At the start of last month, NStEP officially moved from its pilot project status to being a truly national undertaking. In addition to the five founding HEIs – i.e. Cork Institute of Technology, Letterkenny Institute of Technology, National College of Ireland, NUI Galway, and Waterford Institute of Technology – the programme has now been joined by 15 new participants, namely:
- Athlone Institute of Technology
- Carlow College
- Dublin City University
- Dublin Institute of Technology
- Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology
- Griffith College Dublin
- Hibernia College
- Institute of Art, Design and Technology
- Institute of Technology Carlow
- Institute of Technology Sligo
- Institute of Technology Tallaght
- Institute of Technology Tralee
- Limerick Institute of Technology
- Maynooth University
- University of Limerick
With a least twenty institutions now underpinning this student engagement programme, and doubtlessly with more adherents to come, the induction event for new and existing members held at the Radisson Blu, Dublin, on 6th April 2017, allowed for a very useful exchange of information and reflections regarding NStEP. Supported by colleagues from the HEA, QQI, USI, as well as sparqs, the event covered a number of issues ranging from the principles of student engagement to an exploration of the realities facing class representatives, with a particular emphasis on the concept – and practice – of ‘students as partners’.
Published just over one year ago, both Enhancing Student Engagement in Decision-Making and Embedding the Principles of Student Engagement provide a useful working definition in this regard:
Student as partner
The implications of perceiving students as partners, rather than as consumers are substantial and deep. The student as partner is an active member of an institution with which s/he shares a strong sense of allegiance and commitment.
In order to support the new partners, and drawing upon the experiences of existing NStEP participants, this induction event also explained how the student training programme works, how it has impacted upon the pilot institutions, and began considering practical arrangements for the next twelve to eighteen months. It was, however, the opportunity to contribute directly as a panellist on the “Panel of reflections on rolling out the training programme” (see the agenda which follows below for details) that NCI, alongside colleagues from CIT, NUIG, sparqs, and USI, were able to draw upon lessons from the recent past in an effort to help shape what comes next.
Looking to the future, this autumn will see NStEP starting the process of exploring five work streams that have been identified, before meeting as an expanded national network towards the end of the year, and the inception of a national conference next spring. Exciting times lie ahead.