Working in partnership to organise a student town hall

Who was involved in your partnership work, and how did everyone become involved? 

Through my role in the Students’ Union, I was attending committee meetings with staff in Education Policy Support. This connection enabled us to have conversations about the need to hear students’ perspectives on educational recordings and decide to work together to plan a way to enable this.  

What did you set out to achieve in your student-staff partnership work? 

We aimed to create a space where University staff and students could openly discuss on how to campaign for educational recordings within various academic departments, learn good practice from each other, and inform each other about their experiences of the policy in practice. 

When and where did you work together? 

We met in-person over a handful of meetings in Hilary term 2023 to plan the town hall event. We each did some background work separately as well, such as planning communications to students about the event. And, of course, we met to run the event together.  

How did you work in partnership? 

In planning the event and the discussion prompts we would put forward, we made sure to consider the different sets of expertise that we had. For example, staff were able to bring their knowledge of what was in scope to discuss about the policy. Meanwhile, I was able to share what I knew students would want to talk about.  

During the town hall itself, we encouraged a partnership approach to the conversation by making it clear that the event was intended as a listening exercise and conversation, with staff there to take notes, ask follow-up questions and provide clarification on the policy and its wider context to help further the discussion. We then started the discussions with the prompts we had developed and let students take things from there, enabling the conversation to develop naturally.  

What did you learn from working in partnership? 

I found that our conversational and supportive approach to the town hall created an environment where students and staff could speak openly with each other. Feedback from the students who attended the event also made it clear that they saw the staff members’ presence at the event to be a positive sign that the university was invested in supporting their needs and that they could be approached to help with student issues more generally. For example, some activists from SU Campaigns took the meeting as an opportunity to create further dialogue with staff and improve their understanding of how the university works. 

Overall, the partnership approach we took to this conversation certainly helped to boost the confidence of students who were lobbying for positive change and demystify parts of the university system. It also allowed Education Policy Support to understand more of students’ perspectives on their policy work, which I think would have otherwise been difficult to gather so candidly and in-depth. 

Going forward, I would love to see more partnerships like this which bring departments and students together to develop a greater understanding of how to navigate the university in a way that works for students and staff.  

What advice would you give to other students and staff who may wish to take a similar student-staff partnership approach? 
I think it is important for both students and staff to come into partnership scenarios with a shared understanding that there will be common ground and shared goals. Having an initial conversation where everyone establishes these goals is key to avoiding assumptions, distrust or preconceptions from either side that could prematurely block successful and useful conversations and outcomes.  

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