Student leadership?

Ever since the mid-20th century, when students became more vocal in defence of their interests and universities started cautiously to include them in decision-making, the question has been asked as to how far this process should go. What, in other words, is a ‘student’?

Are students disciples who sit at the professor’s feet? Are they partners in a learning experience? Are they judges of quality in a university? Should they have a hand in curriculum design? Should they determine a lecturer’s career progression? Should they help to appoint the institution’s chief officer? Are they customers, who pay the money that maintains the institution?

As an interesting article in the Guardian newspaper shows, there is no unanimity in these matters. Some academics are enthusiastic supporters of student engagement, while others are concerned that students do not have the maturity to determine or judge programme content, and moreover are conflicted as they have a vested interest.

But these contrasting views demonstrate that, after a couple of decades of higher education reforms of one kind or another, there is little clarity as to what higher education actually is and what it is intended to achieve. The student voice is, as most will agree, a vital part of higher education. Recognising students as partners in education rather than just the recipients of teaching is a vital pedagogical insight.  Perhaps it is time to follow this up with a recognition of students as fellow stakeholders in the universities overall. The student voice, when encouraged, must be a valuable asset.

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2 Comments on “Student leadership?”

  1. Paul Martin Says:

    The nature of higher Ed (inc FE) is a matter of perspective. For lucky students, like me, it was vocational and a marriage agency. In order to nurture it you have to feed it not bite it (Mr Gove) and you have to measure its success by honest metrics. Simple – as a meerkat once said


  2. The idea that students have little to no input is an antiquated notion as feeback and collaboration have proved an invaluable tool in improving both the student experience and the ability for staff to provide the best teaching evironment for them. However there must be limits set as to how far they can “dictate” policy! A clear process must be put in place to both manage and encourage the feedback without restricting the mamangements abiltity to… well manage! There is a reason why educational boards and Senior management posts are created and that is to ensure that the best possible learning experience for the students. I would never rule the student body as too imature to contribute but at the end of the day those in teaching and senior roles are appointed for the reason that they are trained ‘experts’ in their field and ultimately the final decision should rest with them!
    But again this is just one opinion in the midst of many – as shown in The Guardian article, even amongst the ‘experts’ there is no unanimity in the answer to a question that will plague eductaional institutions for some time to come!


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