On Monday 19 August I attended The Perfect Regulatory Match: Quality and Student Engagement conference at Leeds Beckett University.
Through engaging and networking with other people working in higher education from numerous universities across the country, I was able to discuss and share ideas that feed into improving your education here at Royal Holloway.
To start the morning, Cassie Agbehenu from the Office for Students (OfS) spoke about the their project to engage students in relation to quality at university. Sounds exciting! But what does that mean?
The Office for Students is the regulatory body for universities in England. They basically check that the university is doing what they should be doing, with a key emphasis on ensuring every student, whatever their background, has a fulfilling experience at university.
So what does this mean for me? In short, if the College are not fulfilling the expectations set by the OfS, they are in trouble. The OfS are keen to start engaging with students in a more effective and representative way Understanding student priorities and experiences allows the OfS to hold the College to account when it’s not meeting these.
This way of thinking gives students power; it gives students power over their own student experience, power to engage meaningfully and inclusively, and power to hold their university to account. I am really excited to see the OfS engaging with quality at universities in this student focused way, and hope to share with you any future developments of this OfS student engagement project.
Student Engagement means different things to different people, every student holds different perceptions and identities, which are manifested through their experiences and interactions.You are an expert in being a student no matter what your experience has been, your thoughts, complaints, feelings and ideas are all valid because you are a student.
In higher education there appears to be a shift in thinking about student engagement from passive data sources and even active respondents, to considering students in partnership and as leaders, acting as researchers and producing student-led dialogue about student experiences.
Student engagement, therefore, manifests for you in different forms; end of module surveys, student-staff committee meetings, online forums and interactions, discussions between students and academic staff, and even the formation of the new Collectives and Executives at the Students’ Union. The conference held a thought provoking session on how we can best utilise the different forms of student engagement, alongside sharing new ideas and methods on how we can encourage and facilitate student engagement at the College and in the SU.
Quality in this instance is what it says on the tin, the quality of your university and the quality of your student experience. In essence, this is what academic representation is for! Ensuring you have a high quality education here at Royal Holloway.
In more official terms, the university has to comply with the UK Quality Code for higher education, highlighting what is expected of universities. This code covers 12 themes including assessment, learning and teaching, course design, research degrees, work-based learning and evaluation. The conference emphasised the benefit of utilising student engagement when universities talk about quality, ensuring their plan for high quality encompasses student experiences.
Overall, the conference was a fantastic experience to critically speak about student engagement and its role in ensuring a high quality university experience for you all. I’m back with fresh ideas and new energy to ensure student engagement is the best it can be this year!
Student engagement is a fantastic opportunity to be able to get involved with all aspects of your university life, within the SU there are so many ways you can get involved. If you want to have a say in your academic experience, why don’t you consider running to be an academic rep? Your voice as a student is extremely powerful in influencing decisions at College, I challenge you to grab the opportunity and see where it can take you!
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