|Title||A framework for student staff partnership in higher education|
This research project is situated in an area of interest in contemporary HE, namely ‘students as partners’. The study explored the experiences of staff and students working in partnership as part of a national What Works Change Programme at Ulster University. Using a phenomenological approach, one-to-one semi-structured interviews were carried out with stafand students(n=14), which aimed to capture rich descriptions of the lived experience of individuals. A surprising feature of the data revealed that there was a high level of consensus between staff and students in how they described their lived experiences and the impact that partnership working was having on them. The data produced two main themes which articulated the benefits of partnership working: personal development, and enhancement of the learning climate. In addition, challenges associated with partnership working are revealed and include: time, resistance, and capacity of both staff and students. These insights bring new understanding to stakeholders at Ulster in relation to how these findings can help us think more holistically about student engagement from three dimensions: emotional, behavioural and cognitive. The importance of remaining vigilant to the emotional dimension of student engagement is argued as this can act as a catalyst to change thinking and behaviours. Focus groups (n=5) were subsequently carried out with institutional stakeholder groups at Ulster. This evaluation set out to assess the value of the interview findings for the purposes of developing a framework, including more specifically, a Guide for staff and students on how a ‘students as partners’ approach might be implemented at Ulster in order to develop capacity for student engagement.
Recommendations for all relevant stakeholders at Ulster are made to support the implementation of a ‘students as partners’ approach. Whilst specific to Ulster, there are valuable learning points, which may be extended to the HE sector more generally.