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Student Engagement Conference 2021

Leading Student Engagement in Times of Crisis and Transformation: Student Engagement Conference 2021

New for 2021, this one-day event focussed on good practice in engaging students, the student voice and student participation in the governance and decision-making processes.

New for 20-21 and focusing on student engagement, this conference focussed on the engagement of students in all aspects of their higher education, from the ‘classroom’ to extra-curricular activities including leadership and governance. For this event student engagement was defined as:

‘Participation in curricular, co-curricular, and extra-curricular activities linked to high quality learning and personal development’

Join the conversation #StudentEngagementConf21

Date: 26 May 2021

Venue: Virtual

Who: Those with responsibility for the student academic experience and student engagement more widely, SU teams, course leaders and those focused on the student experience and improving student outcomes.

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Conference background

Student engagement has never been more important or more challenging. During these historically difficult and tragic months, institutions and staff have striven to deliver a quality student experience. However, new students have not been able to enjoy the excitement of face-to-face freshers’ week and the discovery of the physical campus; clubs and societies have struggled to operate as normal; student inductions have had to take place virtually, and learning in lectures, seminars, practicals and tutorials has had to be re-designed. Returning students have had to radically adjust their expectations, as one year that was hastily curtailed in extraordinary circumstances transitioned into a new academic year of ‘unknown unknowns’. And yet institutional life has had to continue. Education has remained a top priority for both policy makers and society more widely, and the challenge of engaging students amidst socially distanced teaching, rapidly constructed online modules, periods of self-isolation, tiered restrictions and COVID-lockdowns has been the lot of academic and student service colleagues working closely together, alongside senior management.

Focusing on student engagement, this conference was an important and timely opportunity for the sector to come together to review where we’ve been and to consider where next. Through the lens of leadership, we discussed not only the challenges, but also the opportunities presented by the COVID experience. What does it mean to lead student engagement, and how can we reboot our vision of student engagement as we build towards the 2021/22 academic year?

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Download Resource

Student Engagement Conference 2021

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A fully digital conferencing experience

The Student Engagement Conference 2021 was delivered online on our virtual conference platform. This provided a flexible, immersive and engaging digital experience where delegates could develop their practice, share their ideas and grow their network. All delegates had access to the following features:

  • a full day of live-streamed sessions of speakers, panel discussion and workshops
  • opportunities for live delegate questions and comments during all sessions
  • full online support throughout the day
  • flexibility to attend sessions at leisure with access to all session recordings after the conference allowing you to browse and catch up on anything you may have missed at a time suited to you
  • resources area for relevant and contemporary resources on student engagement
  • opportunity to interact with other delegates from around the world in a virtual networking space.
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Keynote speakers

Leading engagement – who are you engaging? How? And why is it more critical than ever?

Professor Anthony Smith, BPharm, PhD, FRPharmS, PFHEA, FRSA

Anthony Smith was appointed Vice-Provost (Education and Student Affairs) at University College London in 2012. Professor Smith takes the strategic lead for all matters related to education at undergraduate and postgraduate levels and the wider student experience.  In addition to leading the Office of the Vice Provost (Education and Student Affairs), he oversees Student and Registry Services, UCL Careers and UCL Culture. 

Find out more about Anthony

Professor Anthony Smith

Jim Onyemenam

Jim Onyemenam is the Postgraduate Students' Officer at Students Union UCL, one of the sabbatical officers who has collaborated with UCL on its response to the coronavirus pandemic. Running one of the most robust academic representative frameworks in the industry, the benefits of this evidence-based prioritisation of the student perspective, which underpins his work across the two years in the role, is best exemplified by his Open Letter to UCL's Teaching Community.

Jim Onyemenam

Learning through digital engagement – lessons learned from the COVID-19 pivot

Associate Professor Chie Adachi, Director Digital Learning, Deakin University, Australia

Associate Professor Chie Adachi currently works as Director, Digital Learning at Deakin University. Chie leads a number of digital learning innovation projects at the University and is passionate about and researches into how digital pedagogy, educational technology and interculturalism enhance and innovate teaching and learning. She is also a co-founder of TELedvisors, Special Interest Group under ASCILITE.

Associate Professor Chie Adachi
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Presentation speakers

What our surveys tell us?

Dr Diana J Pritchard PFHEA

Diana works as both Principal Curriculum Developer at the University of Bedfordshire, and as an international HE consultant evaluator.  She is PFHEA (2020) and, having founded and coordinated the interdisciplinary student-staff Sustainability Forum at Bedfordshire, is CATE award winner (2017).  She has led on numerous student engagement strategies and practices, and since 2017 is institutional lead on the UKES.

Dianne Pitchard
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Panel speakers

The Big Conversation – Getting student engagement right?

Dr Joan O'Mahony - Panel chair

Joan is Senior Advisor (Learning and Teaching) at Advance HE. Prior to that she spent 7 years at the Higher Education Academy chiefly as Academic Lead for Student Retention and Success. As Senior Advisor, Joan provides review and support services to programme & senior leaders on strategic planning, improving the student experience, and student outcomes. 

