Engaging students as partners in the higher education sector

13 Apr 2020

To mark the launch today (Monday 13 April) of a new book about student engagement - co-edited by Tom Lowe, Director of Student Engagement at the University of Winchester - we look at the sector-leading work done at Winchester in this increasingly-important area.

Winchester has long prioritised student engagement, starting around 2010 with the National Teaching Fellowship funded assessment and feedback programme (TESTA) involving new practices to engage students in the development of educational development through empowering Student Fellows (Researchers) to lead on enhancement in partnership with staff.

This practice of pedagogical partnership pairing staff with students to work together to enhance practice at Winchester was taken further by sector calls for student-staff partnership, student engagement in quality assurance and greater student voice in the decision-making processes in wider western higher education.

In 2013, Tom Lowe (then Vice President, Education at Winchester Student Union) and Yassein El Hakim (then Director of Learning and Teaching at Winchester) with numerous brilliant colleagues and students drove the University of Winchester and Winchester Student Union forward to become a champion of student engagement, with innovative projects such as the Student Fellows Scheme and the sector driven REACT Project in 2015-17. The Student Fellows Scheme particularly gained national recognition for its shortlist in the Guardian University Awards in 2015 as a strategic approach to support, train and facilitate student-staff partnership projects aimed at education development through empowering students with a research bursary. The scheme has seen countless enhancements in the student journey across the last six years, from redesigning assessment models to creating new facilities for commuting students on campus.

Student engagement remains a core priority at the University from the Vice-Chancellor's Student Academic Council to course level Student-Staff Liaison Committees. It is part of our way of working and the recently established Centre for Student Engagement continues to question, research and provide thought leadership for the sector.

Today sees the publication of a new book, co-edited by Tom Lowe with Yassein El Hakim. This edited collection is the first in the UK since Professor Colin Bryson's (Newcastle University) edited collection in 2014 titled Understanding and Developing Student Engagement.

Since then, the last six years have seen student engagement remain in sector focus, but become more enriched and complexed with sector marketisation, new measures of accountability on providers and an emphasis on value for money. Winchester's collection offers a valuable resource for HE staff old and new to student engagement, who wish to think again about their practice, be experimental in their projects or as a resource of best practice for engaging students in educational developments.

In the challenges of our contemporary education sector, there is as great a need as ever to continue to engage our students meaningfully as partners in our sector. It is hoped this book, drawing on international authors, will offer thought provoking initiatives across the world that benefit both students, staff and their institutions.

Bringing together international authors and established best practice, A Handbook for Student Engagement in Higher Education: Theory into Practice offers a new volume for the sector that offers 24 chapters for universities and students' unions wishing to enhance their practice. Chapters include introductions to student engagement in educational development, case studies of best practices, reflections from sector thought leaders, and some predictions where student engagement will go in the next decade. This book creates vivid connections between theories and student engagement in higher education and is written in an empowering accessible model to be applied directly into practice.

A Handbook for Student Engagement in Higher Education: Theory into Practice (CRC Press, 2020) is available to buy at this link.

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