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The Queen’s Partnership Project

Enhancing the Partnership

Enhancing the Partnership

Queen’s Students’ Union and Queen’s University Belfast have worked in partnership to consult widely with students and staff to agree a shared understanding of the priority learning and teaching enhancements required for 2018-2020.

The areas agreed encompass four themes: Student Voice; Communication; Academic Enhancement; and Student Representation.

The following section outlines key aspects within each theme that the University and the Students’ Union have identified as priorities for the next year. These have come directly from the constructive feedback we received from our staff and students.

Within these highlighted areas, there are a number of ideas that could be devised and implemented at a local level and led by you in your own School. We want to give you, our staff and students, the freedom to devise your own Partnership Projects. You know what works best on the ground in your School and you know the key areas that need improvement.

In Appendix 1, a number of initiatives are detailed which are being proposed for implementation at a strategic institutional level and which may also provide inspiration for School specific improvement projects. In Appendix 2, we have also highlighted a number of other areas for improvement drawn directly from your feedback that we hope to either begin or continue working on. We would encourage you to consider taking up any of these areas as a Partnership Project.

The Students’ Union and the University want to support you in leading these Partnership Projects to improve the educational experience in your School in a way that is useful, specific, and meaningful for your staff and students, so please get in touch with your plans by contacting the SU VP Education at or the Pro-Vice Chancellor, Education and Students at

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Student Voice
What is it?

The Student Voice is a hugely important aspect of education, and we want to ensure our students have their voice heard. In order to truly embed students as partners in their education, there needs to be sufficient and appropriate opportunities for all students to give feedback on their experience during their time at Queen’s.

For the Student Partnership Project, this will have a largely academic focus, reviewing what opportunities there are for students to provide feedback, how those opportunities are promoted and implemented and what action is taken, as well as what the outcomes are from these opportunities.

The Feedback

The following feedback is from The Queen’s University Partnership Project consultation with over 800 of our students and staff:

“If feedback is to be of use, it needs to be more continuous and oriented towards positively assisting teaching…”

“…surveys are useful for feedback but a mix of methods is probably best – I think adding in a couple of focus groups or forums during the year would be a good idea…”

“Surveys submitted online rather than filled out in class…An opportunity to provide feedback on policies of the Schools as well would be better…”

“I give feedback and nothing changes, and no one follows up or tells us what has changed…”

Where can we improve?

The key areas we can improve upon in relation to student voice are:

  • Feedback – making it more continuous and investigating the provision of online forms rather than paper-based forms.
  • Opportunities – providing a better variety of opportunities for feedback, including surveys, focus groups, open forums, and a stronger student representation system.
  • Actions – finding clearer and better ways to communicate any changes made based on feedback received, such as newsletters, greater visibility of and communication with student reps, end of year reports, etc.
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a male and female student listening to another student talking
What is it?

We know that our students and staff receive information in a variety of ways from a variety of sources. We are also aware that some of the methods of communication may not be as effective as others.

The Partnership Project aims to review the ways in which we communicate, be it via email, social media, Queen’s Online, the incoming Virtual Learning Environment, digital signage etc., in order to determine a more effective and engaging way of communicating with both staff and students.

The Feedback

The following feedback is from The Queen’s University Partnership Project consultation with over 800 of our students and staff:

“The problem is not email per se, but the volume of emails received by students that contain essentially marketing material. This deluge distracts from the important communications”

“Experience says that ‘one size does not fit all’ and that a combination of approaches is necessary. By far the most effective is via face-to-face contact, investing in relationships with students who are adult learners…”

Where can we improve?

The key areas we can improve upon in relation to communication are:

  • Email communication – what we send, how relevant it is, how much is replicated.
  • Digital signage – engaging the various digital outlets we have around campus, e.g.
  • Plasma screens, QOL announcements etc.
  • App development – an app to provide essential information such as timetabling changes, feedback uploads etc., to allow push notifications for urgent communications e.g. University closure.
  • Methods – the ways we use to communicate, be that email, student representatives, signage, both the Students’ Union, and University websites, etc.
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Academic Enhancement
What is it?

