5 things to read on… student partnership

by | Jun 30, 2021 | Inclusive teaching, Student partnership

Freddie GentFreddie Gent is an HE Admin Intern in Academic Development, with a particular interest in inclusion and the student voice.  He works across a broad range of ITL projects and areas including the current Inclusive Learning Workshop series, supporting the development of an inclusive teaching framework.  Here Freddie brings us the latest ‘5 things to read on…’, which this month focuses on student partnership.


The Student Partners Programme at the University of Manchester has gone from strength to strength as an increasing number of staff and students pursue an interest in partnership work. By combining expertise, insight, and skills, partnership projects work to improve Teaching and Learning and other elements of the Student Experience across the University.  

As other posts on TEA attest, student partners are involved in a wide variety of projects. Each student partner brings a unique perspective to the programme and helps to drive their project in a direction that might never have been explored if led solely by staff. 

1. Co-creation of the curriculum as an effective student partnership approach 

Tanya Lubicz-Nawrocka’s post on The University of Edinburgh’s Teaching Matters blog is an excellent introduction to student and staff co-creation of the curriculum, providing a scholarly definition of ‘co-creation’ and highlighting good practice within the Higher Education sector. The inclusion of Bovill and Bulley’s Ladder of participation in curriculum design is useful for those taking their first steps into co-creation, providing a clear visual of the different extents to which control can be given over to students. 

It is important to note that this blog post was written at the start of 2019; I would argue that staff-student co-creation is no longer as rare as it once was but there is still plenty of opportunity for its further implementation. Of all the benefits that student partnership and co-creation of the curriculum can bring, it is uplifting to see Lubicz-Nawrocka foregrounding the professional and emotional development of those involved and emphasising reciprocal feelings of respect and enjoyment. Just as important, however, are the improvements made to teaching and learning as a result of harnessing students’ expertise, experience, and insight.  

2. Students as Partners Guide: Student Engagement through Partnership 

This guide for AdvanceHE begins by drawing a distinction between engagement and partnership: “partnership is a form of student engagement, but whilst all partnership is engagement, not all student engagement is partnership (Healey, Flint & Harrington 2014)”. Yet within any partnership, there may be times when students find themselves working within the engagement bracket; if for example, they need to acquire knowledge from their staff partner. The authors admit that partnership can be messy and no single approach will be effective in all cases, but that this underlines the need for flexibility within the process and honesty between those involved. However, the first step in all successful partnerships is for staff and students alike to stop thinking of each other in terms of seniority and instead consider the benefits that different ideas and experiences will bring to the project at hand. 

3. A practical guide to scaling up student-staff partnerships in Higher Education 

Due to the highly contextual nature of student partnership programmes, there can be no “one-size-fits-all” approach. This practical guide by Lucy Mercer-Mapstone and Jenny Marie offers a comprehensive overview of the areas and items to consider when scaling up a project-based student partnership initiative. Tips range from gaining the support required to initiate a partnership right through to the final evaluation of the project, including recruitment, reward, and everything else that falls between.   

4. The Power of Partnership 

Power, Partnership and Representation (Chapter 4 of The Power of Partnership: Students, Staff, and Faculty Revolutionizing Higher Education, by Lucy Mercer-Mapstone and Sophia Abbot) takes a closer look at student rep systems as a form of partnership. Presented as a dialogue between two co-authors, the chapter discusses power dynamics within relationships between staff and student reps, highlighting the uncertainty of whether the elected student can truly represent the views of their entire cohort. 

 Although positioned as a form of student partnership, an interesting question arises as to whether student rep systems would look different if they had been designed by staff and students in collaboration. Successful partnership, the authors agree, requires the reframing of power: neither party should see this as a loss, rather it should be seen as developing qualities of openness, trust, and accountability.  

5. Using partnership time effectively: Micro-sprints 

The Micro-sprint, developed by John Owen (Lecturer in Technology Enhanced Learning here at The University of Manchester) and Cath Wasiuk (E-materials and Student Support Officer, Health Sciences), is a refined version of the Sprint. Whilst adhering to the four key stages (Plan, Do, Review, Reflect), the Micro-sprint fits this process into a productive and manageable three-hour slot. The Micro-sprint has been continually reviewed and adapted to the requirements of online working, all the while maintaining its effectiveness and accessibility.  


You can read more about both Micro-sprints and student partnership in John Owen’s recent blog post in which he reflects on his ITL Fellowship experience and his project on student-staff partnerships (SSP). 


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We’d really like to hear your responses to the stories we feature – if you want to respond, please email the ITL team at teaching.learning@manchester.ac.uk, or the University’s Teaching and Learning Online Network (TALON) on Yammer is a great place for you to carry on the discussion of any practice you find really interesting.