My Blog

The REACT team visited the University of Lincoln last week for the fourth Jisc Change Agent Network Conference where we could see how much Student Engagement has progressed in past years. In delegate numbers alone, this annual event had seen an impressive increase in delegate numbers since the first CAN event in Greenwich is 2013 (Greenwich 2013 – 14 delegates, Winchester 2014 – 40 delegates, Birmingham 2015 – 90 delegates, Lincoln 2015 – 190 delegates).Also in the poster sessions, we saw lots of institutions showcasing their practice of working with students as partners/fellows/change agents/PALS from institutions who had only just began to work in Student Engagement in the past one or two academic years. This was brilliant to see and when reflecting back to the McMaster international event, the tidal wave of activity in Student Engagement has certainly began in the UK. Perhaps the world will follow in a similar fashion. 

At the conference we ran a workshop exploring who are the 'hard-to-reach' students to show the variety of perspectives in the room in comparison to Student Engagement. Colleagues Liz, Stuart and Wilko used red and green voting cards for our 50 participants to visibly see how varied perspectives were, even in an audience of Student Engagement enthusiasts. Also Stella Jones-Devitt and a team from Sheffield Hallam University presented on their project looking at the BME attainment gap as an institution involved in the REACT Collaborative Development Programme. Stuart and Wilko also presented on the initial findings from the REACT Research Project comparing student perspectives on the Winchester Student Fellows Scheme and the London Met PASS Scheme.

​Last week, the REACT team traveled to Edinburgh for the ALDinHE (Association for Learning Development in Higher Education) Conference, to deliver two sessions as book-ends on the second day of the event. Liz and I facilitated a workshop in the morning, titled "exploring perspectives of the 'hard-to-reach' in relation to student engagement", where we felt we inspired delegates to look critically at their institutions' language in policies, strategies and action plans in regards to widening access of opportunities to students.

In the afternoon Stuart and Wilko presented our first public session on REACT's research, delivering a paper titled "democracy and inclusivity in two contrasting student engagement initiatives in different institutional contexts". This paper gave the initial analysis of a survey distributed to Student Fellows at the University of Winchester and Success Coaches at London Metropolitan University exploring student motivations, experiences and demographics of these participations. This study is currently being replicated at Exeter with Students as Change Agents, which will provide a third contrasting Student Engagement Participation, as a foundation for REACT's continued research into the impact of Student Engagement in UK HE. For more information on this study please contact Dr Stuart Sims at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. & Wilko Luebsen at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

This week Rebecca (Content Marketing Coordinator) and I have been busy refreshing our printed marketing materials, spending hours on InDesign and beginning initial conversations about our REACT Conference in May 2017. We are already excited to begin planning our flagship event to share practice from the fifteen universities working with REACT and showcase the outcomes of our research. More details to follow #REACTcon2017!

Last week we were delighted to see three articles from Winchester's Student Engagement practices disseminated in the Jisc Change Agent Network (CAN) Journal of Educational Innovation, Partnership and Change. Liz Dunne – Director of REACT, gives an interesting insight to Student Engagement in 2016 in the preface, exploring what SE means today and lists a variety of current models used across Higher Education. Also, Liz's article features a model we have already used in a workshop as part of REACT, offering four models of Student Engagement for practices to be compared to and inspired by.

We were especially excited to see a journal article from two Student Fellows from 2014-15, Lauren Dickinson and Antonia Fox with their article Who owns the student voice? A study of students' perceptions of student voice in higher education which investigates the wide range of student experiences of student voice at the University of Winchester (Dickinson & Fox, 2016). Also I was happy to see an article Dr Stuart Sims, Savannah King (SU President), Yaz El Hakim and I wrote last academic year, evaluating the impact of the first year of the Student Fellows Scheme. This was an innovative attempt at assessing the impact of a Student Engagement participation on an institution.

These publications are available online here: https://journals.gre.ac.uk/index.php/studentchangeagents/index

Recently I joined the REACT team, coming in as the researcher based at the University of Exeter. Having just finished my Masters at Exeter's Cornwall campus, I am finding it an interesting flip to be on the other side of University. During my brief year down in Falmouth I made the most of the opportunities to get involved in and around the Uni. I helped to set up a student-led podcast interviewing lecturers on their recently published papers, played a few sports and got immersed in the wildlife documentary scene. All of these activities boosted my CV and provided fun insights into future careers. It is no wonder then, that Exeter is one of REACT's three core institutions. Now based at Streatham campus, I can see the amount of effort that goes into providing students with ways to grow, not just academically, but in terms of life and employability skills.

The first few days with REACT was spent gently getting to know the project and the team. As Stuart Sims, the lead researcher later said of my first week, "Oh what a lovely, naive time that must have been." He was right but also played a part in this; within 5 minutes of knowing him, we were tucking into burgers at the student bar, albeit washed down with white hot chocolates rather than anything stronger. I was also introduced to Tom Lowe, the Project Manager and Rebecca Manley, the Content Marketing Coordinator, by REACT's Director, Liz Dunne.

As I have joined this project a few months in, my second week coincided with the third steering group. I traveled to Winchester on the Monday morning train, had a whistle-stop tour of the Universities small, but welcoming campus and then met the Steering Group. The meeting was informative but fun, with group activities to encourage ideas out of everyone present. After a couple of presentations, the meeting concluded with much positivity. Most of the group carried on to a pub and then a restaurant in Winchester, before those of us that had traveled from Exeter retired to a hotel. The next day saw the core team gather to knock our heads together, garner the most insightful ideas from the steering group and start planning our next actions. It seems that numerous HEI's are engaged with us, eager to work with and share ideas with each other.

