Higher Education

, Volume 76, Issue 6, pp 957–971 | Cite as

Conceptions of students as partners

  • Kelly E MatthewsEmail author
  • Alexander Dwyer
  • Lorelei Hine
  • Jarred Turner


Engaging students as partners (SaP) in teaching and learning is an emerging yet contested topic in higher education. This study interviewed 16 students and staff working in partnership across 11 Australian universities to understand how they conceptualised SaP and the opportunities they believed SaP afforded their universities. Thematic analysis revealed three overlapping conceptions of partnership: SaP as counter-narrative, SaP as values-based practice, and SaP as cultural change. The findings are first interpreted through the lens of liminality and an ethic of care. This is followed by a discussion of inclusivity of involvement, resistance, and reinforcement of neoliberal agendas despite good intentions. Finally, implications for cautious enactment of both practice and research are offered.


Students as partners Higher education Reciprocity Neoliberal Liminality Ethic of care 



We are grateful to the generosity of the participants in our study and Mick Healey for critical feedback on the manuscript.

Funding information

This research was funded through an Australian Learning and Teaching Fellowship.

Compliance with ethical standards

This is a qualitative exploratory study, conducted in accordance with ethical standards following Institutional Human Research Ethics Approval (#2015001638).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kelly E Matthews
    • 1
    Email author
  • Alexander Dwyer
    • 1
  • Lorelei Hine
    • 1
  • Jarred Turner
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute for Teaching and Learning InnovationUniversity of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia

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