Published by the CUC, the Higher Education Governance Code (December 2014) strengthens the role of students in academic governance and actively encourages a governing body to wait for regular reports from student unions. Additional guidelines, published in 2011, interviewed universities and unions to identify six key factors for the development of a positive working relationship: the changing business environment for the modern campus requires greater strategic impacts from all aspects of higher education. This has led to increased control and expectation over the results of investments in the student union. Governance, leadership and management in SUs are fundamentally different from pre-2000 models. There has been a refocus on “core activities” that result from greater responsibility to students, which means that providing services exclusively for young full-time students with an interest in sport, politics and alcohol simply does not cut things. The students` union has entered into a formal agreement with Cardiff University to demonstrate mutual support between the two organisations and pave the way for future cooperation. The agreement is subject to annual review and agreement. The agreement reaffirms our commitment to an ongoing partnership and describes how we will work together on our shared mission to improve the student experience in Cardiff. It also recognizes our common goals and opportunities to forge new links in student support. You can read the English version of the relationship agreement here, and the Welsh version is here.
Following the discussion on the above themes at the recent AHUA Fall Conference, a number of topics emerged. The first is the SU`s responsibility to present itself in a way that allows for constructive dialogue. The high turnover of elected officers should not be an obstacle to excellent relations, but should instead place greater emphasis on the role of senior ER managers. Trust is essential for all good relationships, so what should generate confidence building, and is there an environment conducive for partnership work to thrive and develop? In recent years, tensions have arisen in the same environment, which can be cause for concern or concern, but often require little effort for risk management. Tensions can arise from different business visions between HEI and SU, often around the philosophical role of education in society (but very rarely on the role that research plays). The question is who owns the “student voice” and the best interpretation of opinion data and who does things (non-academic) and thus controls operations and access to students? Strategic direction between universities and the ER would allow for more non-university services to be shared or outsourced collaboratively. The engagement and enrichment activity has great potential and many examples of the increased skills and leadership skills of students outside the classroom are very promising. Quality improvement activities have a strong tradition of partnership, innovative and evidence-based contribution, with student engagement work benefiting from targeted investments in recent years.