Today I went to Melbourne with 3 of my fellow leadership mates from FedUni to attend a workshop on student leadership at universities. It was really rewarding and I was proud to be able to represent FedUni as a student leader.
After the train trip to Melbourne and a quick coffee from a cafe, we went up to the City Campus of Latrobe University to meet with the other participants in the workshop and share in the fruit and danishes that were kindly provided for breakfast.
The day was run by the Office of Learning and Teaching and they presented the findings of a report into student leadership in universities and sought discussion on the context of leadership as we move into a new phase of higher education. The collaborators on the project include an impressive list of DVCs and PVCs from universities around the country and the structure was outlined for us on the day.
The context slide was the one that provided the highest level of discussion and debate amongst us all. Asked to provide suggestions for what we saw as being important and what might be missing from the context, the participants all had very different ideas. It was interesting to see the differences in opinions between academics and student leaders in attendance. Many questions were raised and issues discussed with some academics querying the cost to staff of allowing greater involvement by students in the curriculum process and the time it would take away from research. Though this was a fleeting point that was made, it was shared by another large university and seemed to miss the point of the research in the first place, and was disappointing to boot.
Along with the discussion surrounding the student voice, changing nature of universities and HE, the switch that is occurring to a mode of Blended On-Line Delivery of content or BOLD, and flipping the classroom to facilitate numerous ways of learning for a variety of students, there was a discussion about students as customers/clients and whether they are also stakeholders. Some in the room felt that students were customers but that they couldn’t be considered stakeholders as well — it was an either/or proposition. I saw this contention as purely academic (Editor’s note: pun intended?). Universities are in business in the 21st century; it’s a balance between the provision of education and higher learning to students, in order to earn revenue to fund operations. So we as students, who are fee paying customers, have an economic interest in the university and are therefore, by definition, considered stakeholders. So as stakeholders, who fund the research and contribute to academic salaries, shouldn’t we be allowed to inform the process? Shouldn’t we be allowed to have a voice in the forums where decisions are made? Shouldn’t we at least be considered?
Anyway, after this debate we moved on and the FedUni table was able to speak about our leadership model and mentoring program. The latter saw me quizzed during lunch about my role as an online mentor and how the program operates. It was excellent to see the interest in our forward-thinking program and I certainly hope I did it justice in its explanation.
After the lunch break we returned to breakdown the data in detail and look at the draft recommendations of the report. I was struck by how on-point FedUni already is with the implementation of BOLD programs, support services like mentoring, proactive student retention and success programs, and leadership recognition all playing a key part in engaging students and refocusing the University so it is prepared to face the challenges of the next phase in the evolution of HE.
Overall it was a fabulous day with these excellent people who inspire and motivate me beyond words. I count myself very lucky to be a part of such a focused and determined group of student/future leaders. Thanks for a great day, you lot!
P.S. Here is FedUni’s definitive definition of Leadership: