28 March 2019

sparqs Conference: Student Engagement for All


Student Engagement for All took place on Thursday 28th March 2019 at Surgeons' Hall in Edinburgh.  #sparqs19  

The day was a great success, with a fantastic turnout of around 200 delegates from Scotland and all over the world!  Our huge thanks go to everyone who attended and contributed to the conference!  You can read the conference Twitter story for an overview of the day!

The conference was aimed at students, managers and practitioners in colleges, universities and other post-16 providers, from within Scotland and beyond.  We invited colleagues to join us to explore activity from across the sector on student engagement in relation to widening access, equality and diversity, transitions, representation of non-traditional students, staff development…and more! The conference showcased this work, sharing expertise and best practice!

Conference speakers

We were delighted that the conference was opened by Karen Watt, Chief Executive of the Scottish Funding Council.  The day was a blend of keynote sessions, panel discussions and a range of workshops, presentations and displays, and we heard lots of good feedback throughout the day about the range of interesting and inspiring presentations!  Thank you also to the fantastic team of BSL/English Interpreters who signed the conference throughout the day.

Alongside Karen, our other speakers were:

  • Carol Hunter - Student President, Fife College
  • Maxine Jolly - Young Inspectors' Programme, Education Scotland
  • Rob McDermott - Quality Manager, Forth Valley College
  • Dr Aileen McGuigan - Senior Lecturer in Education, University of Dundee
  • Ciaran Stewart - ex Course Rep for BA Performance in BSL/English, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland
  • Sir Andrew Cubie - incoming Chair of sparqs
  • Dr Pauline Hanesworth - Senior Adviser, Advance HE
    ~ Introduced by: Liam McCabe, NUS Scotland President

You can read the speakers' biographies for details about their background and experience, and view the conference programme for details of the day.  Videos from the plenary sessions will be uploaded in due course.


The sessions featured both workshops and presentations, some of which were grouped together by topic where they complemented each other. 

You can view the presentations from the speakers and all of the sessions and read more detailed information on all the sessions in the Workshop and Presentation Outlines document.


New Chair of sparqs' Trustee Board

At the conference we welcomed Sir Andrew Cubie as the new Chair of sparqs' Trustee Board, whilst bidding a fond farewell to our much-valued outgoing Chair, Professor Norman Sharp OBE.  While we are sorry to say farewell to Norman, we are delighted to have Sir Andrew on board and look forward to working with him going forward.


New sparqs' Strategic Plan 2019-22

Sir Andrew's first task as our new Chair was to launch our new Strategic Plan, which sets out our work and direction for the next three years. Our video accompanying the plan can be viewed below:



Student Engagement Awards Winners!

In a fitting end to the day, the conference was rounded off with the third sparqs' Student Engagement Awards.  

Individual category webpages with further details on all the submissions and course reps can be accessed by clicking on the category headings on the Awards page!  


Additional opportunities for delegates from outwith Scotland

Delegates attending from outwith the UK were also offered the opportunity to attend an additional International Delegates' Day on Wednesday 27th March, the day before the main conference. The day provided an opportunity to learn about the Scottish context of student engagement, including a visit to the University of Dundee, with some sightseeing and Scottish hospitality along the way!  Many thanks to Dundee University Students' Association and University of Dundee for hosting our guests!  Read the Twitter story from the day for a flavour of how the day went and some photos. 

In addition to the international delegates day, we arranged some optional site visits to a college, universities and a sector agency.  A range of visits were available, spanning the week of the conference, for people to sign up directly with the institution/agency. The visits aimed to allow people to hear more about our student engagement and quality processes, whilst enabling visitors to see a bit more of Scotland!  Many thanks to everyone who hosted a visit!


Once again, thank you to everyone who attended and contributed to the conference, the international delegates' day and the site visits, we couldn't have done it without you!!


Practical information

For visitors to Edinburgh, we prepared some useful information about the city, including maps, travel and accommodation options and tourism information.  We hope that visitors found this helpful. 

See our conference map for locations of the main conference, the International Delegates' Day and the site visits. 

For further information about the conference venue, please see the Surgeons' Hall website.

Delegates were required to book and pay for their own travel and accommodation. 

The conference hashtag, for use on Twitter, was #sparqs19.


Queries and further information

If you have any queries regarding the conference, please email admin@sparqs.ac.uk or contact the office on 0131 622 6599.

Fees and payment

Conference fees are outlined below (early-bird rates having previously been available).

  • Students/student officers studying in a Scottish institution - FREE
  • Staff from a Scottish institution, students’ association or sector agency – £60 
  • All delegates from outside Scotland (conference only) - £130
  • All delegates from outside Scotland (conference plus International Delegates' Day) - £260 thereafter


This is a chargeable event, with the following pricing options:

Students/student officers studying in a Scottish institution (FREE)£0.00
Scotland students' association/institution staff£60.00
Scotland sector agency staff£60.00
Outside Scotland - main conference only£130.00
Outside Scotland - main conference plus International Day£260.00

All Current & Past Events:

Student Engagement Framework

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