The importance and intensity of student engagement within Universities has never been greater (BIS 2015). Across the sector, students engage at unit, programme or department level; through mechanisms such as staff student liaison committees, internal student surveys and external metrics such as the National Student Survey (NSS) (Canning 2017). Higher up the University though, student voices become harder to discern. Their contribution becomes filtered through layers of academic management or reduced to quantitative measures of satisfaction. Worst case, students can be unintentionally or deliberately silenced by the unequal power relations between them and senior staff (Robinson and Taylor, 2007).
How then can institutions be confident that they are hearing students accurately and responding to their concerns in a timely and effective manner? This case study from Manchester Metropolitan University, presented at RAISE conference 2019 in Newcastle, presents an institution wide framework for engaging students and listening to the student voice. We call it our Conversation. The overarching aim of the conversation framework is to engage students in the process of improving learning and teaching across the institution, allowing them to engage in every L&T meeting and enabling students to make impressive contributions to the running of the University.
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This presentation explores one facet of the conversation – the new Education Annual Review framework that is embedded at all levels of the university hierarchy from the University Executive Group to individual student course reps on each programme. It comprises an educational structure and an annual calendar of education reviews, actions and follow up. Each strand of the framework is centred on improving quality of the education provided at the university. The conversation is cross disciplinary and cross Faculty – with close involvement of the Student Union, individual students and members of academic and professional services staff. Additionally, it engages the University Executive Group and ensures that actions and initiatives that emerge from our conversations can be effectively resourced and prioritised.