Queen Margaret University - Student Partnership Agreement (SPA)
The purpose of this Partnership Agreement is to present the work being done in partnership between Queen Margaret University (‘the University’) and the Students’ Union (‘SU’) to improve the student experience, and to show students how they can get involved in that activity.
The SPA does not replace other strategic documents; rather it is intended as a short, user-friendly document to make students and staff aware of agreed areas for enhancement.
We believe that this Partnership Agreement is an important statement of our commitment to further developing as a University community; a community within which we each have a role and a function to perform, and where we all have rights and responsibilities.
The Agreement reinforces the joint commitment of the University and of the SU to developing and supporting effective student engagement and representation. It is designed to promote student engagement, and to encourage students to provide feedback on their experience whenever possible.
Important principles underpinning this are:
- Student engagement is a partnership between the University, the SU and all of our students.
- Students have the opportunity to engage at all levels of decision making in learning and teaching and the overall student experience, thereby promoting an environment that empowers the student voice.
What is partnership?
This Agreement recognises that all members of the University community, including staff and students, have legitimate, though sometimes different, perceptions and experiences. The University and the SU value the diversity of the student population and are committed to ensuring all students have a sense of belonging to the University. By working together towards a shared goal, steps can be taken that promote enhancement in a way that works for all concerned. The use of the term partnership reflects a mature relationship based on mutual respect between students and staff.
Partnership working is based on the values of:
- Celebrating and building on good practice;
- A constructive on-going dialogue;
- Trust and honesty;
- Agreed shared goals and principles.
Student Experience Strategy Infographic.
PART A – Student Engagement and Representation
The SU and the University acknowledge and welcome the essential role that student engagement plays in enhancing the quality of learning and teaching, and the student experience more broadly. We are committed to involving students in decision making processes and to making sure that they have the best possible experience while studying with us. We work closely together to ensure that students are represented on all relevant University committees and are supported and trained to fulfil their roles.
Opportunities for students to formally engage with their University experience are:
Each class has a Class Representative whose role is to collect and feedback students’ views on their learning and teaching experience through appropriate channels, including Student-Staff Consultative Committees, Programme Committees and the Academic Council.
There should be a student representative from each Division on each School Academic Board (SAB) so that students’ views are considered fully in the strategic direction of the School.
There are student representatives on Senate, the Student Experience Committee and the Research Strategy Committee so that decisions affecting the University experience reflect students’ needs.
Students are involved in a wide range of other quality assurance and enhancement related activities, for example as full and equal members of working groups and validation and review panels. In particular, the Student Experience Committee provides opportunities for students to get involved at an institutional level. The SU and the University have ensured that these opportunities will continue, accommodating a hybrid approach where it is applicable.
Students’ Union and Democracy
The Officers’ Committee (2 full time and 6 part time Officers) represents the full student body, and engages with students to get their feedback. The Officers’ Committee articulates students’ views at various working groups and committees, including the Equality and Diversity Committee and the NSS Results Working Group.
The President – Academic Life, and President – Student Activities are both members of the University Court, the University’s governing body, and of the University Senate, the body to which the Court delegates authority for academic matters.
The three representative groups (Academic Council, Campus Life Forum and Pop-Up Union), provide students with space to provide feedback to the Officers and stay informed on relevant developments that concern the student experience.
The Officers’ Committee is held to account by students at the Annual General Meeting (AGM) and any other General Meeting.
Other opportunities for students to provide feedback
Students can use other channels to shape their learning and university experience, such as:
- Participating in focus groups and surveys, including the National Student Survey, QMU Student Survey and the SU’s ‘Question of the Semester’.
- Providing feedback to academic, professional services staff and the Students’ Union.
- Sharing their views with Class Representatives.
- Using the routes set out in the Easy Guide for providing feedback on the University website.
- Sharing their views with the Captains and Presidents of Sports and Societies
PART B – Partnership Projects for 2022-24
Using student feedback from a range of sources and existing initiatives, and in light of our experiences during the Covid pandemic, the University and the SU have agreed to work together on the following areas over the coming two-year period.
The restrictions of the Covid-19 pandemic brought many challenges to student life. The Students’ Union and all QMU academic staff and professional services worked together during the pandemic and will continue to do so to offer the best possible student experience and support. This includes social opportunities to help rebuild a strong sense of belonging to the University and fostering community spirit.
Action: The new academic year will provide the opportunity for all students to engage face to face with events, activities, support and teaching. The SU and QMU services will continue to offer online meetings, appointments and support where necessary and appropriate.
