This page provides examples of different approaches to student engagement activity based on a model developed by the Higher Education Academy and National Union of Students. This provides a useful way to articulate the difference amongst ways to engage with your students. Below you will see that each level builds upon one another, but all have a place within the process of Transformation.
Four stages of student engagement (adapted from HEA and NUS, 2011, cited in Healey et al. 2014: 16)


Focus groups: can be used to consult with students. Often used to explore findings from surveys in more detail, focus groups can help to delve deeper into why students have responded in a certain way in surveys. The structured format allows for preparing of questions in advance and for specific information to be gatherd. Focus groups could be thematic or focusing on the experience of specific demographics of students. Attention should be paid to timing and location of a focus group to ensure accessibility and a sample population reflective of the student make up.

Surveys: are a traditional method in universities of gathering student opinion on a large scale. Whilst they do not provide the opportunity to have in depth face to face discussion with students, they do offer opportunities to gather feedback on proposed changes or to gather general feedback which could lead to more in-depth feedback from focus groups. Attention should be paid to not over-surveying students and ensuring that there is a clear purpose for each question asked. Current surveys used to gather student opinion include the National Student Survey, Online Unit Evaluations and the Postgraduate Taught Survey.

‘Let’s Talk’ events: holding a non ‘meeting’ style event allows for less structured opportunities to engage with students. By removing the formal structure of a meeting or committee setting this may facilitate more open discussion. Attention should be paid to the timing and location of the event, creating a doodle poll or similar to determine when students are free to attend will help ensure good attendance.

SSLCs: are a traditional mechanism for consultation with students, namely Academic Reps. The formal committee structure of these allows for agenda items to be made available in advance to enable Academic Reps to consult with their peers prior to the meeting. SSLCs will use the meetings to consult with Academic Reps on proposed changes prior to approval. Departments may share their Student Engagement Plans with SSLC and Academic Reps, thus providing the opportunity for student input on the Plan. SSLCs are an appropriate forum for obtaining feedback from students on proposed changes to courses as a result of Curriculum Transformation.

Emails: sending targeted emails to students to gather quick feedback on one or two questions could be used as a means of consultation and is currently often used by departments making unit changes to gather any feedback on the proposed changes before it goes to SSLC for approval. Thought should be given to the frequency of emails being sent so as not to over burden students.

In class opportunities: there are many online platforms which can be used to gather quick feedback in class. Examples of this include TurningPoint, Padlet, Mentimeter. Taking 5 minutes at the end of a lecture to capture student feedback or preferences of options could be a quick and easy way of consulting with a cohort. The anonymity of the feedback process may encourage a more diverse range of input.

Involvement and Participation

Open SSLCs: by supporting student Academic Reps to run open SSLCs you are facilitating opportunities for student reps to chair and gather student feedback at an open meeting, as well as offering opportunities for all students to engage with giving feedback in a more informal manner. Support from departments could include booking rooms, booking refreshments, providing context or background on discussion items. 

Catch up meetings with Academic Reps: there are current examples in the School of Management and Department of Computer Science of Academic Reps being offered the opportunity to meet with Directors of Studies/Teaching to discuss issues in more depth. Thus, allowing for more responsive action to be taken and for Academic Reps and the department to work together on solutions to present back to the next SSLC meeting.

Survey/questionnaire input by Academic Reps: opportunities could be given to Academic Reps to input into the creation of surveys or questionnaires for students.  

Academic Reps providing solutions: once issues have been identified Academic Reps could be given the opportunity to propose solutions or ideas thus enhancing their role from being consulted with on solutions proposed by the department.

Academic Reps gathering case studies: Academic Reps could be offered opportunities to gather case studies to support feedback from students on issues providing further insight into issues identified from survey data or other feedback mechanisms.


Sandpit events: using survey data such as the NSS, staff and students could come together to create action plans and solutions to the issues identified. This could happen at an open SSLC or at a more structured event. Inviting all students and all academic staff will allow for partnership to take place through co-creation of solutions. Attention must be paid to ensuring that students’ voices are treated as equal to those of staff, with recognition that students are experts in their own learning experience. Timing and location must be considered when creating these events to ensure they are inclusive for students and staff. 

Co-chairing university committees: there are many examples of co-chairing (student and staff) at SSLC meetings. This shows partnership of the committee with neither ‘owning’ the meeting. In order for this to be effective, student chairs must be provided with training and regular contact between the co-chairs is needed to facilitate the smooth running of the meeting. Student representatives should be given equal opportunity to input into the agenda. Training or guidance for staff co-chairs should also be provided to help them best support the student co-chair. 

Student and staff events: empowering students to lead on events, such as the One Young World Bath caucus, allows students to design and lead on their own learning opportunities, with support and partnership with University staff. Such events provide opportunities to gather feedback on the attributes graduates desire beyond their own course.