ITP Student Leadership Summit 2017
From 2014, Ako Aotearoa has been partnering with the NZ Union of Students’ Associations (NZUSA) to run annual strategic forums aimed at hearing and heeding the student voice. Initially, we focused on promoting the importance of student voice, bringing tertiary staff and students together to discuss their approaches and learn from international good practice. Last year, we shifted the emphasis of these events towards building the capability of student leaders to effectively articulate learner voice, and this year we brought together 37 student representatives from 12 of New Zealand’s 16 ITPs for the second summit under this new model.
John McCormick and Lisa Sowry of the Ministry of Education provided an overview of how the whole tertiary education system fits together. They explained the different roles of the various government agencies, introduced the Tertiary Education Strategy which shapes the overall priorities for the sector, and described the different groups, TEOs, and stakeholders that collectively make up the system. They concluded by discussing the recently-completed inquiry from the Productivity Commission, and how education agencies are responding to its recommendations.
Chris Gosling (Chief Executive of Wellington Institute of Technology and Whitireia New Zealand) introduced the technical elements of how ITPs work as organisations, their priorities, and the pressures they face. This led into discussion of what this means for student leaders and how they can effectively frame issues and approach organisational management in ways that are likely to generate positive responses.
After this session, staff from the Tertiary Education Commission presented some of the data tools and sources they have been developing for TEOs.
Later in the day, the focus shifted from providing information to talking about techniques for influencing and advocating for student-centred quality at ITPs. This began with Alistair Shaw (Director, NZUSA) discussing the characteristics of effective student voice identified by Ako Aotearoa and NZUSA, followed by small group workshops on campaigning strategies, sector-wide challenges for ITPs, and insights from Ako Aotearoa-funded work on student representation in short courses.
The day finished with discussions focusing on the challenges for student voice at individual ITPs, and how those related to broader challenges being faced across the sector.
The summit’s second day focused on a specific issue: the role of student voice in NZQA’s Self-Assessment and External Evaluation & Review model of quality assurance. NZQA’s recently revised Key Evaluation Questions include stronger emphasis on the active involvement of learners in their learning, which increases the importance of learner voice in understanding quality.
Syd King of NZQA introduced the SA and EER approaches and discussed the need to ensure student perspectives are properly represented in this model. This led into a workshop session in which participants discussed how well learner voice was currently used within their institution to support and improve education quality, and what they could do to improve its position. A second workshop session focused on sharing ideas on how students could effectively and genuinely contribute to their ITP’s next EER process.
We were particularly pleased by the feedback we received from this year’s summit, with 93% of participants rating the event as of ‘Good’ or ‘Excellent’ quality, 94% stating that it had improved their knowledge of the education system, and – most importantly – 100% believing that it would help them to be a more effective voice for students at their ITP.
“… through these discussions I was exposed to a thread of commonalities amongst the issues that students face across different education providers. The suggestions and recommendations given by other student leaders … helped me to clarify my role and how to be more effective in advocating and promoting change on a wider level.”
We look forward to next year’s summit and our ongoing partnership with NZUSA to strengthen the position of students as the drivers of quality in our tertiary education system.
For more about Ako Aotearoa’s work supporting learner voice, see our project page The Student Voice: Effective Representation and Quality