Student involvement in university decision-making: Good reasons, a new lens

04 Apr 2011

This paper proposes a framework for understanding student involvement in different domains of university decision-making based on the various reasons brought for and against student involvement. It briefly outlines the historical origins of student participation in university governance with specific reference to student activism and the experience of university democratisation of the 1960s and early 1970s. By means of a review of scholarship, the paper then discusses various reasons for and against student involvement in university decision-making debated in academic literature: with respect to students’ political power as an organised group and stakeholders in the university; with reference to students’ role and position as users and consumers (as against notions of community membership); in relation to democratic principles and the purposes of higher education in society; and on the grounds of the potential positive consequences of involving students in university decision-making. Finally the different reasons for student involvement in university governance and related conceptions of student are modelled against different domains of university decision-making as a way of providing a new lens for understanding (and changing) the involvement of students in university decision-making. The paper concludes by illustrating the application of the framework and its transferability to other educational contexts.