Communities of practice and ‘student voice’: engaging with student representatives at the faculty level


  • Abbi Flint Higher Education Academy
  • Mark O'Hara Birmingham City University


Student voice, communities of practice, student engagement, quality enhancement, student representatives


Student engagement in institutional governance and curriculum development is an important and valued aspect of higher education (HE). In the UK, changes to funding and quality assurance arrangements have led to concerns that a consumerist model is developing, with implied changes to the relationship between students and universities. The National Union of Students has responded by calling for reframing these relationships as communities of practice (Streeting and Wise 2009) and more recently as a clearly defined partnership (Wenstone 2012). This article applies the notion of communities of practice (Wenger 2001) to one aspect of student governance, through a project that revitalised the way one university faculty worked with student representatives (O’Hara and Flint 2010). A critical analysis of the project, exploring how it promoted communities of practice, provides valuable insights and recommendations for engaging students with institutional governance. Our analysis highlights the limitations and complexity of applying this framework in practice and recommends integration with complementary scholarship around student voice and partnerships.

Author Biographies

Abbi Flint, Higher Education Academy

Academic Developer, Students as Partners

Mark O'Hara, Birmingham City University