Student Voice Guidelines

1. What is Student Voice?

Student voice is the individual and collective expression of values, opinions, beliefs and, perspectives, which are reflective of students' personal backgrounds and contribute to decision making processes and influence outcomes regarding student experiences, choices, interests, passions and ambitions.

2. Student voice at Waipapa Taumata Rau, University of Auckland

Waipapa Taumata Rau,  University of Auckland recognises and understands the importance of the student voice in influencing the strategic direction and optimisation of the student experience in both an academic and co-curricular context. Taumata Teitei outlines the University’s commitment to a culture of engagement and creating a student-centric experience for learners. The University acknowledges the importance the student voice plays in this and is committed to identifying opportunities for students to be heard and to become active participants in shaping their University and curating an experience that is tailored.

The University values existing student voice mechanisms and recognises the important contribution they make through both formal and informal student voice activities. Organisations including, but not limited to, the Auckland University Student Association (AUSA), the Postgraduate Student Association (PGSA), Ngā Tauira Māori (NTM), the Auckland University Pacific Island Student Association (AUPISA) along with Faculty Associations, Class Representatives and recognised Student Groups continue to provide invaluable insights, perspectives, and observations through channels such as the Student Consultative Group, Staff-Student Consultative Committees, and the Student Group network.

The guidelines have been co-developed with student representatives from AUSA and PGSA, with the aim of growing and developing the student voice further and embedding this practice in decision-making across the institution. Through the deepening of partnerships and provision of supporting resources, the University aims to develop skills and enable its students to participate fully in decision-making processes.

The guidelines highlight the ways in which the student voice is incorporated at Waipapa Taumata Rau. It provides advice for how to accentuate the student voice and outlines the support required for different types of activities to ensure consistency across the University and a positive engagement experience for all involved.

It should be noted that the following guidance does not extend to student voice contributions sought through formal research projects. For those involved in such activities, guidance provided in the Guiding Principles for conducting research with human participants should be followed and appropriate approvals sought.

3. Benefits of engaging the student voice

The benefits of engaging the Student Voice, whether this be in a change process or ongoing programme of activities, can be far reaching and reciprocal. Examples are outlined below:

  • Increasing students' engagement in their own student experience (whether this be academic or co-curricular)
  • Empowering students to initiate change
  • Increasing students' confidence and self-esteem
  • Developing students' personal and social capabilities
  • Generating a sense of ownership and belonging
  • Creating inclusive environments
  • Encouraging collaboration between staff and students
  • Building positive relationships
  • Accessing expert opinions and insights into lived experiences in student affairs
  • Contributing to, and helping ensure robust outputs and outcomes
  • Ensuring relevance and authenticity in change programmes
  • Developing capacities in governance

By ensuring there are wrap-around support mechanisms in place for student voice activities such as induction, training, communication, feedback systems then the above benefits can be amplified and a positive experience created for both staff and students.

4. Types of student voice

Student voice is evidenced to take place across Waipapa Taumata Rau through:

  • Representation of communities and cohorts in formal decision-making processes
  • Individual participation in consultation opportunities
  • Active creation of and participation in activities which shape the overall student experience

Both elected representatives and non-elected, individual students have opportunities to contribute to the student voice activities to inform decisions and advocate for change. Elected representative positions include those on the AUSA Executive and Faculty Associations, and representative seats on University committees. Representatives are voted in on an annual basis through an election process and are expected to be the voice of their communities, providing a representative viewpoint on the groups and committees on which they sit (rather than an individual perspective).

Individuals not aligned to an organisation or elected in an official capacity have opportunities to contribute their own personal opinions and insights through a number of the student voice activities outlined below. The student voice is not just limited to formal settings such as committees, but students can contribute to the shaping of their own student experiences and advocating for change through informal discussions or involvement in co-curricular opportunities including clubs, volunteering and leadership programmes. In these contexts, students can express their interests and passions and contribute to create a positive learning and social environment not just for themselves, but for peers and future students.

Student voice Examples Student involvement Examples
University Council The University Council Constitution provides for one elected student representative on its membership. This ensures that the student voice can be formally incorporated into University decision-making processes at the most senior level. University
Senate and it's University
The Senate Terms of Reference provides for inclusion of six student members (all nominated by AUSA). Senate Committees all have at least one student member (some up to three student members) in line with Terms of Reference Board of Graduate Studies, Education Committee
Reference Groups/ Advisory Groups

Students have an important role to play in both reference and advisory group settings. Students should be specifically selected based on the topic or area to be addressed by the group.

Where possible students should be provided with the opportunity to co-chair such groups providing additional leadership development and growth.

