Keynote speakers for CAN 2018 at the University of Winchester

We are delighted to confirm Colette Fletcher (assistant vice chancellor at the University of Winchester), Tali Atvars (Winchester student union president) and Tansy Jessop (Professor of Research Informed Teaching, Southampton Solent University) as our keynote speakers for the CAN event 19 & 20 April 2018.

The deadline for submitting a proposal for the event is 12 January 2018.  Further information, guidance and the proposal forms are located here.

Embedding the Culture of Engagement

Journal of Educational Innovation, Partnership and Change

Journal of Educational Innovation, Partnership and Change

We are delighted to announce the publication of the 5th edition of the Journal of Educational Innovation, Partnership and Change: Vol 3, No 2 (2017): Embedding the Culture of Engagement. This edition brings together practice which was presented at the CAN 2016 conference held at the University of Lincoln and showcases the innovative practice in student-staff partnerships.

Joint editors of this edition, Simon Walker, Reece Horsley, John-Paul Dickie, Marcus Elliot, Duncan McKenna, Emily Parkin, Sarah Knight share their reflections, in the editors’ introduction, on the practice which is shared through case studies, research articles, opinion pieces, technology reviews and videos in the journal.

The Journal to date has published 100 articles, which have had 30,000 views and 11,000 article downloads since 2015, showing the importance of sharing current practice in the area of student staff partnerships. The Journal was established to encourage and support students to publish their work in this area and we are delighted to see students as authors and co-authors in this edition.

CAN 2018: Championing student-staff partnership in an age of change: Call for Contributions

Partnership1.jpgWe are delighted to announce the call for contributions for CAN 2018 hosted by the University of Winchester and supported by Jisc. This year the CAN conference will be focusing on student-staff partnerships at universities and colleges in the age of change. With significant developments happening across the UK educational landscape, the conference themes ask us to be both reflective and dynamic in our practice, in order to facilitate effective partnerships and improve the student educational experience.

We particularly welcome contributions for the themes below. A brief description of these themes and the types of submissions can be found on this blog page.

  1. Theme One: Keeping Student Engagement and Partnership Relevant in an Age of Change
  2. Theme Two: Researching, Evaluating and Evidencing effective Engagement and Partnership
  3. Theme Three: Developing Digital Capabilities in an Ever Changing Landscape
  4. Theme Four: Ensuring the Student Voice is heard and the Feedback Loop is closed
  5. Theme Five: Student-Staff Partnerships to support Innovation and Inclusivity in the Curriculum
  6. Theme Six: (posters only) Entrepreneurship and Innovation Showcase

Please submit your proposal to by the 12th January 2018. Forms can be found here.

Please note:

  • We will give priority to contributions which are student-led or collaboratively delivered by staff and students
  • We will confirm which proposals have been accepted by Monday 9th February 2018

Registration for the conference will open in January. Please visit to keep updated on conference developments.

If you have any questions please contact:

Get Involved

To follow developments about CAN2018 and the Change Agents’ Network follow @CANagogy and the Twitter hashtag #CAN2018 for this event. You can join the Change Agents’ Network mailing list:

REACT project’s Special Issue of the Journal of Educational Innovation, Partnership and Change

Journal of Educational Innovation, Partnership and Change

Journal of Educational Innovation, Partnership and Change

We are delighted to announce the launch of the special issue of the Journal of Educational Innovation, Partnership and Change: Vol 3, No 1 (2017): Reacting to the ‘Hard to Reach’ through Student Engagement Initiatives.

This special issue of The Journal of Educational Innovation, Partnership and Change is slightly different from previous issues in that it focuses on a particular programme, known as ‘REACT’, funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). ‘Realising Engagement Through Active Culture Transformation’, or REACT, looks closely at the engagement of so-called ‘hard-to-reach’ students in Higher Education, and this issue of the journal provides a kaleidoscope of views and standpoints, starting points and conclusions, through both qualitative descriptions and reporting of quantitative data. It is not a ‘recipe book’ for ‘student engagement’. There is no clear-cut, neat picture of what ‘student engagement’ is, nor of what characterises a ‘hard-to-reach’ student. However, overall, it gives a rich picture of the many complexities of engaging with students who are less likely to engage, and of the many ways in which universities are working to understand the issues and consequences and to engage all students more effectively.

