In a landscape of unprecedented challenges stemming from a global pandemic, universities have found themselves pivoting teaching, learning and student engagement activities online. Coupled with a steady stream of staff redundancies and declining international student enrolments, university communities are facing significant changes.

Despite years of progressing towards a culture that values students as partners, in the wake of COVID-19’s fast-paced changes, students have often been left outside of decision-making processes and co-creation opportunities to transform the online student experience. Undoubtedly, partnership becomes more complex and challenging in uncertain times, with mounting pressure and limited resources, yet engaging in partnership is now more important than ever.

The challenges that students face today have evolved significantly as a result of the pandemic and we have the responsibility to respond to and address their changing needs. What better way is there than doing this together in partnership with students? As the old adage goes, “nothing about us, without us”.

We need to move away from informing students of the changes to their university lives, to authentically engage in partnership with them in a process that challenges power dynamics and hierarchical ways of decision-making. Yes, creating a space where students collaborate takes time. Nonetheless, if a central goal of higher education is to develop an engaged, educated and informed citizenry, shouldn’t we engage with students as such?

So what can you do? Set aside 15 minutes of your lecture or tutorial to ideate solutions with students. Bring students and staff together in a brainstorming session to question the way we do things. Or ensure students are part of the conversation when decisions on new systems are being made. You don’t need a formal programme to start partnerships with students. All you need are students, staff, and a little bit of courage to try something new.

Madelaine-Marie Judd, Student Partners Adviser, The University of Queensland [email protected]

Naima Crisp, Student Partners Project Officer, The University of Queensland

Dr Julia Groening, Student Partners Project Officer, The University of Queensland

Franciele Spinelli, Research Assistant & Student Partner, The University of Queensland [email protected]




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