Find out more about Joan


Maisha Islam

Maisha Islam is the Student Engagement Research and Projects Officer at the University of Winchester, whilst also studying for an EdD. Maisha’s main research interests lie in the area of BAME and Muslim student experience in Higher Education, where she has written and published on these topics. 

Find out more about Maisha

Maisha Islam

Professor Osama Khan

Professor Osama Khan is the Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Education, at the University of Surrey, Guildford, UK. He is the strategic lead for the University's education agenda providing talented and motivated students from all backgrounds with an outstanding education that is inclusive, research-informed, technologically enhanced and professionally enriched with industry partnerships. 

Find out more about Osama


Sunday Blake

Sunday is currently President of University of Exeter Students’ Guild, where she has worked for two years after completing a postgraduate degree. She has carried out policy change work both locally and nationally in areas such as sexual misconduct, drug and alcohol use,  student sex work, freedom of expression and no-detriment policies. 

Find out more about Sunday

Sunday Blake
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Parallel Workshop Speakers

Teaching and Learning Online: Engaging with Student Voice

Dr Sue Taylor

Sue originates from St.Ives in Cornwall. She taught and lived in London prior to moving abroad and subsequently worked in eight countries. Returning to the UK in 2017 Sue joined Northumbria University as a Senior Lecturer leading on Primary mathematics and with a passion for self-regulated learning. This academic year Sue has been part of a staff team working on a participatory action research project with student researchers exploring effective online learning.

Dr Sue Taylor
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Student staff partnership research group

Dr Harriet Dunbar-Morris PFHEA

As Dean of Learning and Teaching at the University of Portsmouth, Harriet is responsible for providing leadership in the enhancement and evaluation of the student experience. She champions the student voice, and facilitates partnership working, ensuring student engagement is central to the University's activities. She recently led the revision of the Curriculum Framework including embedding the Hallmarks of the Portsmouth Graduate within the curriculum.

Find out more about Harriet

Harriet Dunbar-Morris
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Improving employability and leadership through student engagement

Dr Jo Tyssen

Jo is the Head of WP, Outreach and Projects at University Centre Leeds and has 15 years’ experience within the HE sector. Her role involves the consideration of the student lifecycle, and includes managing a series of outreach and student support projects and initiatives that support student personal development and employability through wider institution activities and opportunities. Jo’s research interests focus on practice in access, participation and progression of students from underrepresented groups, specifically considering students as producers of knowledge about themselves.

Dr Jo Tyssen

Sophie Clayton

Sophie is the WP and Outreach Deputy Manager at University Centre Leeds, with specific leadership of UniConnect project work. Sophie has 5 years’ experience working in widening participation and student engagement and currently leads a number of projects focussing on student engagement and personal development opportunities, specifically focussing on those that support students from underrepresented groups.

Sophie Clayton
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Interactive session speakers

What is engagement and how is it evolving?

Doug Parkin - Session lead

With a focus mainly on leadership, Doug is responsible for a range of Advance HE's national open programmes as well as undertaking bespoke consultancy assignments for universities both in the UK and around the world. Key interests include educational and research leadership, the leadership of professional services, strategy development, leading change, and leading with emotional intelligence.

Find out more about Doug

Doug Parkin roundel
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Related blogs and resources 


Extracurricular activities: ‘just another thing to think about’?

04 Dec 2020 | Jill Dickinson, Teri-Lisa Griffiths and Alex Bredice

Co-curricular activities: much more than an added extra

04 Dec 2020 | Laith Jaafar, Hannah Prestwich, Nicholas Scarlett
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Event sponsors

EvaSys - sponsor logo

EvaSys has been a market-leading supplier of survey and exam solutions for over 20 years, with 1000+ customers worldwide, two-thirds of whom are education institutions, and 60+ Universities within the UK and Ireland.

EvaSys delivers: high survey response rates; extensive academic and student engagement; evaluation consistency; instant reporting to inform decisions; and powerful, flexible reporting for all stakeholders.

EvaExam assessments provide: secure, online, proctored exams; summative assessments and formative tests; immediate reporting with question analysis and mark distribution; reductions in marking time from days to hours; and accelerated results for students.

The UK office offers dedicated account, implementation, training and customer support to clients across the UK and Ireland, supported by development, technical and training teams in Germany.

Find out more
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At Explorance, we believe that each experience matters. From students in higher education to employees at the workplace, feedback is vital to the lifelong learner's journey. That's why Explorance's mission is to help organisations create a personalised journey of impact and fulfillment for their people through innovative Experience Management (XM) solutions.

The Blue Student Experience Management platform offers a single source of truth from a centralised process. Blue is purpose-built to fully automate all major student feedback gathering initiatives - institutional surveys, course evaluations, competency assessments, alumni surveys – all on one platform.

Find out more