Reflections on 15 years of working in student partnerships: Successes, challenges and the future possibilities.


  • Julie Blackwell Young Abertay University
  • Luke Millard Abertay University



student partnership, reflection, future directions, student experience


Based on the reflections of the authors’ experiences of working in the students as partners space for the past 15 years, this paper will weave together Julie and Luke’s reflections on their experiences of working in the students as partners space, with commentary from some of the students who have been involved and key ideas from the literature. The authors have worked in this area within institutions and across the sector and have separately been involved in a number of students as partners projects, from students co-creating, students as research partners, students as facilitators of other students’ learning; students as evaluators and students as leaders. Within this work, both have had different roles and responsibilities and worked in different institutions. Their involvement in this area has now converged at Abertay University, bringing together these experiences into an increased institutional emphasis on co-working with students within the university environment. Over those 15 years, this work has been stimulating and invigorating both for the staff and students involved, however, there have often been challenges, particularly when working against the ”usual” ways of institutional working, supporting the students involved as well as doubts and scepticism from some quarters. Finally, the evolution of this work in the future, both from an institutional and sector perspective, will be considered.


Arnstein, S. (1969). A ladder of participation in the USA. Journal of the American Institute of Planners, 35 (4), 216–24

BIS. (2009). Higher Ambitions – The future of universities in a knowledge economy.

Bovill, C., Morss, K. & Bulley, C. (2008). Curriculum design for the first year, First Year Enhancement Theme Report. QAA (Scotland).

Bovill, C., Cook-Sather, A., Felton, P., Millard, L., & Moore-Cherry, N. (2016). Addressing potential challenges in co-creating learning and teaching: Overcoming resistance, navigating institutional norms and ensuring inclusivity in student-staff partnerships. Higher Education, 71, 195-208.

Cook-Sather, A., Bovill, C., & Felten, P. (2014). Engaging students as partners in learning and teaching: A guide for faculty. Josey-Bass.

Freeman, R. Millard, L. Brand, S. & Chapman, P. (2014). Student Academic Partners: Student employment for collaborative learning and teaching development, Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 51(3), 233-243.

Healey, M., Flint, A., & Harrington, K. (2014). Engagement through partnership: Students as partners in learning and teaching in higher education. The Higher Education Academy.

Herzberg, F., Mausner, B., & Snyderman, B. (1959). The motivation to work (2nd ed.). John Wiley.

Lizzio, A. (2006). Designing an Orientation and Transition Strategy for Commencing Students. A Conceptual Summary of Research and Practice. First Year Experience Project. Griffith University.

Mayes, T (2009). Quality Enhancement Themes: The first year experience. Overview of the Enhancement Theme 2006-2008: The aims, achievements and challenges. QAA (Scotland).

McMillan, D. W., & Chavis, D. M. (1986). Sense of community: A definition and theory. Journal of Community Psychology, 14(1), 6–23.<6::AID-JCOP2290140103>3.0.CO;2-I

Mercer-Mapstone, L., Dvorakova, A., Matthews, K., Abbot, S., Cheng, B., Felten, P., Knorr, K., Marquis, E., Shammas, R., & Swaim, K. (2017). A systematic literature review of students as partners in higher education. International Journal for Students as Partners, 1(1), 15-27.

Millard, L. (2020). Students as colleagues: The impact of working on campus on students and their attitudes towards the university experience. Journal of Teaching and Learning for Graduate Employability, 11(1), 37–49.

Millard, L., Blackwell Young, J. &and Hogan, J. (2023). Designing Personalized Student Development through Microcredentials: An Institutional Approach. In D. Willison & E. Henderson (Eds.), Perspectives on enhancing student transition into higher education and beyond. (pp. 122-142). IGI Global.

National Union of Students. (2013). A manifesto for partnership. NUS.

Nygaard, C., Brand, S., Bartholomew, P., & Millard, L. (Eds.) (2013). Student engagement: Identity, motivation and community. Libri Publishing.

Pascarella, E, &and P Terenzini. (2005). How college affects students: a third decade of research, Vol. 2. Jossey-Bass.

Peart, D., Rumbold, P. & Fukar, E. (2023). Student engagement through partnership: A literature review. Advance HE.

Peseta, T., Pizzica, J., Beathe, A. Jose, C., Lynch, R., Manthos, M., Nguyen, K., & Raza, H. (2020). A partnership mindset: Students as partners in and beyond the academy.” In L. Mercer-Mapstone, and S. Abbot (Eds.), The power of partnership: Students, staff, and faculty revolutionizing higher education, (pp. 107–118). Elon University Center for Engaged Learning.

Quality Assurance Agency (2018). UK Quality Code for Higher Education advice and guidance: Student engagement. QAA.

Ross, C. & Neary, M. (2019, December 2). A co-operative university: Challenging mainstream providers. WonkHE Blog.

Rowe, S., Cooper, E. & Fulford, L. (2013). All aboard: Using the Student Advisory Board to engage students with university decision making processes. In C. Nygaard, S. Brand, P. Bartholomew, & L. Millard (Eds.), Student engagement: identity, motivation and community. (pp. 91-108). Libri publishing

Smith, S. & Axson, D. (2023). The genesis of staff-student partners: Institutional influences. International Journal for Students as Partners, 7(1), 128-143.

Stevens, D. (2022). Student partnership: A review of and guide to the literature. Eden Centre for Education Enhancement, LSE.

Sullivan, P. (2008). Report of the HEFCE Leadership, Governance and Management Fund supported project LGMF 101 Managing a substantial increase in on-campus student employment. A forthcoming challenge for HR management and leadership. HEFCE.

Thomas, L. (2012). Building student engagement and belonging in higher education at a time of change: Final report from the What Works? Student retention and success programme. Paul Hamlyn Foundation.

Thomas, B. & Sorbara, C. (2023). Respect, reciprocity, and responsibility: Principles for successful partnerships and sustainable communities. International Journal for students as partners, 7(1), 211-217.