What Is Student Engagement
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This website provides a platform to signpost students, staff and policy makers globally to all of the great work being conducted under the student engagement banner. If anyone would like to put forward a proposal to be included in this website do get in touch!

Why focus on Student Engagement in Higher Education

The term ‘student engagement’ (and disengagement) in Higher Education was conceptualised in the 1980s as a way to understand and reduce student boredom, alienation, and dropping out (Finn & Zimmer, 2012). It has also been described to represent both the time and energy students invest in educationally purposeful activities and the effort institutions devote to using effective educational practices (Kuh, 2001). However, in the last fifteen years ‘student engagement’ has become a term used to refer to practices, opportunities and extra-curricular activities, which students become involved in to improve the student educational experience (NUS, 2012, Healey, Flint, & Harrington, 2014).

This development of practice has been heavily influenced by theory and practice around working with ‘students as partners’ and student engagement in regards to co-creating curricula, enhancing learning and the wider student experience (Neary, 2010, Wait & Bols, 2015, Dunne, 2016). As Higher Education policy makers in the increasingly encourage student engagement, learning and success at Universities and Colleges in the globally, the University of Winchester in 2017 established an innovative Centre for Student Engagement to research and enhance staff and student engagement and development at the University. The buzzword ‘Student Engagement’ has come to mean many things to many individuals (Dunne, 2016; Bryson, 2014); being associated with student engagement in the curriculum and learning (Finn & Zimmer, 2012), student involvement in quality assurance and student representation (Stalmeijer, Whittingham, de Grave, & Dolmans, 2016; Owen, 2013), student-staff partnership projects related to Teaching and Learning (Marie, Arif, Joshi, 2016; Matthews, 2016). This has inspired many research studies of the students’ experiences in wider Higher Education on topics such as belonging, employability and accessibility to education (Office for Students, 2018; Nghia, 2017; Thomas, 2012).

Higher Education has placed significant emphasis on the catch all phrase of Student Engagement as a means of activity, discourse and enhancement to ensure students thrive, succeed and can access an ever modernized and marketized education sector, which is increasingly accountable to their funders, tuition fees and tax payers (Frankham, 2017; Tran, 2015). Scholars in the United States of America (USA) have long emphasised ‘Student Engagement’ for many years in relation to students’ engagement in the curriculum and co-curriculum, inspired by works such as Astin’s Student Developmental Theory (Astin,1984) and the research of Professor George Kuh inspiring multiple Student Engagement surveys worldwide (National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE, USA), United Kingdom Survey of Student Engagement (UKES); Irish Survey of Student Engagement (ISSE), Australian Survey of Student Engagement (AUSSE) etc.). The United Kingdom’s context of Student Engagement has taken the term beyond the curriculum and a measurable survey, where Universities are asked to engage students as partners, collectively and individually, in the enhancement of learning and teaching, quality assurance processes and ensuring effective feedback loops from their learners in relation to the student voice to continuously enhance Higher Education (QAA, 2018; QAA, 2015, Department for Business Innovations and Skills; 2011).

This had led to a plethora of activities, research areas, networks and roles at Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), which take the Student Engagement title with three active journals under the banner (Student Engagement in Higher Education Journal; Journal of Educational Innovations, Partnership and Change; and the International Journal of Students as Partners) and nationwide projects and networks such as RAISE (Researching Advancing and Inspiring Student Engagement), TSEP (The Student Engagement Partnership) and Sparqs (Student Partnerships in Quality Scotland) creating a significant amount of activity and scholarship (Bryson, 2015). With this vast array of activity and demand in the sector for Student Engagement, the University of Winchester, with its ambition to be “sector leading in Student Engagement practices”, established a research Centre for Student Engagement to research, innovate and bid for funding. By running our Masters in Student Engagement in Higher Education from 2018, and hosting this signposting website for the sector’s use, where we hope students and staff globally will continue to expand the conversation, innovate practice and research students’ experiences.

Tom Lowe – Head of Student Engagement & Employability, University of Winchester

Tom is the Head of Student Engagement and Employability where he leads the University’s careers, student development and extra-curricular opportunities, staffing and strategies relating to fostering student success at Winchester. Tom is also the Vice Chair (Acting) for the international network RAISE (Researching, Advancing and Inspiring Student Engagement) and the programme leader for the MA in Student Engagement in Higher Education, working at the cutting edge of Student Engagement in international Higher Education.

Tom has recently published a co-edited book "A Handbook for Student Engagement in Higher Education: Theory into Practice" which offers an array of case studies of best practice, sector commentaries and critical reflections on engaging students in educational developments. Tom is an expert in the practicalities surrounding Student Engagement in quality assurance, learning and teaching, University governance and Students' Unions, as well as student involvement in extra-curricular activities and overcoming barriers to student success through inclusive practice. He has experience working with over 30 HEIs from across the UK and is a frequent contributor and author in journals and conferences.

Prior to August 2017, Tom was the Project Manager for REACT (Realising Engagement through Active Culture Transformation), where he facilitated collaborative development between 16 universities on the subject of Student Engagement in educational developments. Before REACT, Tom was Vice President, Education at Winchester Student Union, representing the students of the University of Winchester. During his time as Vice President, Tom gained a particular passion for Student Engagement, revamping the Student Academic Representative system and starting up the Winchester Student Fellows Scheme. Tom served as a national student representative on several national committees such as the Steering Group of The Student Engagement Partnership (2014-15), the Quality Assurance Agency’s Student Advisory Board (2014-18) and the Advisory Committee for Degree Awarding Powers (2016-18).

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