Youth Advisory Group, Harmful Sexual Behaviour Student Advisor Group, Disability Action Plan Reference Group
University Project Projects

University Projects which will impact on the student experience should involve the student voice in its working groups. This will allow for student insights and experiences to be captured in both the planning and implementation phases.

Where possible students should be provided with the opportunity to co-chair such groups providing additional leadership development and growth.

Curriculum Framework Transformation Project, Pastoral Care Code of Practice project
Focus Groups

Focus groups should involve a wide range of students, representing the different demographics we have on our campuses. Students can provide in-depth knowledge of the student experience perspective when considering a wide range of different topics.

Where possible students should be provided with the opportunity to co-facilitate such sessions providing additional leadership and growth.

Student Services Function Review 1 and 2 Focus Groups (PwC) Surveys, Student Journey mapping
Surveys Surveys can be a great way to collect a large data set on a particular topic. With many tools available for online surveys to be distributed (e.g. Qualtrics) this is often a convenient and accessible option for students to contribute their opinions. It is worth noting that University-wide surveys are subject to approval to allow for the management of timeframes and ensure that the University’s core institutional surveys are not impacted and students are not overwhelmed with survey requests. Annual Teaching and Learning Survey, New Student Survey, Course Evaluations (SET)
Representative System
Class Representatives have a critical role to play in feeding up issues and observations from course cohorts. They are chosen by their course peers and provide the student voice through Faculty Staff-Student consultative committees which meet at least four times a year. AUSA Class Reps
Student Group Executive Involvement in a Student Group as an elected representative provides opportunities for students to shape the co-curricular experience for the wider student body. Through the organisation of events or championing of causes, elected representatives can add significantly to the vibrancy on campus and overall sense of belonging. Faculty Associations, Sports Clubs, Social organisations
Students have the opportunity to stand for and vote in student representative elections. Held on an annual basis, the elections determine which students will represent the student body in various decision-making activities. AUSA Executive Elections, Student Representative on Council
feedback opportunities
Students are often invited to participate in informal or ad hoc 1:1 discussions or sessions about proposed changes. As the primary users/recipients, students can provide a senser check for the direction of travel or feedback on specific changes that are to be introduced. User group testing on new technology, discussion on programme changes

Further information on the types of student voice activities and examples at the University of Auckland along with the structures and systems in place to support them can be seen in Appendix A: Ways to Engage Framework. 

For further details on any of the above Student Voice activity opportunities please contact the Student Engagement Team ( who would be happy to provide more details or connect you with the relevant activity lead.

5. Determining the most suitable type of student voice activity

With so many different ways in which the student voice can be engaged, it is important to establish the objective of your engagement and required involvement of the student voice. Do you want students to ‘comment’ on your ideas or do you want them to ‘co-create’ the proposals? Do you want students to ‘contribute’ to the progress of your project or ‘collaborate’ with you on the direction in which your project will go? Are you looking for quantitative or qualitative feedback?

Understanding the students' level of involvement from the outset will help determine the nature of the student voice activity which will be most suited to your project. Is it better to organise a focus group which will allow you to explore in depth a particular topic with a specific sub-set of students or is a survey more appropriate which will allow you to reach a larger audience and canvas a wider population but limits your ability to delve deeper into information provided? Is it sufficient for your project to have student voice input through an agenda item twice a year through an already established committee, or would the project benefit from establishing a student working group or reference group which allows for an ongoing dialogue throughout the lifetime of the project?

Quantitative and qualitative student feedback are both valuable sources of data. Quantitative data (gathered through surveys or suggestion boxes) provides a bird’s-eye view of a course or service. Insights are clear cut and can easily be reported on. Qualitative feedback is a great starting point to gauge what is going on in your course or service but doesn’t explain the whole story. Qualitative feedback can be used to gain a deeper understanding of student issues or motivations, it often provides the ‘why’ behind the quantitative results.

6. Recruiting students to be involved in your student voice activities

With a finite amount of time available to them, it is recognised that student voice activities are often competing with students' other interests and commitments and so there is a need to make the opportunity sound attractive, give students' an incentive to participate and outline the benefits of their involvement.

To help encourage engagement, it’s recommended that a summary of the ‘role’ be outlined including the objective of the student voice activity, level of commitment required and the remuneration or compensation that is offered (see below sections on ‘Managing expectations’ and ‘Recognition and Contribution’).

There are a number of ways in which you can promote your student voice activity including posterboards, newsletters, Jobs Board (CDES) and reaching out through the University's numerous networks.

