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5 July 2021

Reflecting on my time as Enhancement Theme Student Lead


Alex Hedlund
Enhancement Theme Student Lead

QAA Scotland is seeking student nominations for Student Representatives for the Scottish Higher Education Enhancement Committee (SHEEC) and an Enhancement Theme Student Lead (session 2021-22) for the new Enhancement Theme. In this blog, we hear from current ET Student Theme Lead, Alex Hedlund, about what the role entails and what he has achieved.

Are you incredibly passionate about influencing the direction that higher education is travelling in Scotland? Do you want to know the bigger picture of the sector and how different organisations work together to enhance the quality of learning and teaching? Do you want to share your vision as a student with the higher education sector on student engagement? Then this is the perfect opportunity for you!


What it’s like

As Enhancement Theme Student Lead, you are put in the unique position of providing oversight to the Enhancement Themes, the programme of work across Scotland to improve areas of strategy, policy and practice in higher education, and benefit the learning experience of students.


You will be a key member of the Theme Leadership Team (TLT), which helps guide QAA Scotland (QAAS) in directing the work of the selected Theme and leading the sector-wide Theme Leadership Group (TLG). You will be one of four student members of the Scottish Higher Education Enhancement Committee (SHEEC), which leads the Enhancement Themes and provides strategic guidance to the sector on where its stakeholders see it going. Finally, you will be the chair and lead of the Student-Led Project (SLP), which listens to the interests of student leaders in Scotland and undertakes work to meet their objectives.


What I’ve achieved

In my two years as Theme Lead, I have had the unique opportunity to oversee the completion of the Evidence for Enhancement (E4E) Theme and the launch of the new Resilient Learning Communities (RLC) Theme.


The former meant that I was able to work with QAAS and the TLT on coordinating the reporting of collaborative clusters and institutions, and helping to design TLG meetings to meet the needs of members, particularly in promoting student engagement. Alongside this, as a SHEEC member I had a platform to make my voice heard where I thought we should focus our efforts in selecting the new Enhancement Themes topic.


The latter meant that I was consulted on what I thought the sector should look to enhance within the scope of the topic. Through the TLT, we helped guide the focus and funding for collaborative clusters, we procured a team to evaluate the impact of the Enhancement Themes, and we helped direct QAAS in the launch and scheduling of TLG meetings to recognise the challenges the pandemic has brought to institutions.


Through the SLP, I worked with the TLT on thinking about what we want from the three-year topic, ‘Higher Education: More than a Degree’. I had the privilege of hosting a four-hour event where students from across colleges and universities in Scotland shared their best practice on innovative digital communities. Throughout both years, I was provided opportunities to speak at a range of sector events, including three of QAA’s national conferences this past year.


Being Student Lead helped me developed crucial skills that will allow me to succeed in my career following graduation. It has allowed me to build my confidence, particularly in public speaking, recognising the value of the knowledge and expertise I have developed over the years. It has helped me strengthen my communication skills as I work with such diverse groups of stakeholders, from principals and vice-principals to staff within sector organisations. It has even given me a unique perspective to develop strategic oversight as I look at where the sector is headed and how we can set ourselves on the right path.


Honestly, these are just the top three and there is so much more you can develop that depends on how you approach the role. As with any representative role, you get out what you put in!


Ultimately for me, though, the aspect of the role that was most valuable was the incredible people you get to meet. There is a whole other world out there in higher education beyond my institution and it was truly incredible to be able to a part of it. The staff at QAA Scotland are some of the warmest and most welcoming people I have had the pleasure of working with. Everyone you meet in the sector is always keen to hear your thoughts and it feels great to have your perspective valued so much. The experience will stick with me for years to come and I know that I will always have a place to come back to in higher education. Once you get in, you will always be welcomed.


What you can do

There is always more to do in enhancing the work of the higher education sector and if you are successful, you can be the new student face of Scotland. You can do all of this and more, channelling your passion for quality learning with key sector organisations and the world. Make your voice heard and share your thoughts with the world, you will be surprised just how many people want to hear it!


I’m sad to be leaving, but I look forward to seeing what you do with this opportunity and I hope you truly make it your own.


Find out more

Find out more, including how to submit a nomination, on the Enhancement Themes website. You can also watch a short video by Alex explaining more about the role and what he has achieved.