Following the UK Quality Code for Higher Education (2015), there is the expectation that “Higher education providers take deliberate steps to engage all students…as partners in the assurance and enhancement of their educational experience”.

Therefore, Academic Enhancement involves reviewing how Queen’s currently delivers that educational experience, in terms of curriculum delivery, student input to curriculum design, assessment and feedback practices, etc. By reviewing this, we can identify what steps need to be taken, and implement innovative projects and ways of working in partnership in order to improve that experience for our students.

The Feedback

The following feedback is from The Queen’s University Partnership Project consultation with over 800 of our students and staff:

“The use of appropriate technology such as voice/video feedback, giving feedback to large numbers does not have to take time if the technology is there to facilitate it…the above is emphasising the importance of verbal communications, but often more personalised feedback can be electronic”

“In order for feedback to be effective, you need to invest time and resources as without one-on-one meetings, students can struggle to really understand how to use feedback to its maximum effect”

“Informal and formal verbal feedback from lecturing staff is very valuable as it can boost confidence. Feedback from returned written work is varied in quality; some staff provide useful criticisms while others simply mark work”

“The mixture between collecting feedback in person, QSIS, and QOL is very complicated, especially for students that come from other universities…”

“More emphasis on completing relevant practical examples, this creates better implantation of important concepts, in conjunction with an answer set to help affirm understanding”

“Lectures are the best for giving large amounts of information, but tutorials and practical workshops really help to cement learning”

Where can we improve?

The key areas we can improve upon in relation to academic enhancement are:

  • Feedback opportunities – provide more continuous opportunities for feedback throughout each module or programme.
  • Timing and quality of feedback – the time by which feedback should be returned needs to be clarified in policy (this would be most effective at School-level) and the quality of feedback to ensure useful and constructive feedback is provided, as opposed to simply, a mark.
  • Access to feedback – the potential of having a centralised place to hold all feedback on assignments, making it easily accessible.
  • Variety of feedback – formal, informal, verbal, written, audio and visual, etc.
  • Assessment practices – the need to review assessment practices in each Faculty and communicate effectively, and in a timely manner, what assignments will be expected, and when, what you will learn from them etc.
  • Variety of teaching and learning methods – the use of more practical sessions and examples, the use of more digital, and interactive methods, a review of group work etc.
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Student Representation
What is it?

Student Representation exists at Queen’s in a variety of forms, including over 700 Course Reps, 18 School Reps, 12 Part-time Officers, 115 Student Councillors, and 6 Full-time Officers.

Student Representation exists to support and represent the views of the wider student body. Our representatives listen to the views, opinions, and suggestions of their fellow students, and provide feedback to the University and the Students’ Union to help improve the student experience.

The Feedback

The following feedback is from The Queen’s University Partnership Project consultation with over 800 of our students and staff:

“Make course reps more visible, make manifestos available in a centralised location of the SU website for all elections, have boxes in the SU and around campus where students can drop ideas, feedback, or comments, keep the wider student population informed on what is going on in the University…”

“There needs to be more active consultation in co-designing initiatives rather than seeking opinions on forthcoming changes and staff should engage with these processes”

“Improved mandatory training for reps to speak for the student body, not just their own views…Greater collection of the views of all students…communicating to students how their reps have presented their concerns…”

“The duties could be formalised, with accountability when the duties are not performed (i.e. persistent non-attendance at meetings, not providing regular opportunities to meet with the wider student body, not communicating with students as a result of meetings etc.) …”

“I think a way in which it could be improved is to collectively gather evidence showing that we have taken student ideas and actively bettered the areas requiring change. It would show students that student reps are important and potentially motivate others to join, or become more vocal with their own reps, voicing the changes they would like to see”

Where can we improve?

The key areas we can improve upon in relation to student representation are:

  • Student reps – improve the awareness and visibility of our reps, as well as improved training to ensure they are articulating the student voice, and are confident in carrying out their role.
  • Staff engagement – better staff engagement with SSCCs, and student reps, by potentially having a dedicated student voice staff member in each School.
  • Increased representation – student representation at Faculty level, which has never previously existed.
  • A change in culture – demonstrate the importance of our student reps, and what they can achieve.
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