12 Jun 2012

Student Partnership Agreements (SPAs)

Since the inclusion of SPAs in the Scottish Government’s post 16 review we have been exploring and clarifying what they might mean.

Student officers have helped shape some key principles through SLEEC (Student Learning Enhancement & Engagement Campaign) discussions and subsequently NUS has passed policy in support of their development. Both the sparqs college and university advisory groups have also expressed support for these key principles as have various other groups.

Some institutions have already taken steps to begin developing these agreements and sparqs is contacted frequently by people wanting to know what is happening and how they are being taken forward. The forthcoming QAA chapter of the quality code on student engagement will probably contain some aspects which partnership agreements would help fulfil in a meaningful way. In short there appears to be a growing consensus and need for us to develop and support this work.

sparqs will take forward the development of SPAs, reporting progress through the University and College Quality Working Groups. The key contact for this work is Mike Williamson, sparqs Development Advisor, who can be contacted at mike.williamson@sparqs.ac.uk We propose to carry out this work in two separate ways for the two sectors.

In universities we will facilitate a pilot group with those institutions that are willing or already starting to develop partnership agreements, giving them support and guidance to ensure that their agreements are practical and will have a positive impact for their students. We hope that through the pilot group we will identify some best practice about working through design and implementation of partnership agreements, which can then be shared with the sector, making it easier for others to create partnership agreements.

In colleges we would propose to develop SPA agreements through our work in supporting student engagement during regionalisation. While taking development forward differently we will similarly ensure that we build in opportunities that allow for the sharing of good practice.

Key Principles:

There are several key principles that have developed through discussions with various stakeholders over the course of the year which SPAs should embody. These are:

  • How the institution will work with its students’ association to ensure students are central to governance, decision making, quality assurance and enhancement.
  • What issues and programmes of work the students’ association and institution will work on over the coming year to improve the student experience.
  • How the institution and its students’ association will work with the student body to ensure as wide a range of students as possible are involved in shaping the student experience.
  • What the students should see in terms of improvements to the learning experience as a result of the work of the students’ association and the institution and what they will be working on in the future.
  • How students can use the systems available to make sure their voice is heard, play their part in shaping developments and voice concerns or complaints if things go wrong.

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