Students as partners

A partnership implies an equal relationship between two or more bodies working together towards a common purpose and respecting the different skills, knowledge, experience and capability that each party brings to the table. Decisions are taken jointly among those organisations and they cooperate to varying degrees in implementing the consequences of those decisions. In the case of tertiary education, it is an effective working relationship between an institution and its students, as individuals and through its collective representative body, working towards an education of the highest quality possible.

What do we mean by partnership?

A partnership goes far beyond the mere consultation, involvement, or representation of students in decision-making processes. Where a partnership exists, students do not only identify areas that could be enhanced, but they help to identify ways in which that enhancement can be carried out, as well as to help facilitate the implementation process wherever possible.
Above all, a true partnership means that neither party acts unilaterally but rather that there is an active collaboration between the two. Each party must recognise what the other brings to the table and must value that contribution for the cooperation to work
In this way, a partnership can be seen as opposed to a transactional or consumerist relationships. Students actively participate in shaping and co-producing their education, rather than merely receiving it passively. This includes the effort that students put into their learning process in the classroom, but also the work that students are increasingly doing to shape their experience at the course, departmental, institutional and national levels.

Why should students be partners?

Education is a central part of our society and a pillar of our democracy. By taking part in representative structures, students are introduced to collectivism and they become better citizens and more active participants in that democracy. Furthermore it is a fundamental principle of democracy that people should have a say on policies that affect them. In this case, students should have the right to take an active part in deciding how the education system should look like and how their institutions are run as the main group of people affected by these parts of the society.
But a student partnership is not only good for students, it is good for everyone. On a practical level, students are experts of their own learning. They recognise effective teaching when they experience it and they know what is in their own best interests. Staff members are also experts, in pedagogical principles, in their subject knowledge and in their experience of running an institution. It, therefore, stands to reason that when staff and students work together in partnership, they create the most effective educational processes, resulting in overall improvements to the quality of education. This improved education is in everyone’s benefit.