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Cambridge Centre for Teaching and Learning


Step One: setting objectives and understanding the role

Spend some time 4-6 months prior to the project start date, thinking about what you would like to get out of this type of working; start with why. Be mindful of students' own timetables and 'pinch points' when thinking about the timeframes. Ideas for project can come from a range of source:

  • Student-led - the student generates the idea for the project
  • Staff-led - the staff member generates the idea for the project
  • Institution-led - the institution determines the projects (usually formed from strategy)
  • Collaborative - the staff member and student work together to form the idea for the project
  • Externally-led - wider higher education sector influences or local community groups determine the shape and focus of the project


Step Two: recruitment

As the timeframes for the project have been determined, the recruitment of the student(s) that will be working with you can begin, about 2 months before the expected start date. To maximise the number of students that can apply for the position (if relevant), you should consider the ways in which you are promoting the opportunity. Existing social media accounts, using your own existing networks and working with the Students' Union can help with this.

Be clear at this point what the commitment will be and the expectations of their skillset for successful completion of the project. You might also wish to highlight at this point the benefits in being the student partner on this project; publication opportunities, opportunity to initiate real change, project management and research development. Additionally, you might like to consider holding an information drop-in session, where students can find out more about the role prior to application.

The application might be as short as an 'expression of interest', or you might require a very specialised skillset in order to complete the project and thus have a more comprehensive application form. You might also already have a student or set of students in mind; this is often the case where the project idea has been co-developed. Once recruited, you will need to follow the University's guidelines on setting them up on the payroll, should this be a paid position.


Step Three: getting prepared; ethics and training

Working with students as partners is different to the usual way of working within higher education. It requires a shift in roles, expectations, responsibilities and values. As such it can be useful to start this work through a scaffolded training or learning environment, to ensure that both the staff and the students are starting on the same page. The training can cover the concept of partnership working, the common challenges and ways to overcome these, the overview of the project, outlining responsibilities, logistics and any skills training required (e.g. research methods or report writing).

Depending on the scope and nature of your partnership project, you might also need to seek ethical approval. Please see the Considerations page for further information on ethics.

The Cambridge Centre for Teaching & Learning can run training for you and/or your students. For further information, contact


Step Four: start project

Starting the project together with the students is important. As has been outlined in the previous sections, a negotiated and transparent set of boundaries will lead to a better working relationship and better project outcomes overall.


Step Five: project management

Working with the student to ensure the project is kept on track and is able to meet deadlines. This might be managed best through regular short meetings to discuss the project (fortnightly, or perhaps monthly). This also means that, should the student partner need further support, you can initiate this earlier and keep the ball rolling.


Step Six: dissemination

After completion of the project, you should have either some tangible output from the project or some research findings. Sharing this information with colleagues will enable a greater understanding of the phenomena you were investigating or the effect of the intervention. This can increase the impact of your project across the department and the wider collegiate University. Not every project needs to lead to large-scale change, but if you have made a difference to the student experience in your Faculty or College, other colleagues would be interested to find out more.

CCTL are grateful for case studies that can be shared with colleagues. You might also consider writing up your project and co-authoring a journal article or co-presenting at a conference with the student partner; some options for journals and professional networks that focus on student engagement and students as partners can be found on the Case Studies page.


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