Students as partners in learning

Mick Healey, Catherine Bovill, Alan Jenkins

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


We have often heard views expressed like those in the above statements by both new and experienced lecturers. Whatever we think of these comments, they suggest that engaging students as partners in learning is a hot issue in higher education. Although not a new idea, it has come to the fore in the last few years and there have been many events dedicated to discussing the range of complex issues raised by implementing student partnership initiatives. Moreover, several books and reports have been published recently dedicated to the topic (e.g. Healey and Jenkins 2009; Werder and Otis 2010; Little 2010; Dunne and Zandstra 2011; Dunne and Owen 2013; Nygaard et al. 2013; Bryson 2014; Cook-Sather et al. 2014; Healey et al. 2014a; 2014b). Politically the idea of students as partners has also taken-off recently within higher education. The UK government, for example, published a white paper in 2011 entitled Students at the heart of the system (BIS 2011) and the following year the National Union of Students (NUS) published: A manifesto for partnership (NUS 2012). In 2013 a Student Engagement Partnership Unit was established by the Higher Education Funding Council for England which is run by the NUS ‘to help students and their
associated representative bodies become partners in the student experience’ (HEFCE 2013).

In this section we want to explore a range of contexts where students can make a valuable contribution as partners and to challenge you to think about circumstances where working with students could benefit your teaching as well as their learning. This is hinted at by Ramsden (2008) when he noted that: There is abundant evidence that the most effective higher education environments are ones in which students are diligently involved as part of a community of learners. As part of this engagement, they work together with academics to enhance teaching, assure quality and maintain standards. In these contexts, they understand themselves as active partners with academic staff in a process of continual improvement of the learning experience (Ramsden 2008, 16). Many staff are already quite good at listening to students’ views through, for example, end of course evaluations and staff-student committees. However, we want to go beyond these conceptions of the student voice and examine situations where students where students act as co-creators, co-producers, and co-designers of knowledge and learning.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEnhancing learning and teaching in higher education
Subtitle of host publicationEngaging with the dimensions of practice
EditorsJohn Lea
Place of PublicationMaidenhead
PublisherOpen University Press
Number of pages32
ISBN (Print)9780335264162
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • student engagement
  • teaching practices
  • student learning
  • co-creation
  • students as partners


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