Past Event details

How can we meaningfully listen to students’ voices to shape policy and practice? OFFA and SRHE

Thursday, 25 January 2018

How can we meaningfully listen to students’ voices to shape policy and practice?

In this seminar we will address the complex and contentious idea of the “student voice” for widening participation.

Through a series of research presentations and group discussion we will explore what the student voice could come to mean, the political and ethical issues it brings up and learn practical tips in order to address, if and how, those working in widening participation policy and practice can meaningfully shape their work by listening the voices of students.

The “student voice” is a term that resonates with those who work for a more equitable higher education system. It can act as a reminder that people are integral to the processes, policies and programmes that are being developed. It can suggest a more equal relationship between institutional structures and individuals. Working closely with students can be a powerful way to ensure that the work being undertaken genuinely works for those it is intended to.

However, rather than implying a transformative partnership, “student voice” could risk a deployment of yet another hierarchical mechanism that refuses those already silenced by society. The complexities of students’ lived experiences do not always fit neatly into policy documents. The student voice can all too easily be ignored if it doesn’t sound right. The student voice can be a token.

Some of the questions that will be explored over the course of the day include:

·         Whose voice are we listening to anyway?

·         What, and who, don’t we hear?

·         Are we just listening to our own voices?

·         How can individual stories be used to challenge and re-shape embedded structural inequalities?

The session presents a timely opportunity to address some assumptions and risks about working with students, as well as to develop insights about how listening to the lived experiences and voices of students could open up new, unseen, ways of developing policy practice.

This seminar is part of a partnership series between OFFA and the SRHE that seeks further provocative discussion, promote learning and build networks between researchers, practitioners and policy actors. 


Professor Jane Seale, Open University
Dr Liz Austen, Sheffield Hallam University
Dr Emma Heron, Sheffield Hallam University
Professor Jacqueline Stevenson, Sheffield Hallam University, co-convenor SRHE Access and Widening Participation Network
Richard Shiner, Head of Evidence and Effective Practice, OFFA
Cassie Agbehenu, Evidence and Effective Practice Manager, OFFA
and guests.
Please do not cite these resources without the authors permission.

Network: Access and Widening Participation
Date(s): Thursday, 25 January 2018
Times: 10:30 - 16:00
Location: OFFA, Nicholson House, Lime Kiln Cl., Bristol
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Event Files
File Details Download
Student Voice - Shaping Policy and Practice
Amatey Doku
Variationand innovation in ´student voice´ research
Dr Liz Austen
What constitutes meaningful listening in student voice work?
Professor Jane Seale
Listening Rooms
Dr Emma Heron
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