Team: Savannah King, Tom Lowe, Angus Paddison, Cassie Shaw, Stuart Sims
Supporters: Anita Acai, Mick Healey
The University of Winchester has a reputation for being sector-leading in Student Engagement (SE). This is built upon staff-student partnerships, mainly in academically-focused extra-curricular domains. Institutionally, the Student Fellows Scheme (SFS) was central to our recent Quality Assurance Agency review and it was also Highly Commended in the Higher Education Academy (HEA) staff-student partnership awards and nominated for a Guardian Newspaper Award. The SFS was the backbone of our successful Higher Education Funding Council for England Catalyst bid (£314k) to disseminate SE sector-wide with a focus on ‘hard to reach’ students. We lead a partnership consisting of the University of Exeter and London Metropolitan University, and we are acting as consultants to twelve UK universities through this project called REACT (www.studentengagement.ac.uk). For a small university (7,000 students) we punch above our weight in SE. While there are many initiatives taking place in a diaspora of innovation, they tend to operate in isolation from one another. We want to send a diverse group of SE stakeholders to the Change Institute to consider ways to further the coherence of our wide-ranging and successful portfolio of activities. We want these high reputation endeavours to really impact students, staff and the broader learning experience in a powerful way. We want to place research, engagement and practice into a powerful and dynamic relationship with our systems, so that students and staff are engaged rather than alienated (Mann 2001). We also want staff and students to be aware of the opportunities that exist, and the different emphases of these, which requires clarity and focus.
Winchester intends to use its time at the MIIETL ‘Students as Partners’ event to conceptualise the idea of consolidating and connecting all SE practices across the institution to increase the impact of our ever increasing portfolio of opportunities. A recent SFS project has made Winchester aware that there is confusion around the term SE among students who view it as “ambiguous”. We have evidence that staff have mixed impressions about the purpose of SE. As Winchester progresses with its SE activity, we need a focused approach and collective understanding to address this. Senior managers are keen for us to develop and implement a ‘Centre for Student Engagement’ to advance the SE agenda on campus and sustain the many initiatives we have in place. We have some idea of what a ‘Centre’ might look like, but would value the opportunity to clarify, discuss, debate and consult experts at MIIETL to flesh out the concept, with particular focus on:
- How the Centre would contribute to aligning our disparate initiatives.
- Understanding the ethics and practice of a partnership in a resource-low and time-poor environment.
- Increasing the reach and sophistication of communication of SE opportunities.
- Strategies to engender richer integration of student dialogue into university systems and processes (including a potential Staff-student Partnership Strategy).
- Ideas about designing an appropriate physical space on campus as a ‘hub’ for the Centre.
- How the Centre might facilitate and sustain internal and externally facing SE initiatives, particularly through being underpinned by research.
- How the Centre may enable Winchester to innovate and reshape its practices in light of research and contemporary developments.
- How the Centre might be at the vanguard of staff-student co-authoring.
Dr Angus Paddison is Director of Academic Quality and Development. He has been closely involved in Winchester’s Student Engagement initiatives, both drawing students into assurance processes and working with students as partners for change. He will benefit from attending by ensuring Winchester’s long term vision is nourished by dialogue and a range of experience.
Cassie Shaw, Student Fellow & Student Engagement Assistant, studying English Literature with American Literature. She would benefit from attending because of her diverse SE involvement meaning she is in a good position to provide student input to strategies, while also implementing them. She is interested in undertaking postgraduate study on SE.
Dr Stuart Sims is a Research Fellow in Student Engagement who co-ordinates the SFS. He would benefit from attending to develop strategies to work effectively across the institution and develop evaluation strategies.
Savannah King is President at Winchester Student Union. She would benefit from attending to enhance collaboration between the SU and University in strategic planning.
Tom Lowe is REACT Project Manager. He would benefit from attending to integrate the practices of REACT more broadly at Winchester and support similar initiatives elsewhere in UK HE.