What a privilege it was to join a large and diverse group of staff from across the university to listen to Professor Sally Varnham talk about her work leading the Australian Students as Partners project.

The project was prioritised and funded through a government fellowship in 2015/16 and firstly investigated the current situation that existed in Australia and then responded to the question, what does effective student engagement in decision making look like? Sally led us through the project and its findings with enthusiasm and encouraged us to reflect upon the application of the insights and findings for AUT.

Her diagrams and slides stepped us through the structures and processes she and her team have developed under the theme Stepup for Quality enhancement where she outlined the seven principles used as the basis for undertaking partnership development between tertiary providers and students for quality enhancement.

These cover authenticity, communication, strong student leadership, training and support, inclusivity recognising and valuing and national support and facilitation. A wonderful feature of the symposium was the participation of our students who worked so well in the workshop sessions and were so articulate in presenting the group responses.

The focus of the workshop was largely upon decision making and governance but the students as partners international movement is now wide reaching with students in many universities formally engaged in curriculum development, evaluation and review, staff evaluation and support mechanisms, student support and internships.

For your information there is a conversation happening in New Zealand at government level, as part of the Kōrero Mātauranga – let’s talk about Education strategy, related to Tertiary Student Voice and student representation and at AUT we are embarking on an exercise to further develop our representation roles and models.

Sally Varnham’s knowledge and experience, and her expression of values and attitudes were excellent catalysts for discussion and the symposium provided a very positive platform for moving forward in ensuring representation of the student voice at AUT.

-Professor Desna Jury

Pro Vice-Chancellor, Student Experience and Success

For students and staff interested in enhancing the student voice at AUT please contact Professor Desna Jury at desna.jury@aut.ac.nz