiatives and the professionalism shown by student bodies within universities, and nationally, in the lead they are taking to embed a strong student voice across the sector. I feel this is hugely significant.
Looking internationally, it is clear that effective student partnership is student-driven: sparqs in Scotland, TSEP in the UK, and NZUSA for example – students working together with institutions and national bodies such as quality agencies (QAA in the UK, AQA in New Zealand). There is now a lot to suggest this is now happening within institutions and nationally in Australia (the MOU with TEQSA shows this).
In visiting different institutions in New South Wales and Victoria prior to Christmas, I met with various groups of student leaders and representatives who, often at their instigation, were working together with their institutions in developing ideas for partnership which suited the particular circumstances. It is so good that this work is accompanied by strong buy-in from management in terms of their institutional strategy and direction, and by academic and professional staff in terms of support. I am confident that this direction of student organisations will go from strength to strength as they see it as their role into the future. This is however hugely dependent on effective knowledge transfer and handover from the outgoing to incoming student leaders. It is essential to ensure new leaders ‘hit the ground running’ in working with their institutions. It is so good that the NUS January student leaders’ summit will continue to stress this factor which is so vital to student partnership moving forward.
I see professional executive personnel working within student associations in institutions as key also to sustaining and developing the capability and confidence in students to facilitate partnership. It was great to be contacted by a group of personnel who fulfil this function – the Tertiary Access Group. Among other things they undertake training and support for student leaders and reps in their student bodies. I met with Mitch Trevena from La Trobe and Lowan Sist from Monash during the TEQSA conference in November when they outlined their roles and we discussed ways in which they can help in embedding student voice into the future. I look forward to talking at their annual conference in May this year.
Of huge significance on the national scene is the agreement entered into on 16 December between the peak student bodies – NUS, CAPA, CISA and NATSIPA – to work together on all matters affecting their constituents. This agreement, together with the respective MOU’s entered into by these bodies with TEQSA, is a major step in the ability of students to work together with their institutions and the national regulator, for the enhancement of quality and of the student experience.
Another exciting move is that lead taken by CAPA in running a student-led session on the satellite day of the Universities Australia annual conference in late Feb/March. These students have put out a call for other student groups to join them and I look forward to an informative and valuable session.
Before the Christmas closure seven universities had put themselves forward to be part of the pilot student partnership program to be instigated in 2018. This is so heartening – more on it later …

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