In all, forty-four contributions make up this issue, in the form of research articles, case studies and opinion pieces. Much has already been written on the topic of ‘student engagement’, but the importance of this particular set of pieces is that they narrow the focus of ‘student engagement’ by concentrating specifically on ‘hard-to-reach’ students. This does not mean narrowing or ‘closing down’ any aspect of discussion on the topic, but it provides a particular lens with the potential to inform wider debates.

Please do take a moment of your time to have a look at the journal and read some of the exciting work from the institutions across the programme.

You can access this issue here.

The McMaster Summer Institute for Students as Partners 2017: living and breathing partnership internationally

We are delighted to have a guest post from Dr Catherine Bovill, Senior Lecturer in Student Engagement, Institute for Academic Development, University of Edinburgh:

The McMaster Summer Institute for Students as Partners was first run in 2016 and brings together researchers and practitioners interested and active in Students as Partners (SaP) work across the world. The second Summer Institute was held in May 2017 in Hamilton Canada, and focused on three strands of work: 1) SaP workshops to support students and staff to examine their existing SaP practice as well as planning for new SaP initiatives; 2) a Change Programme for teams of staff and students planning to enact SaP cultural change in their institutions; and 3) a writing retreat for staff and students collaborating in writing about SaP. I was fortunate to be invited to co-lead the workshops at this second Summer Institute with Sophia Abbott, Post-Baccalaureate Fellow for Collaborative Programs at Trinity University, Texas, USA and Lucy Mercer-Mapstone, PhD student in the Centre for Social Responsibility in Mining and Project Lead for Students as Partners Program Design at the University of Queensland Australia. We were a truly international facilitation team.

A vision of student-teacher partnership with ever increasing responsibility taken by students throughout their degree – thanks to Christel Brost, Malmö University, Sweden for the art work

A vision of student-teacher partnership with ever increasing responsibility taken by students throughout their degree – thanks to Christel Brost, Malmö University, Sweden for the art work

Six months prior to the Summer Institute, Sophia, Lucy and I met for the first time via Skype to get to know one another and to start planning the two SaP workshops focused on Course and Curriculum design, and on Teaching Learning and Assessment. This could have been very challenging, when three people from different backgrounds come together to co-facilitate four full days of workshops for staff and students from around the world. In reality, the experience was phenomenally positive. I have often reflected upon how many people working in the SaP field are quite like-minded: they are not only interested in partnership, but they are keen to walk the walk and model good partnership in practice. Thankfully, this was our experience of co-facilitation, we shared many of our goals and approaches to working, whilst remaining intellectually challenging and critical with one another.

Indeed, this heady mix of collegiality and criticality seemed to engender further and deeper exploration and thinking during the Summer Institute.

The Summer Institute as a whole attracted nearly 80 participants from nine countries; half of whom were students and half, staff members. Creating an ethos of collegiality and criticality within the workshops was key to enabling individuals and groups from institutions around the world to work constructively with one another. The workshops included participants from the UK, Sweden, the Netherlands, USA, Canada and Grenada. Some participants were very experienced in undertaking SaP work and had quite well developed SaP initiatives within their institutions. Other participants were new to SaP, such as the colleagues from Grenada. One of the most rewarding parts of the workshops was when some of our Grenadian colleagues reported how they had moved from feeling like outsiders, completely new to SaP and with little to share, to feeling included and valued members of the workshops with ideas and perspectives that were of great value to others. This sense of sharing from one another’s experiences and supporting one another in thinking through the challenges of culture change within different institutions, is absolutely at the heart of the Summer Institute for SaP.

I will share briefly three elements of the workshops that were highlights for me personally. First was a session I led on the importance of behaviour and language being consistent with the principles and values of SaP. This seemed to capture the imagination of participants and I appreciated the flexibility with which Sophia, Lucy and I worked together to provide more time for participants to explore this crucial aspect of SaP practice in more depth. According to feedback from the workshops, this session, and the extra time given to it, was clearly appreciated.

