A student’s reflection on the Annual TEQSA Conference

Written by Ema Souness | 19 December, 2019

Creating meaningful and genuine partnerships between students, staff and the university management team is an integral step for enhancing student engagement and academic success.

My attendance at the annual Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) Conference as Endeavour College’s student representative has inspired me to help bridge the gap between students and staff. The main focus of the TEQSA conference was to create improved student and staff relationships and to develop a sense of equality and greater power balance between all people within their educational institution.

After listening to a range of speakers share their insights into student experience, it became evident to me that reshaping the relationships we create between our students, staff and campus managers was of significant importance.

It was suggested that when students have the opportunity to meet and converse with staff and campus managers as equals, increased trust and optimism within the student body would occur and ultimately bridge the communication gap between students and their institution. As a collective, we must develop ways to inspire a greater sense of community, whereby all people can better understand one another’s roles within the college system. Doing this will help to inspire tolerance and empathy within the campus community.

While attending sessions targeted at student representatives from a variety of tertiary education providers in Australia, a key theme arose that remained with me throughout the remainder of the conference: This was the notion that the developing commercialisation of tertiary education and increasing tuition costs has contributed to a degree of cynicism taking root within student bodies. This is something I have seen present in the attitudes of many of my classmates, and it is essential, now more than ever, that students are included in decision-making processes within their universities, and that their requests for change are heard loud and clear.

So, what does a successful partnership between our education providers, its staff and students actually look like?

  1. The first integral step involves committing to regular meetings on campus, whereby all persons involved in the college (students, lecturers, managers, maintenance staff and student services, for example) can get to know each other and put names to faces. The initial introductions and connections between all parties is essential for developing a safe environment where everyone can share their input and make a contribution to the decision-making processes. The present hierarchy system within university systems seems to be a key contributor to the lack of student participation in university lead events, and this barrier must be broken down. Our students need to feel comfortable with having an open conversation with staff of all qualifications, including lecturers and university managers alike.
  2. Communication and the formation of trust is essential. Students need to know first-hand what their college is planning and implementing within campuses nationally, what must be done in order for change to occur, how long processes will take and what students can do to aid in these processes. Students, perhaps most importantly, need to have a say in the formation of new ideas, and not just be there to agree to decisions that the college has already made.
  3. Students must be given responsibility and be made to feel as though they have the power to make a change within their college. The goal is to make students understand that there is more to their degree than attending class, completing assignments, passing subjects and attaining their certificate so that they can finally commence their career. Our careers begin on the first day of enrolment, and our journeys are made fulfilling by being involved in college lead community events, networking with staff, other students, and business managers, forming meaningful and supportive relationships, fundraising, striving for consistent academic excellence and feeling appreciated and heard within the college environment.

As student, we are not just here to collect our degrees and then leave our studies behind. College life should be a rewarding experience in so many areas, and a time that we can look back upon with fond memories. Students and staff alike must work together towards common goals, supporting each other along the way, and strive for equality through forming strong and meaningful partnerships.

Ema Souness

Ema Souness is currently studying a Bachelor of Health Science (Naturopathy) at Endeavour College of Natural Health, Melbourne. With a passion for learning and sharing the benefits of natural health with others, Ema aspires towards running her own private practice and working in partnership with fellow health practitioners specialising in a range of complementary disciplines.

Growing up in rural Australia, Ema has a huge appreciation for the natural world and is particularly interested in replenishing the health and balance of the environment. She believes that in taking care of the world within which we live, ultimately, we will be empowering our populations to take control of their own health and prevent the ongoing rise of chronic disease.

With the desire to excel in her chosen field, and to foster positive changes in the health of her future clients, Ema is overjoyed to be following her own path towards a career in Naturopathy.

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