Developing a community of student engagement practitioners: Evidence of value from a postgraduate professional development course at a UK University

Alan Donnelly , Liz Austen, Tom Lowe, Maria Moxey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Student engagement practitioners, who work within and beyond higher education (HE) providers, have vital roles in contributing to students’ learning and experiences and they collaborate with various staff and student groups across organisational boundaries to initiate change. It is essential that organisations and the HE sector support these staff to achieve their potential, for example, by addressing the lack of relevant professional development opportunities available. This paper presents evidence of an effective pathway of development that enables a community of student engagement practitioners, conceptualised as ‘integrated practitioners’ (McIntosh & Nutt, 2022), to have impact in diverse HE settings. The findings of an impact and process evaluation of the UK's first accredited professional development course for student engagement practitioners, the Postgraduate Certificate (PGCert) and Master’s (MA) in Student Engagement in Higher Education at the University of Winchester, are presented. Co-constructed with an advisory group of practitioners who were studying on the course and graduates, the evaluation was planned and structured using Theory of Change. A total of 22 practitioners provided evidence of the value of the course by taking part in peer-led interviews, online reflective activities and meetings, while seven staff members from the programme team participated. The paper outlines how the evaluation generated understanding about: the purpose and design of the course; the effectiveness of its blended delivery model and processes; and how the course contributed to the formation of a community and equipped practitioners to enact changes in their practice and within their organisations to influence students’ experiences.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Further and Higher Education
Publication statusAccepted for publication - 15 Aug 2023


  • student engagement
  • practitioner
  • integrated practice
  • higher education
  • course evaluation
  • theory of change

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