Twitter post demonstrating enjoyment of Sarah Dyer’s Appreciate cards – thanks to Rachel Braun, University of Calgary, Canada for the original Tweet

Twitter post demonstrating enjoyment of Sarah Dyer’s Appreciate cards – thanks to Rachel Braun, University of Calgary, Canada for the original Tweet

The second short session I enjoyed was when we used the Appreciate partnership cards produced by Sarah Dyer, University of Exeter. Participants were able to take time to try out some of the activities suggested by the cards as well as to reflect upon how they might use the cards in their own SaP work. Finally, I really enjoyed and learned from seeing the ways in which participants envisioned ideal forms of student-staff partnership. It was great to have space to discuss the thinking behind these visions and to see the visions inform the planning of real SaP activities across institutions internationally. It was an incredibly busy time in Canada – it was tiring but incredibly rewarding.

The Appreciate Partnership cards created by Sarah Dyer with support from the UK Higher Education Academy are available online:

Change agents’ network comes of age with the 5th annual CAN conference

I was privileged to work with the University of Exeter this year to organise the 5th annual conference of the Change agents’ network. The conference which took place on the 20 – 21 April was attended by 180 staff and students from universities and colleges across the UK. This year’s theme, Supporting effective partnerships, was fitting for we now see student-staff partnerships as accepted practice in supporting innovation in our students’ experience, whether that be in curriculum design, supporting the development of staff and student digital capabilities or as researchers. What makes CAN conferences unique, is that all sessions involved students as presenters and facilitators. We were able to capture a graphic recording of the conference and our thanks go to Sandra Howgate (@SandraHowgate) for her brilliant work. You can view all the recordings, presentations and resources from day 1 and day 2.

Students as change agents and student partners

Student ‘change agents’ are students who work in partnership with staff to lead, support or develop change within an institution. The 2016 UCISA Digital capabilities survey reports that 43 % of respondents are working with students as change agents with another 38 % of respondents working towards this. There are different ways change agents can work from leading their own change project to supporting a defined project or taking part in institutional processes such as recruitment and teaching practice observations. Titles may differ across higher and further education and include champions, change agents, digital leaders, student fellows, student ambassadors, student partners, student researchers, co-designers, co-creators, co-developers. For further guidance and examples of how colleges and universities are taking this forward, see our Jisc online guide on Developing successful student partnerships

CAN has come of age

History of CAN Tweet (Steve Rowett, UCL)

History of CAN Tweet (Steve Rowett, UCL)

From its creation in 2013 with Simon Walker and Mark Kerrigan hosting the first network get together with 20 staff and students at the University of Greenwich, to 2014 when the University of Winchester with Yaz El Hakim and Tansy Jessop, hosted the 2nd conference with 70 staff and students, to CAN2015 when we came together in Birmingham with over 100 staff and students, to CAN 2016 hosted by Marcus Elliott, Emily Parkin and Reece Horsley at the University of Lincoln with 175 staff and students to CAN 2017 at the University of Exeter with Jake Hibberd. It was fitting for CAN to return to Exeter as in 2010, the first national Student and Staff Conference with Liz Dunne, which was held there in conjunction with ELESIG with support from Jisc.

Over the years I have been seen how student staff partnerships have grown to become established practice from the pockets of often project-based initiatives. This year it was evident how colleges and universities are embracing the true meaning of partnership:

“Partnership is fundamentally about a relationship in which all involved – students, academics, professional services staff, senior managers, students’ unions and so on – are actively engaged in and stand to gain from the process of learning and working together. Partnership is essentially a process of engagement, not a product. It is a way of doing things, rather than an outcome in itself.”

