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Durham University

Learning and Teaching Handbook

5.1: Principles of student engagement


1. Students and staff work in partnership to co-create Durham’s distinctive educational environment. Through effective student engagement in partnership with Durham Students’ Union, the University shall continue to enhance its provision, ensure a collegial and respectful environment based on mutual responsibilities of staff and students, and develop our students’ skills and qualities.

2. Durham University’s Education Strategy is committed to ensuring that all members of the University work “together as an academic community committed to educational excellence and a culture of reflective practice”, and “a student-centred approach to education”, where “students are inducted into academic communities of practice at the same time that they develop the intellectual and personal qualities that will prepare them for their future lives and employment.”

3. Durham Students’ Union is committed to being “an enabling students’ union which develops and supports our students as they strive to create a lasting, positive impact in society and in their own lives through their university experience.” The University shall develop an effective partnership with the Union, which is the representative body of all Durham students.

4. The following principles shall apply to student engagement across the University, including, but not limited to, academic departments, colleges, and professional support services, as well as the Union and common rooms.

Guiding Principles

5. Either directly, or through their representatives, students shall be engaged in a meaningful manner in decision-making processes related to the student experience.

6. The Union and University shall agree the means by which students are represented on appropriate bodies within the University. The University shall recognise and respect the democratic processes of the Union by which representatives are selected.

7. It shall be made clear to all students the opportunities available to engage with the University, both formally and informally, on issues relevant to their diverse student experiences.

8. Students shall be made aware of the purpose for seeking engagement and feedback, and also its consequence and impact. Staff and students shall recognise the legitimacy of honest and polite disagreement.

9. Student engagement activity shall be timely, inclusive, collegial, well-communicated, and informed by relevant evidence.

10. Student engagement and feedback activity shall contribute to enhancement of the University’s educational provision, services and governance. Students and student representatives shall be encouraged to identify areas for enhancement, and work in partnership with staff to improve the life and work of the University.

11. Effective student engagement shall be a means of identifying student queries and concerns. Where concerns and queries are raised, the University and the Union shall provide a clear, timely and meaningful response. 

12. Students shall be enabled and encouraged to praise and celebrate good practice across the University.

13. Engagement activities shall recognise the diversity of the student body, ensuring that typically underrepresented student groups and those with protected characteristics are equitably engaged.

14. The University and Union shall offer training, development and support opportunities to all staff and students involved in student engagement activity.

15. The University and Union shall monitor and review student engagement activity in order to ensure continuation of good practice, enhancement of engagement activity, and action in line with these principles.