Student Mental Health is a concern within Higher Education and the last few years have had an adverse effect on students’ mental health and wellbeing. The Student Mental Health and Wellbeing Steering Group oversees the implementation of the University’s Student Mental Health and Wellbeing policy and action plan. Members of the group come from the SU, the University and NHS Lothian.
Action: The SU will continue to work closely with relevant departments, including Student Services and Accommodation to ensure vulnerable students are supported.
Action: The Tackling Sexual Harassment and Violence Working Group will lead on promoting the Equally Safe in Higher Education toolkit.
Action: The SU will continue to regularly run student sessions of Engaging the Bystander, in partnership with QMU staff and Police Scotland.
Action: Togetherall is now available to all students and staff at QMU. It offers a free supportive online community accessible 24/7. The SU will work to promote Togetherall’s services.
Action: The SU will continue to work with students, QMU staff and representatives from the Scottish Drugs Forum and Scottish Ambulance Service on a holistic approach to drug awareness.
The QMU student body is diverse and the University is committed to promoting equal opportunities and an inclusive institution. The University develops activities to widen participation and support student retention.
Action: The Equality and Diversity Committee and the WISER Board will continue to work towards providing an equal and inclusive student experience and will run annual initiatives.
Action: The Race Equality Steering Group, which includes SU reps(President - Academic Life and Equality and Diversity Office), will work towards advancing the University's commitment to race equality, which is underpinned by the University's Declaration on Anti-Racism as well as duties incorporated in the Equality Act 2010'
Enhancing the student learning and teaching experience is a core focus of both the University and the SU. We work to continuously improve assessment and feedback, the academic timetable and the academic calendar in response to student survey results and other feedback. This is demonstrated by the 2022 NSS results in which QMUSU was 16thin the UK and 2nd in Scotland in terms of being ‘an effective Students’ Union’.
It is important to identify students who may be struggling with their studies. The University is working hard to identify any such students based on a range of online engagement points.
Action: The SU and the University will continue to support an effective Class Rep system. A dedicated Hub site was established as a central source of information for reps and to host online meetings and training. To align with the introduction of the new VLE, we will continue to develop and make best use of the Hub as a resource for our reps.
Action: The SU and the University will continue to work in partnership to communicate with students, guiding them to the range of academic and wellbeing support mechanisms to help students to keep on track.
Action: Students and staff will be jointly involved in NSS and other enhancement activities.
Communication with and by students
The aim of this theme is to ensure everyone is aware of communication channels and of their individual and collective responsibility to keep themselves informed of essential University and SU information. The University and the SU will also work with students to improve communication channels and consider new initiatives.
Action: The University and the SU will work together and support each other with all communication to students.
Action: The SU will continue to gather feedback from students via a range of mechanisms including online surveys, Question of the Semester, verbal feedback etc. The most recent Question of the Semester led to substantial changes to the student Moderator which should make it a more effective tool for communication with students.
Action: The University and the SU will continue to meet regularly with the University Senior Leadership Team to discuss current issues and how to deal with them.
Action: The SU will continue to be part of the University’s Covid Response group managing the University response to the pandemic.
Student Experience Strategy
The University and the SU will work together to develop and implement projects identified within the Student Experience Strategy Delivery Plan. This will include engagement with the 2020-2023 “Resilient Learning Communities” Enhancement Themes projects. This Theme has a focus on meeting the changing needs and values of an increasingly diverse student community, and a rapidly changing external environment.
Action: The University and Students’ Union support services will promote students’ resilience and ability to thrive in their student life.
PART C – Student Partnership Successes
The following student partnership successes illustrate the impact of just some of the recent partnership work between the University and SU
- Coordinated welfare and academic support for students to ensure students could access appropriate support in a timely manner.
- Induction events and activities for new students, offering a mix of online and on campus.
- 258 Class Reps (over 98% of programmes).
- 118 new Class Reps have been trained (45% of Class Reps) and 100% would recommend the training.
- Business Continuity Meetings with attendance of both the University and SU Leadership Team ensure students’ interests are considered when making important decisions.
- QMU Food pantry continues to be popular and a lifeline for students.
- SU representation in the selection process for a new VLE.
The SU Impact Report provides further details of our achievements.
Overseeing and monitoring of this Agreement will be undertaken by the Students’ Union Partnership Group, which will review progress on a quarterly basis. The Student Experience Committee will receive the annual SU Impact Report outlining progress and achievements.
Sir Paul Grice Aasiyah Patankar
Principal and Vice-Chancellor President – Academic Life