I enjoyed the trip to Winchester and being introduced to the way things run there. Fortunately for me, over the next few weeks I will be visiting more places, including Buckinghamshire New University, Greenwich University and the University of West England. With a project such as this, collaboration and sharing of knowledge is key. We can't expect students to be proactive and engaged if their Universities do not show the same willingness. Every Institution involved with REACT is proving that endeavour, I personally would visit every University in the country if I could, I just hope that our travel budget is as hardy as our team.ext here ...

I have been an advocate of student engagement for a few years now, my time as Student Representative and Student Governor at Doncaster College, being a QAA Student Reviewer and my time on The Student Engagement Partnership Steering Group has meant I've been lucky enough to attend many informative and interesting events, with some fascinating people. As a student at these events I have often been asked many questions around the barriers to student engagement and I have clear views regarding its importance. At one event, after a discussion around student apathy towards engagement in quality assurance, an academic replied "you wouldn't understand". We had been discussing how difficult it can sometimes be to get students to attend meetings; they are very busy, they often have many other commitments outside of student life, particularly in the Higher Education in Further Education Colleges and these meetings often have very little about them to appeal to the average student. My answer revolved around the need to ensure that information about the meetings and the meetings themselves were accessible, the importance of discussing the various benefits of student engagement and partnership with both staff and students and the need for a positive environment which encourages the development of an inclusive culture of partnership. I've got to admit the "you wouldn't understand" comment caught me a little by surprise, I was a highly engaged student in addition to many other commitments, however I did have to admit that no, I did not have any experience from the academics point of view. Now that I lecture in Higher Education, full-time, in a Further Education College, in addition to being a PhD student, I thought it might be interesting to revisit some of the questions I have been asked in the past to see if my understanding has evolved with the addition of another perspective.

Student apathy can of course be a definite barrier to student engagement, the defunct student stereotype of partying and drinking the way through a degree has been replaced, for the majority in higher education, by the knowledge that there are major expectations attached to student life, especially with the increasing emphasis placed on the development of transferable skills to aid future employability. Students often believe they have better things to do than engage in quality assurance or become involved in other student engagement opportunities. My views on the many benefits of active student engagement and partnership have not changed; the transferable skills and clear confidence and knowledge enhancing opportunities are, in my view, not only important but vital to the student experience. My time as a lecturer has only added to this belief. As a lecturer we are expected to ensure that employability is built into each module and I encourage an understanding of the value of volunteering and work experience at every given opportunity, if we do this within the course it makes sense to encourage this within the institution too. In many ways, with the busy student lifestyle, encouragement of student engagement can be far easier than finding time to volunteer outside the student community and contains many of the same benefits for students. Don't lynch me here, I'm aware it does not necessarily give exact workplace experience or increase the student's network; however in reality this is not always the case in many volunteering opportunities either. I am also keen not to reduce engagement to just an additional employability scheme, it is far more than that, it is about knowledge acquisition, it is about personal reflection and growth and it provides numerous benefits to the student themselves, the student body as a whole and the institution. If this is explained effectively to the students and they are still apathetic then maybe they are simply too busy and they will consider the opportunity to engage when they can, after all you can lead a horse to water but you cannot make it drink.

One of the other questions I'm often asked is "how are we supposed to make the meetings more accessible?" I can see how difficult this can be, if you have been doing something the same way for a long time, it works but it is not necessarily 'student friendly' then do you change the whole meeting set-up in order to accommodate this new entity? There are a few answers to this in my opinion. In some respects you do not need to change the meeting to accommodate the student; you just need to ensure a level playing field for them. Nobody wants to go into a meeting and not know what or who to expect to be facing; ensure the student understands the environment, the unspoken as well as the spoken rules and can fully integrate into the group, a big part of this is ensuring all the staff and other members 'buy in' to the student presence too. Formal meetings can be intimidating but are also a good learning experience. The other way to look at this is to ask whether the meetings really do work as they are. If there is the potential for students to feel intimidated and unable to speak then surely there is the potential for other staff and members to feel that way too; just because the meetings or committees adhere to their terms of reference or result in actions does not mean they are effective. Again I'm not sure my opinion has changed in this regard now I have the additional perspective of being a lecturer. Where the meeting style works and a supportive environment and inclusive culture is developed effectively I think it is a useful learning tool for students and introduces the additional, much needed, student perspective. In other instances a more organic structure, which can often be more comfortable for students, is often more comfortable and effective for the institutional staff too. Making meetings more accessible should not be simply a case of how do we make students more comfortable, it should be a case of seriously questioning what works and does not work for everyone involved; we should not be alienating one to please the other, we should be considering what an inclusive workplace culture looks like.

