sparqs' support to colleges and students’ associations through the regionalisation process has always been customised to local situations and needs. But this has been especially the case in the Highlands and Islands, where the region is halfway through a two year SFC-funded project that has been established to research and develop an appropriate model of representation.
Unlike elsewhere in Scotland, the Highlands and Islands region has many distinct factors informing the process. For instance, the region’s colleges are not merging but are working more closely together on their further education provision as partners in the University of the Highlands and Islands. UHI’s higher education delivery brings another dimension, as do issues of geography, the role of the Gaelic language, and the varying histories of student representation across the region.
sparqs, as part of the joint NUS/sparqs ‘Partnerships for Change’ project, has been instrumental in supporting regionalisation in the Highlands and Islands, by working with the institutions and students’ associations to secure the funding for the project, supporting the project staff, and helping to create and guide the project board. Its consultancy has drawn upon its knowledge both of the region and the practice in other college regions.
The project has undertaken a number of activities to develop representation, including commissioning research of student views through focus groups and surveys, mapping student representation practice both within the partnership and beyond, and engaging with students’ associations, senior management and boards.
Next steps include building upon the research to identify how representation can meet the needs of the new post-regionalisation structures of the university, the colleges and the region as a whole. The project comes to a close in July 2015, and sparqs will continue to work with the partnership up to and beyond that point.
More information about our work on regionalisation can be found on the webpages of Partnerships for Change, the SFC-funded project we run jointly with NUS Scotland, at http://www.sparqs.ac.uk/partnerships.php
The UHI Student Representation Project website is at http://www.uhi.ac.uk/studentvoice
For more information, please contact Simon Varwell, sparqs Development Advisor – email@example.com