sparqs Conference 2017

Celebrating the impact of the student voice on quality enhancement

Thursday 23rd March 2017
Venue: Surgeons’ Hall, Edinburgh
Twitter hashtag: #sparqs17

About the conference

Scotland is increasingly recognised as a beacon of student engagement; specifically the role that students individually and collectively play in enhancing the quality of the student learning experience. Our 2017 conference provides an opportunity for us all to pause, and take stock of the advances in student engagement that we have made in Scotland, the rest of the UK and internationally as well as recognising the challenges that still exist as we move forward into an increasingly fast changing post-16 education and training environment.

The conference is aimed at students, managers and practitioners in colleges, universities and other post-16 providers, from Scotland and beyond.

We invite you to join us to explore the impact of the student voice on the enhancement of the student learning experience and institutional decision-making. 

Conference Speakers

We are delighted that the conference will be opened by Ms Shirley-Anne Somerville MSP, Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science.  The day will be a blend of keynote sessions covering the key themes in student engagement, as well as a range of workshops, presentations and displays.  The keynote speakers include:   

  • Adam Gajek - European Students’ Union (ESU) Executive Committee member and member of the ESU Quality Assurance Student Experts' Pool.
  • Rebecca MacLennan - Programme Manager - Young Engineers and Science Clubs Scotland, Scottish Council for Development and Industry.  Rebecca is a former sparqs Associate Trainer.
  • Stewart Hay - former deputy head at Anderson High School in Lerwick, Shetland, and founder of The Global Classroom, an international partnership that allows staff and students at secondary schools across the world to share experiences on learning and teaching.
  • Vonnie Sandlan - President, NUS Scotland.

You can read the speakers' biographies for details about their background and experience. 


You can view the conference programme for details of the day.


The conference will begin at 9.45am (with registration open from 9.00am) and will close around 4.35pm. Following a short break, during which we will begin serving drinks and canapés, the Awards reception will take place, due to finish around 6.30pm. 

Registration is now open!

  1. Choose which sessions you would like to attend at the conference by reading the Workshop and Presentation Outlines document - you will be asked to choose 1st, 2nd and 3rd preferences for each session when registering.
  2. If you are from outwith Scotland, please see the information below about the opportunity to attend our International Delegates' Day and optional university site visits.
  3. See the conference fees section below which details groups who will be registered offline, payment options (if applicable) and what to do if you are not able to pay by card or via a Paypal account. 
  4. When you are ready to register, please see the event webpage to book your place!

While we are not limiting the amount of spaces an institution can book, please note that if the conference is oversubscribed we may need to ask institutions to prioritise their list of attendees.  

Conference fees

There is a registration fee for Scottish delegates this time around to cover some of the costs, although this is still a subsidised rate. The pricing structure is as follows:

  • Students studying in a Scottish Institution – FREE
  • Scottish Sector Agency staff - £50
  • Scottish SA/Institution staff - £50
  • Outwith Scotland - £120
  • Outwith Scotland (2 days - main conference plus international delegates' day on 22nd March) - £240

NB: early bird rates have now expired. 

When confirming your booking, if payment is applicable, you will be taken to a Paypal page, with options to pay by card or via your Paypal account.  If you are unable to pay by card or Paypal, please contact us at before proceeding with your registration, to arrange to be invoiced.

Please note that registration will be managed offline for the following: NStEP (10 pre-paid reserved places), ESPAQ project members, and lead contacts for successful workshops/presentations. If one of these categories applies to you, please do not register via the website. If you have not received a separate email regarding your registration, please contact us at

Registration closes on Friday 10th March 2017.

International Delegates' Day

Delegates attending from outside the UK have the option to attend an additional day before the conference on Wednesday 22nd March. The day will provide an opportunity to learn about the Scottish context of student engagement, including a visit to the University of Stirling, with some sightseeing and Scottish hospitality along the way!  See the International Delegates’ Day webpage for further information about what the day includes and the costs.  If attending the International Delegages' Day as well as the main conference, there is an option to book both days when registering.

Optional university/agency site visits

In addition to the above-noted international delegates day, we have had queries from some of our international visitors about other potential places to visit whilst they are over in Scotland.  Therefore, we have arranged some hosted site visits to institutions and a Sector agency, with the kind help of our University Advisory Group colleagues.  There are a range of visits available, spanning the week of the conference, for people to sign up directly with the institution/agency as they wish (delegates will also need to arrange their own travel). The visits will allow people to hear more about our student engagement and quality processes, whilst enabling visitors to see a bit more of Scotland! 

Click here to view details of the visits available - please sign up by Friday 10th March 2017!

Practical Information

For visitors to Edinburgh, we have prepared some useful information about the city, including maps, travel and accommodation options and tourism information.  We hope that you find this helpful, but please don't hesitate to contact us if you have any queries.

Please note that delegates are required to book and pay for their own travel and accommodation. 

Delegates will receive joining instructions by email nearer the conference.  See the "Timings" section above for start/end times for both the Conference and the Awards Reception.

Student Engagement Awards

In a fitting end to the day, the conference will be rounded off with the second sparqs Student Engagement Awards! We invited students' associations and institutions within Scotland to submit nominations across a range of six categories. See the Awards webpage for all the details. Nominations are now closed, the deadline for submissions was Monday 20th February 2017.

Background information

The conference has four themes, across which the proposals were invited.  The themes are intended to support our desire to engage with delegates from across the UK and internationally.  The themes are Governance, democracy and formal quality processes; Diversity; Co-creation in curriculum design and delivery; and Student-led initiatives.  Details of each theme can be viewed and downloaded.

The call for proposals was open from mid-November until 12th December 2016.  Applicants will be notified whether their proposal was successful in due course.  Please see the Call for Proposals webpage for further details.

Key Dates

The key dates and deadlines are as follows:

  • Tuesday 15th November: Workshop/presentation/poster call for proposals open
  • Monday 12th December: Workshop/presentation/poster call for proposals close
  • Monday 19th December: Successful workshop/presentations are notified
  • Monday 16th January: Student Engagement Awards nominations open
  • Monday 20th February: Student Engagement Awards nominations close
  • Monday 30th January: Conference Registration opens (with early bird offers)
  • Monday 13th February: early bird offer closes
  • Friday 10th March: Conference Registration closes.

If you have any queries regarding the conference, please email or contact the office on 0131 622 6599.

Student Engagement Framework

sparqs Conference: Celebrating the impact of the student voice on quality enhancement

23 Mar 2017

Before clicking "Book Now" please read all of the following information to choose which sessions you would…