Chapter 4: Power, Partnership, and Representation

Abbi Flint and Hannah Goddard

Read the chapter [PDF]

In this chapter, we focus on an area of partnership that is not often explored in the scholarly literature: student academic representation systems. In the form of a dialogue which integrates experience and research, we suggest that representation systems and universities would benefit from adopting and integrating some of the core principles which underlie student-staff partnership. We thus bring two fields of practice into dialogue in ways which elucidate learning for both arenas. We explore some of the potential learning and benefits of doing so while also acknowledging challenges across themes of power, expertise, voice, and representation.

Reflection Questions for Readers

Questions on partnership

  • How are students’ experiences, expertise, and ideas currently represented in your context? How might you use the ideas in this chapter to move toward working through empowered partnership within representation systems or similar student engagement practices?
  • What opportunities are available within your context for active and collaborative partnership working? How is this informed by, or posing challenges to, existing concepts of power?

Questions on power

  • How can you assess/redress the power relationships operating within your partnerships? This could include reflecting on visible signs of power such as: Who chairs meetings? Who sets the agenda? How are decisions made? How much authority is given to student voice?
  • What purposes are you expecting your partnerships to fulfill? To what extent do current operational aspects facilitate or inhibit the achievement of these purposes?
  • If you were designing a representation system from scratch, with partnership as an underpinning principle, what would it look like?