Students as Partners Network conference

Isabel Costello has been part of the SALT Team over the summer on a SPIN placement. You may have met her at the SALT Conference. She is also a University rep for the Students as Partners Network. In this role she recently attended the Students as Partners Network conference in Cardiff. Her report of the conference is below.

Background to the Conference: Graduates for our Future

In response to the Welsh Assembly Government’s strategy for higher education, representatives from all major higher education stakeholders agreed to a focused enhancement theme for Wales: Graduates for our Future. The theme is built around three major work strands: Learning for Employment, Learning in Employment and Students as Partners. The work strands were launched in March 2011 and the three work strands aimed to discuss how they could best capture innovation and practise from the sector.

The purpose of the Students as Partners is to develop partnerships between staff and students. In addition, the strand aims to develop new initiatives and programmes by encouraging student engagement. The Students as Partners team collaborate with other sector agencies and support colleagues working within and across disciplines in Higher Education.

Students as Partners is structured around three dimensions of student engagement:

  • the individual student experience of engaged learning and research;
  • students as change agents in learning and teaching enhancement at institutional and national levels;
  • student participation in the HEA’s own strategic direction and programmes of work.

Membership

Membership of the group will comprise of one sabbatical office and one student representative from each Welsh institution, one representation from WISE Wales, NUS Wales and Higher Education Academy Wales, three work strand leaders and two student Chairs.

Students as Partners Network Conference

The Students as Partners Network conference on Friday 11th July was the first official meeting of the work strand. The conference was attended by delegates from the Higher Education Academy, WISE Wales, Cardiff Metropolitan University, Cardiff University, University of Wales, Aberystwyth University, University of South Wales, Jisc RSC, NUS Wales, The Open University, Colegau Cymru and Swansea University (Appendix 1 has the full list of delegates).

As the conference was the first one, the event provided delegates with an opportunity to meet other representatives and network. The event discussed what ‘we’ as Student Partners want and how can students be embraced in Higher Education. The conference also provided an opportunity to share good practise of ‘Students as Partners’ from across Welsh institutions and to support and provide advice.  In addition, work strand leaders, Graham Lewis (Inspiring Teaching), Lloyd Williams (Distinctive Graduates) and Jo Smedley (Learner Journeys), from the Future Directions for Higher Education in Wales presented their current projects and delegates provided feedback on the themes.

Inspiring Teaching

The Inspiring Teaching group consists of representatives from institutions and key sector agencies in Wales. It is led by Graham Lewis, of Aberystwyth University.

It seeks to explore how Welsh HE providers both inspire teaching development and value examples of inspired teaching. It is about how we create an environment which encourages enquiry into teaching practice and celebrates innovation. It is about how we ensure that the support we give to teachers in HE, takes account of the environment in which academics work and is fit for purpose.

The Inspiring Teaching strand aims to continue to share and celebrate existing good practice and explore how we can work, across Wales, to further enhance the quality of HE teaching and the student experience.

Distinctive Graduates

The Distinctive Graduates group consists of representatives from institutions and key sector agencies in Wales. It is led by Lloyd Williams, of the University of South Wales.

It seeks to identify and understand the unique set of skills and attributes developed by students in Wales. A global mind set, cultural agility and advanced communication or language skills were identified recently as features that are likely to lead to graduates performing successfully on an international stage. Welsh institutions provide a mode and delivery of learning and work related experience that is likely to influence the evolution of these attributes.

The strand plans to explore whether there are specific elements of the student experience in Wales that shape the ability of graduates to perform successfully in the international labour market.

Learner Journeys

The Learner Journey group consists of representatives from institutions and key sector agencies in Wales. It is led by Jo Smedley, of the University of South Wales.

It offers a window on the provision of learning in various non-traditional modes. It provides a cross-Wales response to the Welsh Government’s Policy Statement for Higher Education in early June 2013 identifying the need to develop “more flexible models of provision” within its set of priorities up to 2020.

Learner journeys are many and varied ranging from traditional, full time experiences to more bite-sized learning experiences which involve stepping on and off learning, learning portability and learning which occurs at various paces and places. Curriculum design and assessment are important elements in ensuring that the learner experience is consistently of a high quality, irrespective of the path of engagement.

Conclusion

The Students as Partners Network conference provided a useful opportunity to share good practise, to generate ideas and provide students with advice and support. The network will continue throughout next academic year and more information will be circulated.

Follow the links below for more information on Students as Partners Network:

http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/students-as-partners

http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/wales/students-as-partners-network

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