The Office for Students (OfS), the government body that regulates universities in England, recently put out a call for suggestions on how it should engage students in its work in future. As a relatively new regulator founded last year, we wanted to take up the opportunity to shape OfS’s work at this early stage and respond to this consultation, including offering some new ideas for engagement not currently being considered by OfS.
The consultation suggested only a few narrow options as to how OfS might engage with students going forward, and whilst we thought two of these could be of real use, the other two we were less convinced of. We believe knowledgeable, passionate student representatives are key to ensuring real change to the higher education sector in students’ interests, and so our favoured option from the OfS’s suggestions is that of briefing representatives on a range of topics. However, we believe such briefings should be a two-way conversation – students must be informed of the OfS’s thinking, but further than that, informed students must shape the efforts of OfS and indeed their institutions.
In addition to expressing support for this idea, we have gone further and suggested a format for how these should take place – regional surgeries involving physical visits to regions involving multiple students’ unions. This would provide the time, space, and diversity of opinion from multiple institutions to properly discuss and generate ideas around key issues affecting students.