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Image: Imagebilder FH Linz A1E03494_©_Atzlinger

Track 4: Revisiting the Student’s Role in HE

With track chairs Silke Preymann & Roland Humer

It’s students that make a university. Of course, not exclusively students, but by choosing a certain institution and programme, students shape higher education institutions. Why and what people choose to study generally depends on personal resources, motivation, guidance and the availability of attractive learning and career options. For many students it might be most important to take their degree to improve their living standards and ensure professional success. Others may be genuinely interested in their academic achievements boosting their individual development. Some will use their university education to pursue their political and/or civic engagement. Some students may estime the relational side as well as social activities which are so much part of a student life.

Taking into account these multiple needs and circumstances, what are students’ expectations in their university education? How are study decisions made, why do people choose certain studies? What are new rivals to HEIs? Where do prospective students go if they do not decide to study at HEIs? What influence does the place of residence have on one’s place of study? Why would prospective students (not) consider study options out of their home region or country? How can interest be generated for disciplines that are not typically chosen by certain groups? And what are the specifics for non-traditional students?

Since its beginning, the Bologna Process has recognised students as crucial stakeholders who are expected to engage themselves and take more control over their own learning pathways as well as their study experience. Especially in collegiate HE systems, students are conceived as members of the academic community. But how can students gain more choice and more control over their own learning pathways? What structures empower students to take an active role? How to deal with a decreasing interest in student participation in the formal decision-making-bodies particularly at the institutional and faculty/department levels? How to include to a greater extent students from non-privileged backgrounds, non-traditional students, students with disabilities? And how is student engagement perceived by students themselves?

Students and HEIs alike are called upon to shorten the duration of studies and improve graduation rates to reduce costs of education. Yet, student engagement takes time and effort, and may even prolong studies. Still, it is evident that certain crucial skills are gained to a greater extent via extracurricular engagement and cannot be acquired as easily when solely running through a study programme in a most efficient way. So, what are additional advantages of student engagement (e.g., in terms of social integration)? Awarding ECTS points to students for voluntary and community activities is not a common practice. How to improve ECTS justice?

Students also have to deal with external (e.g., armed) conflict as well as personal crisis (e.g., a tense economic situation, health issues, etc.) which may result in study disruption. HEIs counteract all that with learning analytics, counselling offers etc.

How are students feeling in light of existing geopolitical uncertainties? Which kind of support do they use? Which barriers are they confronted with if they want to continue their studies after some time, maybe in another institution? How do we balance student tracking/support systems (aiming at higher graduation rates) and the students’ self-determination (personal freedom).

This track is chaired by:

Silke Preymann

University of Applied Sciences Upper Austria

Roland Humer

Vienna University of Economics and Business

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