Dynamic Conversations: Student partnership for enhancement – tokenism or meaningful disruptor?
Professor Susan Smith, Deputy Director (student experience), UCL School of Management
Student partnership work has been criticised for being ‘tokenistic’ (Patrick 2022) and favouring the ‘usual suspects’ (Mercer-Mapstone, Islam, and Reid 2021). Advocates of partnership ways of working contend that meaningful partnership can be achieved, resulting in new insights and changes to university structures that would not otherwise occur in the prevailing hierarchical environment (Matthews and Dollinger 2023). However, partnerships are typically small-scale and are often informally constituted outside of the curriculum.
Given the contextual nature of partnership work (Healey and Healey 2018), it is critical to understand stakeholder interests in partnership work at the outset and establish safeguards to reduce stakeholder instrumentalisation of partnership work. Using the partnership process framework (Smith et al. 2021), a renewed focus on establishing the values of authenticity, reciprocity, and inclusivity (Healey, Flint, and Harrington 2014) at the outset is relevant to ensure that the process is replicable and is capable of achieving its stated goals.