The final question I want to tackle is "how are we supposed to fit it all in with everything else we have to do?" This is the area where I feel I have learnt the most over the last year; a higher education institution is a very dynamic, inspiring and often demanding place to work. The student does not see the scaffolding that holds their student experience in place so perhaps any naivety I may have had with regards to this is a testament to the wonderful job my tutors and the people around me did of ensuring my experience was not in any way hindered by the targets and expectations placed on them from elsewhere. Although my understanding of the expectations placed on staff may have changed through experience, I think my answer still remains the same: student engagement is not about finding additional time; it's about involving students in what you are already doing. Effective student engagement and partnership may result in additional enhancement opportunities; I have seen some fantastic student-led or student engagement projects, however many of these involve extra time on the part of the students more than the staff. In fact effective student engagement and partnership should save time as it is about empowering students to take an active role in their learning experience, to be a part of developing new initiatives or to be part of a problem solving exercise. It is also important to state that not everything a student learns within higher education is learnt in the classroom, I learnt as much from the people, culture, environment and available opportunities as I did from the lessons and research. We engage with students on a daily basis, often it is not something you need to find time to do; it is something we already do and just needs to be recognised as such.

I do not profess to be an expert, I can of course only comment on my own experience and maybe some of you will be reading this still thinking "you wouldn't understand". Every institution is different, every practitioner is different, every student is different and student engagement is intrinsically contextual, however the underlying motivation is the same. As a student I advocated student engagement and partnership because I wanted to do my best and to enhance my student experience. As a lecturer and as an institution we advocate student engagement and partnership because we want the best for our students and we want to enhance their student experience.

��Z � �

The Students as Change Agents project was a winner at the University of Exeter's prestigious Professional Services Recognition Awards 2015, on Wednesday 25th November.The annual awards represent a means of recognising and rewarding outstanding projects and individuals within the University, with staff and students from the institution able to nominate projects or staff which/who have made the most positive contributions to the University.

Battling against four other laudable projects within the Outstanding Project of the Year category, Students as Change Agents was nominated due to the support it gives to students who hold original ideas on how to positively improve the student experience.120 projects, large and small, have been supported over the past year (double the amount from the previous year as the scheme builds awareness and momentum) with students being supported by team members in each College.

Announced at a gala dinner, the Students as Change Agents team were delighted to be announced as the winners in this category – showing the enormous strides the project has achieved since its inception eight years ago.

An undisclosed nominator of the project stated:

"Change Agents has helped me to develop skills in communication, leadership and managing stakeholders, which undoubtedly helped me to secure my graduate job.If I hadn't undertaken the challenge of my project, and had the guidance and advice of Change agents, I would not have had the skills I needed on my internship to demonstrate my potential"

http://www.exeter.ac.uk/staff/benefits/excellence/winners/?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=University+of+Exeter+Weekly+Bulletin+30112015&utm_content=University+of+Exeter+Weekly+Bulletin+30112015+CID_35b547611d40b170604f053e7f526719&utm_source=Createsend%20emails&utm_term=PSRA%20webpages

Happy New Year from the REACT team! It is exciting to be back to begin preparing for new phases of our project in the next 6 months. However this week we have taken time to reflect on our previous 6 months' activities, updating our dissemination log and reviewing our websites analytics. When I began this project I was told that time would move quickly, that we should work efficiently to make the most of this two year project. One quarter in to REACT we are proud to have:

  • -Created our own website, as a platform for dissemination (www.studentengagement.ac.uk )
  • -Published 4 case studies.
  • -Designed and published 7 activities.
  • -Recruited 12 further institutions as part of our collaborative development programme.
  • -Interacted with 27 institutions.
  • -Ran 3 events and 2 Steering Groups.
  • -Began our research project into Student Engagement participations
  • -Held conversations to investigate the national meaning of who are the 'hard to reach' students in UK Higher Education.

Looking forward, we are currently arranging our consultancy visits to each of our Collaborative Development Programme institutions, beginning with Bristol in two weeks. Also we are continuously improving our online presence, aiming to upload video content and more institutional case studies to our pages, to enrich our presence online and expand the resources available to visitors.

As always, we are keen to hear from any institutions who are interested in the area of Student Engagement participations (Student Fellows, Change Agents, PALS/PASS schemes), so please do get in touch if you have any enquiries about practice elsewhere by contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

All the best

Tom Lowe – Project Manager

Four new resources have been added to REACT's resource bank on www.studentengagement.ac.uk for open use by anyone in the sector. These include two further case studies from London Metropolitan University's Peer Assisted Student Success (PASS) Scheme and Lincoln University's 'Students Consulting on Teaching', which provide accessible breakdowns and further information into these innovative Student Engagement initiatives.

Also, two new activities for use by institutions have been added. The first, by Dr Tansy Jessop, is an icebreaker activity using art to inspire deeper thinking into Higher Education, Student Experience and Student Engagement. The second is a Student Participation Mapping exercise, which is proven to act as a successful tool to assess, measure and compare student opportunities across an institution by Cassie Shaw and Tom Lowe.