Healey, M., Flint, A. and Harrington, K. (2014) Engagement through partnership: students as partners in learning and teaching in higher education. York, Higher Education Academy. Available at:

Senior leadership for student partnerships

Over the two days of the conference, we saw how senior leaders are strong advocates for student partnerships with University of Exeter Professor Tim Quine, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education) and Mike Shore-Nye, Registrar and Secretary showing their support. With over 50 colleges and universities presenting their innovative work, there were excellent examples of institutional practice. What struck me the most, was how confident and articulate student presenters were on sharing their work and more importantly the benefits they had gained from their experiences. The wordle below illustrates the benefits students have realised on working as change agents or student partners in their organisations.

Benefits of student partnerships

Benefits of student partnerships

My highlights

Supporting effective partnerships - CAN 2017

Supporting effective partnerships – CAN 2017

The sessions I attended illustrated the true meaning of partnership – with students being co-presenters and often leading the sessions, showing excellent facilitation skills.
Highlights for me included the day 2 keynote with Colin Bryson and Fanni Albert on Authentic Partnership – what, how and why? which encouraged us to question and challenge the true meaning of partnership and what it actually means to students.

Creating Strong Student Partnerships at UCL – Janaina Hirata, Sandra Lusk, Jenny Marie, Anoodth Naushan & Robert Vilkelis (University College London) ran an excellent workshop on their work as change makers and demonstrated brilliant facilitation skills in leading the discussions around the challenges of partnerships.

MAD Digital Challenge; a Student Call to Drive Change – Vikki Liogier, Kristian Stopher, Brad Forsyth, Jeremy Scale & Deividas Balcunias (Epping Forest College) gave an excellent overview of their innovative approaches to collaborating with students to share their ideas on how technology can support their student experience. Vikki based this work on the Jisc Summer of Student innovation and the use of the Jisc elevator site to gather student ideas which other students then voted for. Vikki’s students were open and honest about what worked well and what didn’t work so well – what was clear to see is how much they had benefitted from working in partnership with Vikki and other staff on this project.

Supporting the student digital experience

Supporting the student digital experience

I was really interested in the Power of Partnerships; using data collaboratively to enhance the student experience workshop run by Emily Parkin, Jennifer Barnes, Scott Mcginn and John-Paul Dickie (University of Lincoln) as this tied in with our Jisc work on our student digital experience tracker – a survey of students’ expectations and experiences of technology. This session generated excellent discussions on the differences across institutions in terms of central versus distributed models for control and monitoring of student surveys. The tension still between using online and paper based surveys, and the opportunities for data to be joined up so we can have a holistic overview of student engagement data.

I enjoyed hearing from Graham Lowe and Jack Hogan (Birmingham City University) on their collaborative project with universities in Birmingham to create the Birmingham Digital Students – Student-Staff Partnership in a Digital Age. This is building on the spirit of CAN to facilitate a regional network across Birmingham to share practice in how students and staff are working in partnership on digital projects.

Student panel

CAN2017 Student panel

CAN2017 Student panel

The conference ended on a high with our student panel chaired by Tom Lowe, project manager for the REACT project with:
• Brad Forsyth, Epping Forest College
• Kiu Sum, University of Westminster
• Jack Hogan, Birmingham City University
• Mauro Cozzi, University of Southampton
• Angela Dela Fuente, Portsmouth College
• James Ward, Aberystwyth University
• Robert Vilkelis, UCL
• Przemek Komarnicki, University of Derby

The students were asked, what skills and experience have you gained or how have you benefited from working on a student-staff partnership project?

You can view the recording of the panel session here and its definitely worth a view to hear the passion and enthusiasm with which these students spoke about their experiences. These students are brilliant ambassadors for their universities and colleges.

Where next?
Our thanks go to all staff and students who attended, presented and shared their experiences of partnership and made CAN2017 such a success. We have had some excellent feedback from students who participated which shows the benefits of CAN:

‘To me, it was a deep honour presenting at such an amazing conference. I did not only gain experience in presenting and learned a lot from others, but had the opportunity to meet with and talk to so many wonderful people!’
Fanni Zsófia Albert, post graduate student, University of Newcastle

‘I have kept in touch with many of the people I met and I’m sure those relationships alongside the ideas discussed during the conference will be the seed for many great things!’
Mauro Cozzi, undergraduate student, University of Southampton

‘It has been a fantastic 2 days and great to have seen the development of Jisc and the impacts it has on student engagement for past 3 years! Thank you for the opportunity to present and share my experiences from presentation, poster and the student panel. Never thought I would be doing it when I first began my projects.’
Kiu Sum, Final year student, University of Westminster

I am delighted to announce that 6th annual Change agents’ network conference, Championing Student-Staff Partnerships in an Age of Change, will be hosted by the University of Winchester on the 19-20th April 2018 so we look forward to continuing the sharing of practice, networking and learning there!

