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‘Students as co-creators’: what works?

16 Feb 2024 | Professor Mark O'Hara Following Advance HE’s ‘Students as Co-creators’ symposium 2024, Professor Mark O’Hara, Senior Consultant (Education) at Advance HE, shares his thoughts on some of the key themes and highlights of the event’s workshops and talks.

Advance HE’s second annual ‘Students as Co-creators’ online symposium was a fabulous chance for representatives from a wide range of higher education institutions, overseas included, to share their experiences and learning and to connect with other like-minded students and staff. The event proved immensely popular with a threefold increase in submissions from the previous year. 

Our first keynote, Dr Roisin Curran, Director of Ulster University’s Centre for Curriculum Enhancement and Approval, got proceedings underway by providing a research-informed underpinning for those keen on building capacity for staff and students to co-design the curriculum. Partnership working with students in decision-making about curriculum development can offer a powerful means of enhancing the quality of education and fostering more engaging and inclusive learning environments. What’s more, the authentic and ‘fresh’ perspectives that students can contribute to these activities can improve the staff experience as well as the students’ own. 

Student presenters 

Throughout the day it was inspiring to see so many students presenting alongside university staff on topics such as employability initiatives, equality, diversity and inclusion, technological innovations in learning and teaching and students as researchers and ‘producers’ of knowledge. Every virtual room I entered featured students demonstrating their leadership, communication, interpersonal and problem-solving skills. They were growing in self-confidence through the process alongside highly engaged and passionate staff committed to doing everything possible through their mentoring, facilitation and coaching abilities to secure heightened levels of student engagement.  


The quality of the vlog materials that many participants submitted to the event was remarkable both in terms of the innovation and creativity on show across the different resources, but also in terms of the production values! These three-minute contributions to the symposium proved to be highly effective and engaging summaries of partnership projects. 

Participants were soon re-energised after lunch by Syra Shakir and Paige Wong’s workshop on attainment gaps in HE and the co-created equality, diversity and inclusion practices that they have piloted at Leeds Trinity University. This was a great way to get people back ‘into gear’ ready for the afternoon’s sessions on learning, teaching and assessment initiatives across multiple disciplines from chemistry to history and from English to architecture. 


All-in-all it was a profoundly uplifting experience seeing co-creation and collaborative endeavour characterised by mutual respect, active listening and shared decision making between staff and students in such abundance across all manner of university functions, operations and practices.  

Students have hectic schedules and are balancing academic commitments with work and/or personal responsibilities which can limit their availability and willingness to engage in co-creation working. It was wonderful therefore to see so many HE institutions investing the necessary time and funding to encourage and support students in getting involved in co-creation initiatives despite all these challenges. 


Mark O’Hara is a Professor of Learning and Teaching, a National Teaching Fellow and winner of the Collaborative Award for Teaching Excellence. With over 30 years’ experience in higher education, he is Vice-Chair, European Association of Institutional Research, and his latest publication is, Broucker, B., Milsom, C., Calleja, J. & O’Hara M. (Eds) (2023) Accelerating the future of Higher Education. Brill Publishing, Leiden, Netherlands. 

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