All the required documents, instruction sheets and other resources are available here: http://www.studentengagement.ac.uk/index.php/resources

If anybody had any feedback or questions, please contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Steering Committee meetings for the REACT project are proving to be inspiring and thought-provoking. If you have visions of committee meetings being dull and highly structured ways of making sure a project is performing, then REACT is bucking that trend. Of course we do keep a close eye on project progress, but we have also been maximising the value of bringing together a group of people who are motivated to support ways in which students and staff can work in partnership. We are like-minded in terms of many of our aims and aspirations, but our backgrounds are varied and we are constructively critical and questioning of one another and of the REACT project. At the Steering Committee meetings, we have engaged in a series of exercises and activities that have helped us to explore elements of partnership working in more depth. Some of these activities/tools can be found on the REACT website (http://www.studentengagement.ac.uk/index.php/resources/react-tools)

At the Steering Committee meeting on 2nd November 2015, I was invited to lead one of these activities. I wanted us all to try to articulate more clearly some of the principles of partnership and what partnership looks like in practice. We considered partnership in broad terms - partnership in learning and teaching within the classroom, partnerships to investigate institutional policies and practices, partnerships involving a whole group/cohort of students, partnership between one member of staff and one or two students. The question I posed to the committee was: What would you see if you walked in on genuine partnership? The responses focused on both underpinning principles as well as visions of what partnership looks like and I've selected a few of the rich range of responses to share here:

•Shared purpose – buzz in the room

•Where are the eyes of the learners? On books, on a blackboard, on one person? Or on each other, moving around the room, communicating with others. / Body language of person directing the learning – is it 'all about me' or 'all about us'?

•Disagreement

•Tolerance for uncertainty

•Fairly lively / heated debate and discussion NOT minute/agenda led orderly processes

•Openness to taking risk to learn with/from one another and arrive somewhere new (for all involved)

•Collaborative planning and action to achieve shared goals and values

•Staff and students talking on equal terms

•Ongoing mutual feedback = constructive and developmental nature

•Fluid and specialised division of labour (partners contributing their expertise and experience as appropriate)

•High noise levels during group work (or conversely quiet concentration), not obvious who is who or where leadership is taking place

My reaction to these responses was one of excitement at the visions of partnership that staff and students on the REACT Steering Committee aspire to and support within their work. I was also encouraged by how many of us agreed about important aspects of partnership practice - including the importance of enabling space for disagreement, if that's not an oxymoron! I am enjoying spending time thinking further about these responses and I think the depth of ideas contained within these statements are an indication of the complexity and nuance implied by the idea of partnerships. I am really looking forward to the continued growth of the interesting resources being made available on the REACT website (www.studentengagement.ac.uk) as well as the prospects of future Steering Committee meetings.

Dr Catherine Bovill, University of Glasgow, REACT Steering Committee Member

We are excited to announce the launch of REACT's Collaborative Development Programme which will bring together twelve further institutions to join Winchester, Exeter and London Metropolitan for a twenty month programme. The aim of the REACT CDP is to share best practice, collaborative approaches and to join forces to enhance practice in Student Engagement Participation at our institutions, with particular regard to accessibility and evidencing impact.

The institutions taking part in this programme are:

  • Aston University
  • University of Brighton
  • University of Bristol
  • Canterbury Christ Church University
  • University College London
  • Edinburgh Napier University
  • University of Greenwich
  • University of Manchester
  • Newcastle University
  • Newman University
  • Sheffield Hallam University
  • University of Southampton

We are kicking off this programme next week with two development days in London and Winchester to bring together delegations from these institutions. More information to follow!

Tom Lowe

REACT Project Manager

Last week REACT ran its first public events for the institutions participating in our Collaborative Development Programme. These two identical events aimed to kick off our 15 University group's collaborative activities over the next two years, through bringing together the institutions in two groups.

On Monday 16th November, we welcomed the Universities of Aston, Brighton, Edinburgh Napier, Greenwich, Newcastle, Newman and Sheffield Hallam to London Metropolitan University, where we were hosted by Associate Professior Digby Warren and Wilko. We were booked into an angular room which fit with our agenda of aiming to question perspectives of Student Engagement at each institution. The morning was taken up with ice breakers and thought-provoking activities to prompt attending institutions to reflect on their current practice. We also received great presentations from Exeter Change Agent Jason Chang, LMU Success Coaches Ade and Latoyah, and Winchester Student Fellows Cassie Shaw and Savannah King, on their Student Engagement experiences.

In the afternoon, we challenged the institutions to present, without slides, on the aims of their projects, after providing them with creative materials. One presentation that sticks firmly within our minds was from Sheffield Hallam, who simulated cutting of feathers to break down barriers to Higher Education for students to enable learning. Other presentations included elaborate posters featuring feathers, glow sticks and mirrored card, depicting artistic interpretations of how to unite SE at their institutions, or how to channel the work to benefit those students who do not engage.

At our second event on Thursday 19th November, we welcomed the Universities of Canterbury Christ Church, Manchester, Southampton and UCL to Winchester, where we received great opening remarks from SU President Savannah King on her excitement about institutions coming together to 'board the safe and sturdy REACT ship on our SE journey'. The second event was also filled with reflective thinking and debate through icebreakers and activities, with additional presentations from VP Education Blake Hutchings and Student Fellow Jack Hancock.

We were excited to launch our collaborative programme with these two events which were exceptionally well attended. In the New Year we will visit each of the institutions, and we are currently planning future development days with potential cross-association collaboration in future SE events.


After a very engaging and enjoyable session from Cathy Bovill at the REACT steering group my mind reached back to a conversation between myself, Tom Lowe and Winchester Student Union President Savannah King about the nature of different roles in partnership practices. Cathy had asked the group to write down on post-it notes what we believed partnership would look like if you walked in on it happening.

As a recovering Social Theorist and continuing old lefty I shot straight past the practical aspects which many of my colleagues (much more wisely) focused on and wrote down something along the lines of 'a functional and specialised division of labour where partners bring different expertise that others do not have access to'. While this is quite a dry conception of usually exciting practices, it quite nicely (I hope) distills the thrust of the discussion between Savannah , Tom and myself.

We were grappling with the fact (or potentially perception) that there will always be a power imbalance in staff-student partnerships even if this is only at the outset. I am sure I don't need to trot out these arguments (which I am not completely convinced of) in much detail, but essentially that staff are seen as having the power and this must be shared with, devolved to or given up to students in order to make partnership practices work.

Our conception was that every participant in partnership working is contributing specific skills, experiences and perspectives which are unique to them both as individuals and the positions that they hold within the institution. I would argue that this gives an equivalence of status to all partners because they are all contributing something which would be beyond the scope of their partners whether that is academic staff, students, support staff or student union officers. While I am not claiming this is a novel idea, the way it has bearing on the work of REACT is significant.

This is the underlying rationale behind paying a bursary for the Student Fellows Scheme. We as a University and Student union benefit from the unique knowledge, perspective and talents of the Student Fellows. I get paid to support the development of Learning and Teaching at the University of Winchester, if our students are doing the same then they should be paid as well. It also has bearing on the issue of 'hard-to-reach' students. Putting aside (for now!) how this is a clunky and loaded term, the idea that whole groups of students may not be participating in Student Engagement activities can undermine their whole focus because we want as broad a range of students represented as possible otherwise we are not experiencing this coming together of varied experiences and expertise. I see it as my responsibility as a student engagement practitioner to make our initiatives as accessible as possible both in terms of equality of access but also so our scheme has a diversity of voices that are as representative as possible of our student body.

P.S. Thanks to Tom and Savannah for allowing me to report on a bit of a ranting session and to Cathy Bovill for a great activity which jogged my thoughts towards blogging about it.


This week Simon, REACT's researcher at Exeter, described the campus to me as 'resembling a cross between a beach party, a Moroccan souk and an international airport'. As I walked through the Forum building at the heart of the University on Wednesday, I felt the same kind of thing: stalls everywhere, more like a marketplace;the scents of interesting and exotic foods and strong black coffee wafting through the air, student reps dressed in bright standout colours selling their 'wares', people milling around in excitement, the noise of chatter, music, some looking lost or finding their way in trepidation, others determinedly on their way through the groupings of many languages and styles, chattering and bantering. I felt a fleeting moment of envy and a desire to be young again. The day before had been similar on the Winchester campus, the sense of business and purpose, students in exuberant groups, eying each other up, making their first ventures into conversation with strangers who might become their friends for the future, complaining about the steepness of the hills (on both campuses). This was the first time since I started in my REACT role in July that I had seen the Winchester campus populated by undergraduates, and so many multi-coloured umbrellas, as they ran and dodged around each other to avoid the sporadic but heavy downpours.

These experiences made me think closely about the purpose of REACT. Amongst the excitement, I also observed a few people who didn't quite seem to 'fit the mould'; a mature student of fifty plus who seemed to be wandering around aimlessly; a pale bespectacled student in a queue who gave the impression of being separate, not joining the noisy conversations around him; a single black girl sitting alone on a step; some isolated smokers, one of whom stood out for being dressed in black, with thick black flowing hair, heavy black eye-liner and purple boots. I wondered about the small cliques of Asian students and whether they would come to mingle with the community, or remain apart.

Some of these images could be seen as stereotypical of the so-called 'hard to reach' student, but it is not intended to single out stereotypes here; all these students may come to engage fully with their studies and their institutions; none may become part of that group who feel 'different' or 'isolated', 'outsiders' within a mass of others, or not part of a community to the extent that it impacts on their attainment or well-being. My observations made me wonder to what extent we, as institutions, understand enough about what promotes an effective and inclusive community, about what alienates, and about how even the normal bustle and jostle I had observed can also be overwhelming or create anxiety for those who, right from Day 1 of higher education, feel they don't or can't fit in or belong, or don't know how they can make their voice heard or make a difference. It also made me think further about context - particular kinds of student may represent something approaching the 'norm' in one institution but be seen as comparatively unusual in another, and 'hard to reach' students may differ considerably according to their context. This will be something that we will look at more closely through the REACT project, as well as finding terminology that has a better message: students are not 'hard to reach', but as institutions we still often fail to reach out to them in ways that are meaningful and appropriate.

�V�ge ...

My journey across the country to both the Association for Learning Technology (ALT) conference and RAISE (Researching, Advancing & Inspiring Student Engagement) conference started with an uncomfortably early bleating of my 03:45 alarm on the 10th September. Fortunately, I was incredibly excited, not to mention feeling vastly honoured, to attend the conferences with members of the REACT team. I was interested in the ways Higher Education are developing both learning technologies and student engagement (SE) in different institutions. For myself as the "super-engaged" student (a Student Academic Representative, Student Fellow, sports team captain and Student Engagement Assistant at Winchester Student Union) I was excited to see what opportunities other institutions had available for students in the SE sector.

