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The Open University’s Centre for Higher Education Research and Information was commissioned by HEFCE to undertake a study on student engagement. The study is concerned with institutional and student union processes and practices – such as those relating to student representation and student feedback – which seek to inform and enhance the collective student learning experience, as distinct from specific teaching, learning and assessment activities that are designed to enhance individual students’ engagement with their own learning.

Institutions view student engagement as central to enhancing the student experience, but more emphasis seems to be placed on viewing students as consumers and rather less on viewing students as partners in a learning community. For students' unions, the emphasis tends to be on the latter aspect. Notions of students as ‘partners in a learning community’ seem to be stronger in certain subject areas than others. The study goes on to make a number of recommendations to lead the sector towards working more closely together when developing student representation practices.