Please sign up to the CAN mailing list by visiting to keep up to date with news from the CAN community and to share your own practice with us.

Full programme for CAN 2017 now available

The full programme for CAN 2017 is now available.  Links to the Day 1 and Day 2 abstracts for each session can be found here.

Proudly hosted by The University of Exeter, the 5th annual Change Agents’ Network Conference presents a fantastic opportunity to share effective practice and honest reflections on student and staff partnership working and how this is driving curriculum innovation.

The full programme offers an engaging line up of students and staff including:

  • Two keynote addresses from the Academic Skills and Engagement Team and Student Guild at The University of Exeter (Day 1) and Colin Bryson and Fanni Albert from Newcastle University who will talk about the ‘how, what and why’ of Authentic Partnership (Day 2)
  • Plenary student led panel
  • 51 workshops, presentation and poster sessions from a diverse range of UK Higher and Further Education providers exploring the conference themes of:
    • Developing digital capability of staff and students
    • Employability and graduate attributes
    • Students as Researchers
    • Curriculum co-design
    • Impact of student partnerships
    • International perspectives and practice
  • Opportunities for networking – regional clusters and informal meet-ups

A notable feature of the conference is that all workshops involve students as workshop leaders or co-presenters.

Hurry – places going fast! Registration extended until noon on 7 April 2017.

Secure your place at

Register now for CAN 2017: Supporting effective partnerships: Deadline for registrations – 7th April.

Registration for CAN 2017 is  open  and places are filling fast.  The deadline for registration is 7 April.  The 5th annuaPartnership1.jpgl CAN conference on 20 & 21 April is a fantastic opportunity for students and staff from across the UK to share good practice and honest reflections on the importance of working in partnership to improve the education experience.  This year’s conference is hosted by the University of Exeter and supported by Jisc.

There are 50 confirmed sessions and a closing plenary student panel session. The conference will open with a keynote address presented jointly by staff and students at the University of Exeter, charting the role that Exeter students have played as “Change Agents” over the last 10 years, and what developments and challenges lie ahead for Exeter.  The Conference’s second keynote address, “Authentic Partnership – what, how and why?” will be provided by Colin Bryson (Newcastle University, Chair of the RAISE Network) in partnership with Fanni Albert, a combined honours student from Newcastle University.

Have a look at the final programme here and if you want to know what this CAN conference is building on, have a look at Birmingham 2015 and Lincoln 2016.  One participant reflected “This event has been a great opportunity to share ideas and discuss common goals, challenges and ideas.”  We hope you’ll join us and discover that the ‘buzz’ happens throughout the 2 days and isn’t limited to the coffee breaks!

Sharing practice between the UK and the Netherlands

As part of our collaboration with Surf Netherlands around innovation in learning and teaching, we held joint event hosted at the Jisc London offices on Tuesday 24 January 2017. The event was attended by 45 people including a Surf study group of about 20 staff from colleges and universitites. Delegates from the UK presented examples of how they are working with students to support innovation.

CAN was well represented through presentations from Emily Parkin, University of Lincoln, Marcus Elliott, Bishop Grosseteste University and Tom Lowe, University of Winchester representing the REACT project. Janina Dewitz, Innovations Officer, University College London shared their excellent work on LearnHack – a series of UCL hackathons on the theme of “Learning”. All presenters spoke about the importance of partnership working and how this is driving change across institutions. I though Emily’s slide summed up the power of student partnerships:

You can view Paul Bailey’s summary of the day together with all the slides from the presenters here.