First stop was Manchester, for the ALT conference, where Dr Stuart Sims (REACT Lead Researcher & Student Fellows Director) and I presented on the Student Fellows Scheme from the University of Winchester (UOW). Stuart explained the Student Fellows and I explained my project and how my engagement through this partnership scheme led to improvements of the university experience. A joint presentation, equally weighted, the true meaning of SE partnership, left me feeling valued in my contributions and it boosted my confidence for the following workshop. The workshop was accompanied by a number of institutions, all sharing ways they have engaged the student body through technology and the success they have had with their projects. Ideas were swapped, developed upon and contributions were shedding light on any issues raised by attendees. Everyone was stuck-in and keen to explore the technological enhancements made at their institutions. This was a thought-provoking experience, as it showed how technology paved the way forward in accessibility to engagement opportunities. Stuart and I had to leave shortly after this workshop to catch a train to our next destination, the RAISE conference in Nottingham. On the train we discussed our experience at the conference and found it to be inspiring thoughts of our own institution.

Feeling a peculiar mix of excitement and exhaustion we arrived in Nottingham for the RAISE Conference. We met the rest of the REACT team in the conference centre, this included Elisabeth Dunne (Director), Tom Lowe (Project Manager) and Wilko Luebsen (PASS Scheme Coodinator & REACT Researcher LMU). It was such a pleasure to meet Liz and Wilko and I felt very humbled to have been given an opportunity to be introduced to them both. Tom was chairing a workshop by Dr Avril Buchanan titled 'Inspiring hard-to-reach students to engage with learning development', so I decided to accompany him because the term hard-to-reach student sits uncomfortably in my conception of SE. We were invited to discuss the problems that our own institutions had with engaging students who are deemed hard-to-reach. There were common problems across institutions that appeared to me to highlight, if nothing else, how these students are in desperate need of reconfiguration and demand attention. It seems to me that these students should not be subject to neglect if institutions across the nation all recognise they need addressing. To further that thought, perhaps it is not the manner in which we include these students in SE opportunities but rather we instead look at restructuring the framework that we are trying to impose on these students. Rather than trying to include them in the strict guidelines of what SE currently is, we reconstruct the concept and design it in a manner that is all encompassing. Students who are thoroughly engaged in their studies, spending their time busying away in the library, should not be deemed disengaged simply because they are not involved in extracurricular opportunities, forever to be labelled that hard-to-reach student. As a student, I have friends who engage in two or three sports teams and could not spare a moment for currently labelled SE 'educational enhancement' opportunities, are these students also unengaged and hard-to-reach? Such thoughts were whirling around in my head and inspired my own understanding of SE further. The workshop swiftly moved on to modes of promoting the currently available schemes at each institution to make attempts to show what is available and engage the hard-to-reach students through video promotion. The manner of delivery from Dr Buchanan was engaging through her enthusiasm for the promotional endeavours at DeMontfort University. I really enjoyed the workshop and it has acted as a springboard for my own exploration of the label of hard-to-reach.

After the workshops the REACT team and I met up and went back to our hotel to get ready for a dinner in the evening with other attendees of the conference. It was a fantastic opportunity to meet other SE enthusiasts and network amongst some very lovely people. As a student it was wonderfully insightful to be surrounded by people in the HE sector. I would love to follow the paths of many of the people in that room, so it was so great to speak to them and hear their stories on an equal standing and feel appreciated for my contributions.

The next day, my morning consisted of presentations that all promoted their own institutions SE opportunities and it was great to hear the experiences they have had with them. There was only one thing that sat uncomfortably with me when sitting in the audience, as a current third year student, which was the phrase 'we all know students' followed by a negative perception of what all students do or do not do in some homogenous clump of non-identity. For a conference that prides itself on students being seen as partners or equally appreciated for their contributions in HE, I was disappointed to be a member of the pejoratively branded clump. Admittedly, I do not contest that there are students in institutions who do not hand their work in on time or maybe even fall asleep in lectures but for myself as "super-engaged" I felt almost embarrassed to introduce myself as a student after this.

Fortunately, the rest of my experience at the conference was incredible. I was overwhelmed with the passion and enthusiasm of the attendees for SE and I felt incredibly inspired by this. A particular presentation by Jo Caulfield from Bangor University left me excited to explore an idea, which I had been toying with for a Student Fellows Project on SE that I will now complete this year. I was very pleased with the overall event as I was made to feel welcomed and valued by the REACT team and attendees of the conference, the very people I hold in high esteem. As a student who is interested in SE the conference was an invaluable opportunity for me to develop my understanding and inspire my conception of Student Engagement.

This week we had our first full meeting of just the research team at London Metropolitan University. As my first visit to London Met, it was great to witness first-hand the tangible difference in size, location and culture of the institution compared to Winchester and it's a testament to the hard work of Wilko and the team at LMU in having such an effective initiative at engaging large numbers of students. We mainly met to develop the finer points of our research strategy, pool resources across our three core universities and produce key research instruments. It was great spending time with Wilko and Simon really getting to grips with how to capture the diversity of motivations and expectations of students who are involved in our initiatives. Drawing on previous work by all three team members we are well on the way to producing a cross-institutional survey that we will all be applying to our own programmes and we hope to work closely with any interested partners to support its usage in their context.

Being in London also provided valuable time to speak with stakeholders at institutions nearby where a new group of the student body was highlighted to us, as students who engage less due to their intense programmes – full time Masters studies. At the institution we visited, a large proportion of their PG students were of this group, and only attend the University for one year. The colleagues we met with were concerned that these students were underrepresented in student engagement and that many PG activities largely engage PG Research students who are at the institution longer. Fulltime MA course (often September-September) are known to be increasingly on UG students radar as a one year option to quickly increase their portfolio for the job market and often choose to go to a new institution for context. Considering these students as so-called 'hard-to-reach' students are new to our attention but certainly do need to be considered when looking at student participation accessibility – more focus on this area to come.

