Heeding the Student Voice: `Nothing about us without us’

On 28 and 29 April 2014, NZUSA hosted a summit on student voice in the ITP sector.


The focus of the Summit was on enhancing the quality of academic programmes through the better use of Student Voice in Polytechnics:

  1. to connect with the best of international evidence and experience, and
  2. to recognise and share good practices by institutions in New Zealand

The programme included presentations and “think-pieces” by 9 institutions and organisations. They shared their practices, and difficulties, to crowd source solutions and share ideas. It built on previous work undertaken by NZUSA and welcomed representatives from Student Particiption for Quality Scotland (www.sparqs.ac.uk) who are acknowledged as world leaders in the area.

Participants came from 17 of the 18 ITPs in New Zealand and included a chief executive, four heads of academic quality, six heads of student success, well-being or experience, two heads of learning services, six student advisers whose job included support for student councils, eleven student representatives, and one manager of strategy. They were supported by experts in student engagement from sparqs, Ako Aotearoa, HeathRose Research and the New Zealand Union of Students' Associations.


The programme included the following presentations:

Case studies

Case studies were presented as follows:



Otago Poly

Otago Polytechnic Student Council – Student Voice in Key Decisions.


The small campus perspective - engaging with Youth Guarantee students


Engaging with the needs of graduates moving to employment


You Said, We Did - How we closed the feedback loop


Starting from scratch - building a Student Council


Getting a Student Council started - E-elections





Ensuring a voice for students, not just of a student


Unitec’s Solution to the Voluntary Student Membership Legislation


Responding to a diverse and disparate student population


Some of the material can be downloaded:

Outcome of the summit

We had overwhelmingly positive responses to the summit and have already secured funding and support for a follow-up event which is to take place within twelve months. The goal of that event will be to review progress towards the commitments that people made.

Between now and then the summit organisers undertook to work with and bring together those ITPs who were at a similar stage of development so that they can make progress together.

A key outcome was that each ITP left with ideas and inspiration to implement over the next 12 months, utilising the presentations and case studies to inform their own activities and priorities.

There were specific commitments, in particular around:

  • including students in internal review panels,
  • better feedback processes,
  • student-led teaching awards,
  • training for staff and student representatives to better understand their responsibilities,
  • democratising the learning environment,
  • identifying students as experts in their own learning, and
  • conducting formal engagement around learning needs and curriculum development.

Consistent themes were: 

  • the relationship between associations and institutions,
  • the notion of partnership,
  • the importance of cultural change to embed a commitment to student voice,
  • an understanding that student voice is not the same as complaint, and
  • completing the loop by promoting and publicising the effectiveness of student voice.


The summit was financially supported by the Metro Group of ITPs, NZITP, Ako Aotearoa, and the New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations. This support means that the costs of the event itself were fully covered for participants and also meant that there were funds available to support student participants with their travel costs.


Squiz, StudentCard, Cheers, and Fuji Xerox. 

Squiz’ main contribution was access to their digital discussion platform squiz-roadmap to enable a conversation to take place throughout the summit, they paid for the scoail function and also provided pads and pens. Fuji Xerox generously did all of the printing of the summit’s materials and provided bags.








Contact details

Dr Willemijn Vermaat
Quality Support Manager
NZ Union of Students' Associations (NZUSA)
04 4982503| 021 0297 0421
Dr Alistair Shaw
Executive Director 
NZ Union of Students' Associations (NZUSA)
09 498 2503 | 021 022 97421

The voice of New Zealand's 400,000 students.

The New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations exists to advance the political, social and economic interests of tertiary students whatever they study and wherever they live. NZUSA is a membership body of local students' associatons. We believe in opportunity for all.

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