Students as partners

Working in partnership with students is a sophisticated and effective way of developing student engagement and enhancing learning and teaching. Partnership with students is a central theme of the HEA’s work and cuts across our other key areas of assessment, employability, flexible pedagogies and retention and success. That's why we provide a range of tools and guidance to support student partnership development.

Defining partnership

Partnership is a relationship where everyone involved is actively engaged in – and stands to benefit from – the process of learning and working together. Working and learning in partnership with students is a specific form of student engagement and is a way of doing things rather than an outcome in itself. Partnerships may involve individual staff and students, or can be collective between organisations and their students’ unions/guilds/associations.

At the HEA we focus on partnerships in learning and teaching which emphasise:

  • student engagement in learning, teaching and research
  • enhancement of learning and teaching practice and policy

Our approach to partnership involves paying attention to both working and learning relationships. It focuses on developing working arrangements and approaches to learning and teaching that help build partnerships between staff and students, institutions and students’ unions and amongst students themselves.

At the HEA we’ve developed a conceptual model and set of values which can be used to underpin partnerships and to support the development of policy and practice in this area.

See our students as partners guidance documents:

Benefits of partnership with students

The HEA's approach is based on the premise that partnership can increase student engagement and success, enhance learning and teaching and lead to benefits for staff and students. We support organisations and individuals in the development of partnerships between students and staff, and between students.

Potential benefits of partnership in HE include:

  • increased student engagement with learning
  • development of knowledge and skills to support employability
  • greater sense of belonging and community
  • transformed staff experience and thinking about practice
  • deeper understanding of contributions to an academic community

We support partnership working in HE by:

  • contributing to the evidence base through commissioning research.
  • celebrating successful partnerships in learning and teaching through our partnership awards.
  • offering support and resources for the development of partnership in learning and teaching.
  • supporting organisations putting partnership into practice through our Students as partners in the curriculum change programme.
  • working with partner organisations including the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA), National Union of Students (NUS) and The Student Engagement Partnership (TSEP) on activities such as the Developing student engagement and partnership event.

For more information, see: