A student-staff partnership conducting research in higher education: An analysis of student and staff reflections





higher education, student-staff partnership, mental health


This article reports on an analysis of reflections by students and staff following a student-staff partnership which conducted a qualitative exploratory inquiry case study on student mental health in higher education. Following completion of the inquiry, two engaged students and the principal investigator reflected on their experience of the partnership. The analysis resulted in the following categories: a) benefits, b) support for learning, c) motivations, d) impact, e) outputs, and f) limitations. Students learned research skills, enhancements for learning/career and empowerment. Staff experienced an eased ability to conduct research and the rewards of seeing students develop new skills. It is recommended stakeholders in higher education continue to invest in student-staff partnerships in the context of research studies and mental health inquiry to foster opportunities for positive learning outcomes for students, staff, and institutions.



Download data is not yet available.

Author Biographies

Helen Payne, University of Hertfordshire

Helen Payne, PhD; is a Professor of Psychotherapy at the University of Hertfordshire, and teaches, researches and examines world-wide. She has over 100 publications, specialising in embodiment and student mental health in Higher Education.

James Cantwell, alumni, University of Hertfordshire

James Cantwell, BA (Hons); Dip. HE; is a graduate of linguistics and media cultures from the University of Hertfordshire School of Humanities, and an international journalism graduate from the Danish School of Journalism and HU University of Applied Sciences.

Richard Bristow, University of Hertfordshire

Richard Bristow, MSc Psychology, BA (Hons), is a graduate of Philosophy from the University of Sheffield, and a graduate of Psychology from the University of Hertfordshire School of Life and Medical Sciences, now working in the mental health field in higher education.


Argent, C. (2020). Research as a vehicle for learning. Student Engagement in Higher Education, 3(1), 3–6. https://sehej.raise-network.com/raise/article/view/1014

Bamwo, l., Clarkson, S., & Benford-Brown, T. (2020). Implementing the guided learner journey: a case study of the evolution of institutional wide partnerships, through a set of pedagogic principles. The Journal of Educational Innovation, Partnership and Change, 6(1). https://doi.org/10.21100/jeipc.v6i1.1011

Bell, A (2016). Students as co-inquirers in Australian higher education: opportunities and challenges. Teaching and Learning Inquiry, 4 (2), 1-10. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1148480.pdf

Blithe, S. J. & Fidelibus, B. (2021). Faculty-undergraduate course curriculum collaboration. College Teaching, 70(2). https://doi.org/10.1080/87567555.2021.1920879

Bobeva, M., Landmark, K., & Khaled, A. (2020). Developing global talent for the world of work through staff-student-industry collaboration and co-creation on a global scale. Journal of Educational Innovation, Partnership and Change, 6(1), 1–14. 10.21100/jeipc.v6i1.1015

Bovill, C. (2017). A Framework to explore roles within student-staff partnerships in higher education: Which students are partners, when, and in what ways?’ International Journal for Students as Partners, 1(1). https://mulpress.mcmaster.ca/ijsap/article/view/3062

Bovill, C. (2020). Co-creation in learning and teaching: The case for a whole-class approach in higher education. Higher Education, 79, 1023–1037. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10734-019-00453-w

Brooman, S., Darwent, S & Pimor, A. (2015). The student voice in higher education curriculum design: is there value in listening? Innovations in Education and Teaching International. 52, 6 (Nov. 2015), 663–674. https://doi.org/10.1080/14703297.2014.910128

Bryson, C. (Ed.). (2014). Understanding and developing student engagement. Routledge.

Cantwell, J. & Bristow, R. (2022). A Student-Staff Partnership Conducting Research in Higher Education: An Analysis. [“Paper presentation”] Change Agents Network Conference (CAN). Online. https://reflect.ucl.ac.uk/canconference2022/programme-2022/abstracts/

Cook-Sather, A. (2015). Dialogue across differences of position, perspective, and identity: Reflective practice in/on a student-faculty pedagogical partnership program. Teachers College Record, 117(2). https://repository.brynmawr.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1032&context=edu_pubs

Cook-Sather, A., Bovill, C., & Felten, P. (2014). Engaging students as partners in learning and teaching: A guide for faculty. Jossey Bass

Dickerson, C., Jarvis, J., & Stockwell, L. (2016). Staff–student collaboration: Student learning from working together to enhance educational practice in HE, Teaching in Higher Education, 21(3), 249–265. https://doi.org/10.1080/13562517.2015.1136279

Ellis, E., Walker, S., & Knight, S. (2020) Editorial. Journal of Educational Innovation, Partnership and Change, 6(1). https://doi.org/10.21100/jeipc.v6i1.1018

Fagen, C., Cooper, A., Chatzifragkou, A., Bennett, E. J. (2020). Principles in partnership: Embedding employability in curriculum design. Journal of Educational, Innovation, Partnership and Change, 6(1). https://doi.org/10.21100/jeipc.v6i1.1010

Great Schools Partnership. (2016). Glossary of educational reform. https://www.greatschoolspartnership.org/resources/glossary-of-education-reform/

Healey, M., Flint, A., & Harrington, K. (2014). Engagement through partnership: Students as partners in learning and teaching in higher education. Higher Education Academy. https://www.advance-he.ac.uk/knowledge-hub/engagement-through-partnership-students-partners-learning-and-teaching-higher

Healey, M., & Healey, R. L. (2018). ‘It depends’: Exploring the context-dependent nature of ‘students as partners’ practices and policies. International Journal for Students as Partners, 2(1). https://doi.org/10.15173/ijsap.v2i1.3472

Hermsen, T., Kuiper, T., Roelofs, F., & van Wijchen, J. (2017). Without emotions, never a partnership! International Journal for Students as Partners, 1(2), 1–5. https://doi.org/10.15173/ijsap.v1i2.3228.

Holley, L. C. & Steiner, S. (2005) Safe space: Student perspectives on classroom environment. Journal of Social Work Education, 41(1), 49–64. https://doi.org/10.5175/JSWE.2005.200300343

Lewis, D. (2017). Extracurricular partnerships as a tool for enhancing graduate employability. International Journal for Students as Partners, 1(1). https://doi.org/10.15173/ijsap.v1i1.3052

Matthews, K., Cook-Sather, A., Acai, A., Dvorakova, S. L., Felten, P., Marquis, E., & Mercer-Mapstone, L., (2019). Toward theories of partnership praxis: an analysis of interpretive framing in literature on students as partners in teaching and learning. Higher Education Research and Development, 38(2), 280–293. https://doi.org/10.1080/07294360.2018.1530199

Matthews, K. E., Cook-Sather, A., & Healey, M. (2018b). Connecting learning, teaching, and research through student-staff partnerships: Toward universities as egalitarian learning communities. In V. Tong, A. Standen, & M. Sotiriou (Eds.), Shaping higher education with students: Ways to connect research and teaching. University College London Press.

Matthews, K. E., Dwyer, A., Hine, L., & Turner, J. (2018a). Conceptions of students as partners. Higher Education, 7(6) 957–971. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10734-018-0257-y

Matthews, K. E. (2017). Five propositions for genuine students as partners practice. International Journal for Students as Partners, 1(2). https://doi.org/10.15173/ijsap.v1i2.3315

Maunder, R. E. (2021). Staff and student experiences of working together on pedagogic research projects: Partnerships in practice. Higher Education Research and Development, 40(6), 1205–1219. https://doi.org/10.1080/07294360.2020.1809999

Mercer-Mapstone, L., Dvorakova, S. L., Matthews, K. E., Abbot, S., Cheng, B., Felten, P., Knorr, K., Marquis, E., Shammas, R., & Swaim, K. (2017). A Systematic Literature Review of Students as Partners in Higher Education. International Journal for Students as Partners, 1(1). https://doi.org/10.15173/ijsap.v1i1.3119

Payne, H. (2022). Teaching staff and student perceptions of staff support for student mental health: A university case study. Education Sciences, 12(4), 237. https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci12040237

Payne, H., Bristow, R., Cantwell, J., Klos, L., Edgar, M., Breytenbach, N., & Sherpa, C. (2018). The perceptions of academic staff supporting students with mental health concerns and students’ experiences of such support across some schools at UH: Implications for pedagogy and policy [Unpublished internal report]. University of Hertfordshire.

Ribchester, C., Davies, F., & Fisher, E. (2020). Planning and presenting together: Insights from the ‘Towards Meaningful Partnerships’ Symposium.’ Teaching and Learning Together in Higher Education, 1(31). https://repository.brynmawr.edu/tlthe/vol1/iss31/5

Schön, D. A. (1983). The reflective practitioner: How professionals think in action. Basic Books.

Spear, S., Morey, Y., & van Steen, T. (2020). Academics’ perceptions and experiences of working with students with mental health problems: Insights from across the UK higher education sector. Higher Education Research & Development, 40(5), 1117–1130. https://doi.org/10.1080/07294360.2020.1798887

Stockwell, L., Smith, K. & Woods, P. (2020). That which is worthy of love: A philosophical framework for reflection on staff-student partnerships for the future university. Philosophy and Theory in Higher Education, 2(3), 71–98. https://doi.org/10.3726/PTIHE032020.0005

Woods, P. A., & Roberts, A. (2018). Collaborative school leadership: A critical guide. Sage.




How to Cite

Payne, H., Cantwell, J., & Bristow, R. (2023). A student-staff partnership conducting research in higher education: An analysis of student and staff reflections. International Journal for Students As Partners, 7(1), 96–109. https://doi.org/10.15173/ijsap.v7i1.5122



Research Articles