A Curious Lack of Student Engagement

Written by John Atherton, General Manager (Europe and Africa), Explorance.

Student in library

Reading Time: Less than 3 mins.

Synopsis: This blog discusses the recent consultation released by the Office for Students regarding its new three-year strategy. A surprising gap was identified in the consultation as there was a lack of reference to student voice in the creation of the draft strategy. Capturing the student voice is an important and evolving practice, as Explorance and many Higher Education institutions continue to research and develop the best practices of student engagement.

Earlier this month the Office for Students (OfS), the independent regulator of Higher Education in England, launched a consultation to inform its new three-year strategy. The consultation asks universities and colleges, students and others involved in Higher Education for their views on how the OfS can continue to deliver its priorities of ensuring high quality and standards of Higher Education in England and securing equality of opportunity in access and participation.

One of the most surprising gaps in the consultation is the lack of reference to student voice in the creation of the draft strategy. The OfS’s overarching mission is that every student, whatever their background, should have a fulfilling experience of Higher Education that enriches their lives and careers, and by the very nature of that you might expect student voice – or student engagement/student feedback – to feature more prominently that it does. This argument is perfectly encapsulated by David Kernohan and Jim Dickinson, Associate Editors at Wonkhe, who wrote in their recent thought piece:

“You could talk about the consultation exercise with students that had underpinned your thinking. You could describe the meetings with students’ unions and the deliberation over strategy carried out by your student panel. You could reflect on the complaints that have come in via the OIA (Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education), or national NSS (National Student Survey) results, or notifications. And even if you can’t say hand on heart that any of that has influenced you, you could at least mention the “refresh” of the student engagement strategy you’re running right now. Nothing. Nada. There’s a couple of pages reminding us that 25 different directions in ministerial guidance letters have helped shape the strategy, both not a single word on how students have.”

The consultation itself closes on 6th January 2022, and naturally it will be interesting to see what comes back, but of course the importance of student voice in institutional decision-making is something that we have championed for many years now. That is not an England-centric position, it is something that is applicable to any university anywhere in the world. We have seen a shift in how Higher Education institutions are approaching this, and the past 20 months have accelerated innovation and ‘doing things differently’.

Our Insight

Our student insight report. Module Evaluation in a Pandemic and Beyond: What do Students Want?, highlighted how Covid-19, and the move from face-to-face to online learning, has forced universities to pivot their approaches to capturing the student voice. Alongside end-of-module evaluation surveys, many institutions have embraced mid-module surveys for assessment of teaching and learning as well as Pulse surveys for course evaluation and wider assessment of issues around student sentiment and wellbeing, presenting an opportunity to develop this practice further. Times are changing.

We are currently developing our next report, for launch in January 2022, exploring issues and trends around student voice, including module and course evaluation, in Business Schools. As Explorance works with a number of Business Schools – including Copenhagen Business School, Emlyon Executive School, ESA Business School, ESSEC Business School, Grenoble IAE, HEC Paris, IESE Business School, IE Business School, and Stockholm School of Economics – there is a wide cross section of expertise and experiences we are seeking to draw on, and support development of that community.

What we have already seen from those who have contributed is a strategic rationale for delivering best practice in module and course evaluation with links to wider School teaching and learning or student experience plans. Also that student voice is about long-term vision, not short-term fixes. Food for thought for the OfS, perhaps, in terms of the observations being made by those editors at the home of Higher Education policy.

John Atherton, General Manager (Europe and Africa), Explorance

John Atherton, General Manager (Europe and Africa), Explorance

Learn More About the Importance of Capturing the Student Voice


Educational experienceHigher educationStudent insight solutionsStudent voice

Get in touch with us about this article.

Stay connected
with the latest products, services, and industry news.