The REACT team is finally complete as we welcomed Rebecca as our Content Marketing Manager to join our team at REACT in two weeks to work on our externally facing aspects of the website and media aspects of REACT.

This week was also Freshers/Welcome Week at Winchester flipping the ghost town summer campus to a busy, energetic site overnight. Similar at LMU, Exeter and across the UK, meaning that Student Engagement Participations will be starting up again, recruiting, disseminating after possible summer redesigns. An exciting thought, though for REACT this means I am quite desk based as the sector, and all of my colleagues are involved in welcoming new students to HE.

Making the most of the time, I have been writing up our mailing list from RAISE, following up on action points and preparing to advertise for our Collaborative Development Programme – more info next week!

Tom Lowe – REACT Project Manager

We are proud to announce that our REACT website ( www.studentengagement.ac.uk )is now live! Thanks to the hard work of our web consultant Steve Northam for designing the site and credit to the whole REACT team for writing all the content and gathering photos since July. We aspire the website to serve the sector by providing open access resources, case studies and reports of our work. Obviously this is the beginning of our project so much more will be added to the Resource Bank in the coming months, as well as new pages added to provide evidence for Student Engagement.

On Wednesday the REACT team travelled to Nottingham to attend the RAISE Annual Conference where we had a stall to begin talking to the sector about our collaborative development programme for 10 Universities. The two day conference was attended by over 180 delegates, with a mixture of sessions and workshops on SE practice in Universities across the sector. The conference featured an hour long poster session where delegates could see the stalls and posters properly. This hour felt like 5 minutes, with Wilko, Liz and I talking to different colleagues from the sector back-to-back. Not only did we talk to many institutions about further collaboration with us, but also we got an invaluable insight into the current sector practice, barriers institutions encounter and assess the actual movement of Student Engagement across all of UK HE. F

Stuart and Cassie Shaw (Student Engagement Assistant – WSU) joined us at the end of the first day after their 'rock-star' flying trip from Southampton to Manchester, to the ALT- Conference to present on the Student Fellows Scheme, then down to RAISE. Having a team of five meant on day two, we could spread representation to all sessions to get a blanket feel for current practice in Student Engagement, using WhatsApp to make team notes in a forum.

A very tiring week but well worth it – thanks Julie Wintrup for taking our group photo!

Tom Lowe – REACT Project Manager...

My journey across the country to both the Association for Learning Technology (ALT) conference and RAISE (Researching, Advancing & Inspiring Student Engagement) conference started with an uncomfortably early bleating of my 03:45 alarm on the 10th September. Fortunately, I was incredibly excited, not to mention feeling vastly honoured, to attend the conferences with members of the REACT team. I was interested in the ways Higher Education are developing both learning technologies and student engagement (SE) in different institutions. For myself as the "super-engaged" student (a Student Academic Representative, Student Fellow, sports team captain and Student Engagement Assistant at Winchester Student Union) I was excited to see what opportunities other institutions had available for students in the SE sector.

First stop was Manchester, for the ALT conference, where Dr Stuart Sims (REACT Lead Researcher & Student Fellows Director) and I presented on the Student Fellows Scheme from the University of Winchester (UOW). Stuart explained the Student Fellows and I explained my project and how my engagement through this partnership scheme led to improvements of the university experience. A joint presentation, equally weighted, the true meaning of SE partnership, left me feeling valued in my contributions and it boosted my confidence for the following workshop. The workshop was accompanied by a number of institutions, all sharing ways they have engaged the student body through technology and the success they have had with their projects. Ideas were swapped, developed upon and contributions were shedding light on any issues raised by attendees. Everyone was stuck-in and keen to explore the technological enhancements made at their institutions. This was a thought-provoking experience, as it showed how technology paved the way forward in accessibility to engagement opportunities. Stuart and I had to leave shortly after this workshop to catch a train to our next destination, the RAISE conference in Nottingham. On the train we discussed our experience at the conference and found it to be inspiring thoughts of our own institution.

Feeling a peculiar mix of excitement and exhaustion we arrived in Nottingham for the RAISE Conference. We met the rest of the REACT team in the conference centre, this included Elisabeth Dunne (Director), Tom Lowe (Project Manager) and Wilko Luebsen (PASS Scheme Coodinator & REACT Researcher LMU). It was such a pleasure to meet Liz and Wilko and I felt very humbled to have been given an opportunity to be introduced to them both. Tom was chairing a workshop by Dr Avril Buchanan titled 'Inspiring hard-to-reach students to engage with learning development', so I decided to accompany him because the term hard-to-reach student sits uncomfortably in my conception of SE. We were invited to discuss the problems that our own institutions had with engaging students who are deemed hard-to-reach. There were common problems across institutions that appeared to me to highlight, if nothing else, how these students are in desperate need of reconfiguration and demand attention. It seems to me that these students should not be subject to neglect if institutions across the nation all recognise they need addressing. To further that thought, perhaps it is not the manner in which we include these students in SE opportunities, we instead look at restructuring the framework that we are trying to impose on these students. Instead of trying to include them in the strict guidelines of what SE currently is, we reconstruct the concept and design it in a manner that is all encompassing. Students who are thoroughly engaged in their studies, spending their time busying away in the library, should not be deemed disengaged simply because they are not involved in extracurricular opportunities, forever to be labelled that hard-to-reach student. As a student, I have friends who engage in two or three sports teams and could not spare a moment for currently labelled SE 'educational enhancement' opportunities, are these students also unengaged and hard-to-reach? Such thoughts were whirling around in my head and inspired my own understanding of SE further. The workshop swiftly moved on to modes of promoting the currently available schemes at each institution to make attempts to show what is available and engage the hard-to-reach students through video promotion. The manner of delivery from Dr Buchanan was engaging through her enthusiasm for the promotional endeavours at DeMontfort University. I really enjoyed the workshop and it has acted as a springboard for my own exploration of the label of hard-to-reach.

