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safeguarding standards and improving the quality of UK higher education

Student engagement projects

​As well as ongoing engagement work with students QAA has funded a number of activities since the scheme began in 2009:

Research into student perceptions

This study, led by Camille Kandiko at King's College London (opens in new window), looks at a minimum of 16 institutional sites and covers a range of interests. It  is designed to “take the  pulse" of each institution to identify key issues affecting students.

Research into student engagement in quality assurance and enhancement

This study, by the University of Bath (opens in new window), found wide variations in the approaches institutions take to student engagement, but that many are highly innovative and effective. It highlights issues such as a view of students as partners rather than consumers and the effectiveness of student unions as an informed student voice.

Funding for NUS and The Student Engagement Partnership (TSEP)

QAA funding facilitated two initiatives: A staff development programme for student union staff to help students engage in quality assurance. And a project to encourage student unions to establish an annual student submission process for quality assurance.
For more information about either of these initiatives contact Elli Russell at NUS ellie.russell@nus.org.uk   ​

Student experience research

We launched a major student engagement project in 2010-12, carried out in partnership with the NUS, through an investment of £218,000.

The project covered three distinct but complementary strands over a one-year period:

Strand 1: Research into the student experience

NUS carried out research on the student experience in 2008-11, funded by HSBC. The aim of Strand 1 was to expand on the knowledge gained through the HSBC research and other surveys such as the National Student Survey. The research explored the student learning experience, including:

  • teaching of courses
  • feedback and assessment
  • student engagement
  • student representation
  • public information and informing student choice
  • complaints and appeals
  • academic support
  • other aspects that help form a high quality ​experience.​​

This research was conducted by the Research Group in the commercial arm of NUS (NUS Service Ltd). Data was gathered through an online survey, supplemented by an online discussion group and focus groups held in eight locations nationally.

The first mini report, Student Experience Research 2012. Part 1: Teaching and Learning, was published on 8 March 2012.

The second mini report, Student Experience Research 2012. Part 2: Independent Learning and Contact Hours, was published on 21 March 2012.

The third mini report, Student Experience Research 2012. Part 3: Subject Differences, was published on 22 March 2012.

The fourth mini report, Student Experience Research 2012. Part 4: First Year Student Experience, was published on 20 April 2012.

Strand 2: Student-centred quality

Strand 2 aimed to develop student engagement with quality assurance processes and reviews of higher education institutions. This was achieved through the development of:

  • training materials about quality assurance and enhancement for course representatives, suitable for distribution online and through students' unions
  • briefings for students' unions about how to use reviews to deliver change within their institution
  • bespoke support for students' unions who are producing a student written submission (SWS) for a review, and particularly for the new role of lead student representative
  • materials to support students' unions through the new Institutional Review mid-year cycle process
  • the annual Quality Matters conference and the addition of a mid-year follow-up event
  • national networking and training events for course representatives and students' union staff on specific quality processes.

Strand 3: Developing quality engagement

The aim of Strand 3 was to build the capacity of students' unions who do not have a tradition of being involved in quality assurance at their institution to be able to tackle quality issues and become involved in quality assurance processes.

The project worked with 16 self-nominated students' unions who were looking for help and support to strengthen their quality agenda.

These 16 students' unions received up to five days of bespoke consultancy support, to help them get more students within their higher education institution involved in quality assurance processes. A key part of this consultation was the development of local student representation strategies which build a partnership approach between the students' union and the institution.

Case studies were collected from these 16 students' unions, in addition to case studies from at least two new and non-traditional institutions, to help contribute to knowledge in the higher education sector about how students are involved in quality assurance and enhancement processes.

QAA and NUS will also produce national guidance and support materials about developing strong student involvement.