The 'Students as Partners' symposium was jointly organised by ANZSSA, ATLAANZ, NZTEAP and
ISANA NZ, and was held on 1st of November at the University of Auckland. The theme of the
symposium was Students as Partners: Engaging students and staff in authentic partnerships in
tertiary education. Over 150 members of these associations along with other delegates working in
the area of international education participated in the symposium and discussed various issues,
opportunities and strategies to enhance well-being of tertiary students. A range of activities
including keynotes, workshops, soundbite presentations and panels were planned and executed
related with different themes. ISANA NZ's Acting President Terry McGrath facilitated a workshop and
also presented at a soundbite session along with an ISANA student member Anil Kaushik. Details of
some of these activities and some reflections are presented as follows.
In the first keynote address at the start of the day, Isabella Lenihan-Ikin and Dr. Kathryn
Sutherland from the Victoria University of Wellington (VUW) talked about students’ involvement at VUW in various university-wide change initiatives such as curriculum design and some of the course
designs. The speakers mentioned that universities can benefit from the ‘Students as Partners’
model. A university can utilize this model for staff development, for designing of innovative
teaching and learning environments and above all, to make the student partners feel valued and
trusted members of the community. Some challenges faced and anticipated were also discussed and Isabella reflected on her experiences as an international student representative.
In the second keynote, Dr. Jesse Pirini from AUT reflected upon his research related with peer tutoring. Jesse focused on two aspects: social relationships in tutoring and the role that material conditions (tools)
could play in promoting the feeling of agency in students. Jesse usually encouraged tutors to focus
on developing positive social and material conditions. At the end of his talk, with the help of an
example of ‘open door policy’ from his practice, Jesse showed how both of these conditions could
work together to promote authentic partnerships. Both of these keynotes were very relevant and
informative for the participants.
Four workshops were organised on different aspects related with international students. In one of
the workshops, Kylie Ryan from the University of Auckland talked about the ‘Wellbeing Project’ run in collaboration with AU Students Association. Kylie presented the student wellbeing framework and talked about the elements of the wellbeing in detail. In another workshop, Terry McGrath presented some of the factors international students consider important when making choices about accommodation while their study in New Zealand. Some of the challenges faced by the accommodation services were also discussed. The third workshop was organised around the roles LGBTI students and staff could play in developing a rainbow-friendly campus environment in collaboration and partnerships. For the fourth workshop, the theme was research partnerships between Maori and Pasifika postgraduate students. The presenters discussed some of the findings from the ‘Te Punenga’ research initiative at the University of Canterbury.
The student panel was perhaps the heart of the symposium. A group of students from the University of Auckland and AUT presented their views about what it means to work in partnership with a university. Students reflected on different aspects ranging from accommodation, academic, social, emotional, counselling and health related support requirements to promote overall well-being of tertiary students.
One of the student leaders, Matalena O’Mara from AUT, commented that tertiary students bring lot of diverse contexts to the classrooms and thus should not be treated just as students but as people too. Staff should treat students as resources and communicate with students accordingly. All the student representatives reflected on their roles and how the partnerships can benefit institutional success.
Soundbite sessions on a range of different topics were organised in three different streams according to the topics of presentations. In one of the soundbite presentations, Terry and Anil discussed the rationale of and role international students could play in the process of internationalisation of a university campus. Terry presented some findings from their earlier research related with tracking international
students of a university. Anil presented the rationale behind Internationalisation and reflected on the role with some examples. Some of the student reflections in terms of their views and experiences were also presented by Terry and Anil.
Some of my important takeaways from the symposium are:
- Students can play important role of partners and collaborators in designing of modern teaching and
- Students are people too and bring diverse information in terms of their culture, language,
- International students can play an important role in the internationalisation of a campus.
- Students’ partnership should be promoted and not restricted to some of the aspects of decision
- Students can play key role in mentoring their colleagues to promote good mental health and overall
Anil Kaushik has a background in education in India and recently completed his PhD at Massey University in Education. Anil has served on the executive of the international postgraduate and mature students club one of the largest clubs in the university and in that role, has had extensive involvement with a wide range of international students.