#SBSResearch: Students as Partners

In 2017, a team at the University of Suffolk delved into the HEFCE Catalyst Call A funded project PlacementPAL(Peer Assisted Learning): a digital app to scaffold students’ learning and knowledgeable action in work. Through this project, two courses were used as pilots for the development of a mobile web application designed to support students out in work-based contexts as part of their degree programmes.

UCS Question mark (18)
(C) University of Suffolk

Through this work, Dr Suzanne Nolan has explored the developing and growing trend of using students as partners in learning and work within higher education. She has been conducting research as part of the PlacementPAL project, as well as taking this further by conducting focus groups and interviews with academic staff, in order to gain an insight into how current higher education professionals view students as partners, and how we can create better learning and teaching environments.

According to Healy et al (2014)

Partnership is essentially a process of engagement, not a product. It is a way of doing things, rather than an outcome in itself. All partnership is student engagement, but no all student engagement is partnership.

This has certainly been true of the research Dr Nolan has conducted thus far. Initial research suggests that higher education institutions still have a long way to go to embed a culture of communication and development alongside students within their organisations. Clearer understanding may be needed in the definitions of students-as-partners, and the impact (both positive and negative) on students and staff.

There is also a need for organisational support in developing this culture from all levels of management. With the adoption of the TEF (Teaching Excellence Framework), there are increasing pressures on higher education institutions to hear and respond to the student voice. Engaging with students as partners in learning and teaching would be a effective way of doing this.

This work is part of ongoing research. If you work in higher education, and would like to learn more, or contribute to this research, please contact Dr Suzanne Nolan: s.nolan@uos.ac.uk

Dr Suzanne Nolan is the Lecturer in Employment Development at the Suffolk Business School, and is course leader for the Chartered Degree Management Apprenticeship (BA (Hons) Business Management Professional). If you would like more information on this course, please visit the website.

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#HEFCECatalyst: PlacementPAL Research Project

Dr Suzanne Nolan is working with colleagues across the University of Suffolk on this exciting research project, designed to help students transition from university into work-based learning:

UoS PAL A1 poster 12.6.17

If you are interested in finding our more, please email Suzanne at s.nolan@uos.ac.uk.

Another message from Professor David Collins

In my previous blog I made no fewer than three reading recommendations and yet confessed that I did not actually take up reading seriously until I was around 16. I should probably take a moment to expand upon this revelation…

It’s true I did not actually take up reading seriously until I was around sixteen. How had I spent my time prior to that? Well I had been playing soldiers (my father and all my uncles had seen action in World War II), playing football (poorly), playing basketball (with a little more flair, but if you ever meet me, you will see that this was not going to go anywhere). I had also been watching television.

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All this ceased abruptly when I was sixteen. My family moved from Kilmarnock to a very small town called Newmilns and my father returned our old rented television (yes people rented televisions in those days!) and simply refused to buy a replacement. So I guess you are now thinking that this is the part of the story where I say… ‘And at this point, having been denied easy access to the mind-numbing so-called entertainment that is television I turned to reading, quickly devoured all the classics, and in so doing took the first steps on a path that would lead me to an academic career.’

Well I’m sorry to disappoint you, but this is not how the story goes. Truthfully I was miserable. My friends now lived miles away and the things that I would normally do to keep me occupied on a winter’s evening (watching television and road-running) were now no longer options (the roads in our little town were not lit). And in any case, the narrative of my transformation from viewer to reader fails because I had decided that I would like to become an academic two years previously!

So how did a boy from a working-class community, with no previous exposure to University study let alone academic careers, come to this decision aged fourteen? Well, the example set by some good teachers plainly helped. But the truth, as far as I am concerned, is that watching television improved my education. Watching really good television programmes had fuelled my curiosity, and it had begun to teach me that you could educate and entertain. Indeed television had taught me that education was pretty much impossible in the absence of an engaging narrative. It’s probably not surprising therefore that much of my research on the practices and processes of managing has focused upon storytelling.

So what’s my point? I guess what I’m trying to say is that if you feel that your background and biography somehow disqualify you from higher education, think again. I transitioned fairly quickly from not reading books to writing my own and there’s no reason why you can’t so the same.

The University of Suffolk is committed to supporting students from all backgrounds succeed in their chosen careers. Explore our range of degrees here. Professor David Collins is the Head of the Suffolk Business School, which offers undergraduate degrees in:

  • BA (Hons) Accounting and Financial Management
  • BA (Hons) Business Management
  • BA (Hons) Event Management
  • BA (Hons) Event Management and Tourism Management
  • BA (Hons) Tourism Management

We also offer postgraduate qualifications in:

  • Master of Business Administration (MBA)
  • MSc Business and Management
  • PgD Human Resource Management
  • MSc Human Resource Management