As we enter the fourth year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the impact on higher education is far-reaching, with the new Australian Universities Accord promising further reform for the sector.

Understandably, student partnership practices have also adapted during this time. While student partnership has expanded into online spaces, it has been challenged by rapid decision-making. Yet, the appeal and obvious benefits of partnership endures, reflecting the emerging and ongoing concerns of our sector.

There is evidence of a renewed focus on engaging students in dialogue, with UTS recently signing a Student Partnership Agreement. Moreover, regional universities have found a place in the conversation. University of the Sunshine Coast hosted last year’s National Students as Partners Roundtable and, more recently, Uni Southern Queensland has been announced as the host of the international Student Voice Australasia (SVA) network for the next three years. SVA has grown during the pandemic and is now supported by 27 member institutions collaborating to embed a culture of authentic and inclusive student engagement in decision-making across learning, teaching and the student experience.

For students and staff engaged in the partnership arena, this work is more important than ever.  Partnership, created with trust, reciprocity and respect, is an opportunity for new ways of working and learning and holds potential gains for all involved. For leaders striving to guide their institutions in challenging times, listening to the very students we aim to attract and retain can inform decision-making and create more inclusive and equitable universities.

Still, real barriers exist in undertaking this work, especially in the constrained environments in which we currently operate. Broadening this work, to engage staff and students who are not already practitioners, champions or the usual suspects, requires an enquiring mindset and a nuanced approach.

So what mindsets do we need to cultivate to shift culture? To achieve an ethical, equitable and ‘authentic’ collaborative partnership, academic partners need particularly to practice reflexivity to challenge the systemic unconscious bias and power imbalances inherent in universities. The SVA website houses a number of toolkits and good practice guides and a national framework has been developed for student partnership in university decision-making and governance (the STEPUP Principles).

In July, at the STARS Student Partnership Network we will continue to share the variety of ways in which student partnership is being enacted and reflect as a community upon the evolving nature of partnership – its tensions and power dynamics, the many voices and the silences.

Dr Alison Jaquet, Director | Support for Learning. Uni Southern Queensland  [email protected] @alijaquet

Lolita Liboon-Aranas, student. University of Southern Queensland  [email protected]

Megan Pozzi,  Manager | Support for Learning (Language and Learning). Queensland University of Technology [email protected] @megan_pozzi

Sherry, PhD candidate | Peer Writing Group Facilitator | Research Assistant. Queensland University of Technology [email protected] @SHERRY26897729

Kate Walsh, Senior Coordinator, Student Representation and Partnerships. Flinders University [email protected]


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