What has student engagement done for me?

Student engagement has been a really key theme
for me throughout my time when I was elected president of my student’s union
and then during my career working in higher education being engaged as a
student rep was a great experience so good that I did it in various different guises for almost a
decade student engagement for me has been an absolute transformational part
of my student life my student union life and as part of my professional career
and now working in a university I first got involved in quality assurance and
enhancement when I was vice president and going through institutional review
this led me to become a student reviewer for QAA and later a student engagement
advisor it brought me into QAA so it’s tremendously important to me, it allowed
me to work with the likes of Derfel Owen who was a significant figure in student
engagement and of course with Douglas Blackstock our current chief executive
officer in pioneering I think QAA’s approach to student engagement the main
thing that you need is given me is access to a community people who are
incredibly experienced, knowledgeable and very passionate. Some of those sat next to
you right now are gonna go on to be great leaders in higher education Looking back getting involved in student education was probably the best decisions I ever
made, the opportunities I’ve been given through that over the past five years have
been fantastic and it really fundamentally changed my view of higher
education but also my views of my development both
personally and professionally It offered me the chance to shape the curriculum, shape the
student experience and give opportunities for more students to get
involved, to make change, to represent students through quality. It was that
experience of having to think on your feet as are put on the spot in a meeting,
having your ideas robustly challenged understanding the impact that a well
evidenced arguments can make and recognizing the merit in other people’s
points of view All of these opportunities have helped me to expand
my knowledge of the HE sector, to expand my network of the student reps and other
staff working in the area and also to bring lots of new opportunities and
ideas back to students on my campus I think it gives fantastic skills to both
yourself as a facilitator of student engagement but also to other students
who are getting involved and to staff to open up their arms to involve
students in their practices across from the quality side through to
the student voice Probably one of the most significant important things about higher education is seeing the way that
students can drive and influence what a good positive student experience should
look and feel like The one thing that unites students across all of the higher
education is the fact that they’re both accessing education and also engaging
with that education and obviously it’s important that universities get that
student engagement right A big mistake that many people make is thinking it’s
all about sitting inside and reading long boring documents actually it’s all
about human interaction and working student engagement will give you an
amazing grounding in that when thinking about how you can maintain momentum of
student engagement in your institution the key for me is having a strong
evidence base evidence evidence evidence it’s very difficult for a university or
a vice-chancellor or for government to ignore people when they provide us with
decent well-rounded well evidenced, evidence Top tip for keeping the
momentum for student engagement throughout the years is make sure that
you involve and really engage people in clubs and societies at colleges and
universities in the decision-making for future plans It’s been a tremendous
privilege for me and to see student engagement working actively in the
community working in higher education and leading to some real positive
improvements there may be a lot of change coming in the sector but there’s
always gonna be a place for student engagement no spreadsheet, formula or
metric as good as it would be will ever be able to accurately capture, reflect or
express the true experiences of being a student The React Project has recently
published some fascinating research showing the students involved in engagement
activities are more likely to achieve higher grades and less likely to drop out
it’s research like this demonstrating the impact of student engagement schemes
that is most likely to result in ongoing interest and investment from the
university managers I’m the chief executive of the UK’s independent expert
quality body because many many years ago I got involved, I got engaged, got
active in trying to make a difference for students, I’ve been able to use that
to a career in student unions and universities and now here the QAA give
something back, get involved, get engaged and you can make a real difference for
your fellow students

Michael Martin

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