After the workshops the REACT team and I met up and went back to our hotel to get ready for a dinner in the evening with other attendees of the conference. It was a fantastic opportunity to meet other SE enthusiasts and network amongst some very lovely people. As a student it was wonderfully insightful to be surrounded by people in the HE sector. I would love to follow the paths of many of the people in that room, so it was so great to speak to them and hear their stories on an equal standing and feel appreciated for my contributions.

The next day, my morning consisted of presentations that all promoted their own institutions SE opportunities and it was great to hear the experiences they have had with them. There was only one thing that sat uncomfortably with me when sitting in the audience, as a current third year student, which was the phrase 'we all know students' followed by a negative perception of what all students do or do not do in some homogenous clump of non-identity. For a conference that prides itself on students being seen as partners or equally appreciated for their contributions in HE, I was disappointed to be a member of the pejoratively branded clump. Admittedly, I do not contest that there are students in institutions who do not hand their work in on time or maybe even fall asleep in lectures but for myself as "super-engaged" I felt almost embarrassed to introduce myself as a student after this.

Fortunately, the rest of my experience at the conference was incredible. I was overwhelmed with the passion and enthusiasm of the attendees for SE and I felt incredibly inspired by this. A particular presentation by Jo Caulfield from Bangor University left me excited to explore an idea, which I had been toying with for a Student Fellows Project on SE that I will now complete this year. I was very pleased with the overall event as I was made to feel welcomed and valued by the REACT team and attendees of the conference, the very people I hold in high esteem. As a student who is interested in SE the conference was an invaluable opportunity for me to develop my understanding and inspire my conception of Student Engagement.

After the bank holiday weekend we travelled to the University of Exeter for a team meeting and to speak to key stakeholders at the University. Being my first visit to the large Russell Group institution and the Devon city, it was an enlightening experience to see more of the University beyond their .ac.uk. The previous stately home campus was very impressive with a mixture of Edwardian buildings and gigantic teaching buildings looking across Exeter in the valley to the estuary – incredible views on our campus tour.

On day one we (Wilko, Liz, Stuart, Simon and I) met with Magda Cassidy – Student Engagement Officer to learn all about Exeter Change Agents. It was impressive to see video accounts from dozens of Change Agents from the 7/8 year old scheme consisting of over one hundred students a year making real change to the student experience. More information is available here (http://as.exeter.ac.uk/eqe/projects/change/). We then held a team meeting into the early evening discussing our research framework around the accessibility of Student Engagement Participations in regards to 'hard-to-reach' / marginalised student groups.

On day two (Thursday) we met with Will Page and James Smith of Exeter Guild to discuss student participation as a whole at Exeter, using the Lowe&Shaw Student Engagement Participation Map to assess participation at the institution. In doing this we compared the map to Winchester, which in terms of perspectives and which students had the most impact on change, which differences were quite striking. Following this meeting we met with the institutions PALS coordinator which gave a great comparison to London Metropolitan's PASS Scheme.

On Friday I travelled to London to visit GuildHE to meet with Rhys Wait (Projects Officer), Alex Bols (Deputy CEO) and Ellie Russell of TSEP to consult on GuildHE's Student Engagement practice report. This resource showcased great practice in the University group for student officers and quality managers to read case studies and network to share practice.

Next week we are off to the 2015 RAISE Conference in Nottingham for our first public event, along with the launch of our website! More information to follow next week.

Tom Lowe – REACT Project Manager

Monday was a busy and great day meeting key stakeholders in London to get feedback on REACT's currently plans and hear about other activities going on in Student Engagement. I organised a packed day, that got busier, meeting with Alex Bols and Rhys Wait of Guild HE in the morning, Sorana Vieru (VP Higher Education) of NUS at lunch, and Ellie Russell from The Student Engagement Partnership in the afternoon. It was brilliant to hear about developments in the HE sector only an hour up the road and get positive feedback on REACT's current activities. Also it was good to have some tricky questions about where we are going, and what we are aiming with the research arm of REACT in the coming months, giving invaluable food for thought when the team reassembles in September in Exeter.

Tuesday to Friday were all free days for me this which gave me time to begin tackling the remaining action points for the Steering Group two weeks prior and begin work on REACT's resources ready for the website launch in September 2015. I worked to format existing resources written by Liz and Stuart, and began to write the Student Partner Handbook for the use of Student Fellows, Change Agents, Champs, Co-Creators and other Student Partners in partnership schemes across the UK from September. It's been a good week getting creative, with more to come next week as well as ordering some materials for dissemination at upcoming events.

Tom Lowe – REACT Project Manager.