One example of an effective network is The University of Auckland Student Groups network which is made up of over 270 recognised student groups and represents the breadth of cultures, passions and interests that exist on campus. The network is a great resource should you wish to target a particular sub-set of students, whether that be based on their subject, level of study, demographics or interests. Student groups are run by an elected executive who can play a huge part in advocating for change on behalf of their members.

The Campus Life Student Engagement and Equity teams, along with Faculty Support and Engagement Teams will be able to assist in connecting you with a range of representative communities.

It is encouraged that student voice opportunities be shared out amongst different students and activities do not rely on input from those who have engaged previously. Not only will this present opportunities to gather varied insights and experiences but avoid the risk of overloading students, many of whom face significant time pressures.

a. Diversity of Voice

To ensure those contributing to student voice activities are representative of the student body and encapsulate the thinking of the University’s multi-faceted community, it’s important to ensure that a diverse range of students are provided with the opportunity to engage. Engaging with a diverse body helps foster broad thinking and encourage creativity and innovation. This in turn will ensure a range of insights and perspectives are recorded, and unique challenges captured with the aim of building an inclusive environment for all students.

It's important to engage with more than just one voice from a specific cohort of students. While students may share an ethnicity, culture, background or interest it’s likely they will have different perspectives and experiences to share. One student’s viewpoint cannot be considered to be representative of a whole cohort of students. Engaging with networks or student groups will enable access to a number of voices which can be considered more representative.

For further assistance in connecting with specific groups of students on campus reach out to: with your requirements and the team can put you in touch with the relevant individuals/teams who can facilitate contact with the right students.

b. Supporting the accessibility of student voice Activities

Creating an inclusive environment for those students participating in the student voice activities is critical. To help students feel welcome, comfortable and valued, and ensure that attendees' diverse needs are accommodated, early planning is required.

Important considerations for organising and running an inclusive activity include ensuring:

  • The times and locations of meetings do not create barriers for students
  • The space used is accessible and suitable for the participants attending and activity being held (this might include but is not limited to appropriate seating, wheelchair access, gender-neutral toilets in the vicinity, sufficient space for accompanying support workers, interpreters etc.)
  • The format of the activity is suitable for participating students (for example verbal presentations rather than visual for individuals with visual impairments)
  • The technology used is accessible. For example, students with disabilities may require, closed captions being enabled for online meetings. Using simple PowerPoint slides with limited text may assist students where English is not their first language
  • That simple, clear and concise language is used when communicating prior, during and following the activity (Creating accessible communications)
  • The scheduling of regular breaks
  • Any food provided strives to meet dietary requirements
  • Relevant tools are used to maximise accessibility of information provided. Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Excel, for instance, have 'accessibility checkers' which can help with this
  • Consideration is given to the cost and time involved for students to get to campus for in-person appointments. In some instances, alternatives such as online meetings may be appropriate

To help plan ahead and avoid potential issues, it is recommended that convenors of student voice activities reach out to the students in advance with regards the timing of the sessions, space accessibility, assistive technology requirements and any other specific requirements that students might have.

c. Managing expectations

To help manage the expectations of those participating in a student voice activity, it is important to outline the objectives and scope of the exercise and the expected commitment and workload. Drift in scope and expectations can happen over the course of longer or ongoing projects. It is important to be aware of drifts from the initially defined outline of the project so that its scope and objectives can be updated accordingly in a transparent fashion. This ensures student group members are always aware of what they can expect and what is expected from them.

The University’s Code of Conduct and Student Charter can be used to outline an expected set of behaviours for both staff and students that supports a safe, inclusive, and respectful community, this can be a useful tool when addressing confronting or contentious topics. Power dynamics can play a big role in the student’s ability to share their views and take action in a situation that may be new to them, or they may feel intimidated by perceived positions of authority.

The Chair or meeting facilitator plays an important role in making students feel welcome and at ease, creating space for everyone to contribute to the meeting. The following suggestions can help create a positive meeting environment for both staff and students.

  • Include introductions/icebreakers into the activity for individuals to get to know each other
  • Outline the importance of students' contribution from the outset
  • Establish safety norms for the activity such as confidentiality (e.g. nothing leaves the room) and emphasise that all contributions are welcomed and valued
  • Highlight shared goals
  • Create opportunities for students to co-chair meetings
  • Invite students to participate in the planning of sessions or agendas
  • Assigning mentors or buddies to support students who may be new to student voice activities
  • Incorporate different ways to share ideas (e.g. splitting into smaller groups, post-it notes, asking for contributions ahead of time)
  • It is important that any changes to student voice activity arrangements be communicated well in advance to students. Should an activity need to be cancelled within 24 hours then payment/token of appreciation should still be honoured as often students are giving up paid opportunities elsewhere to participate in student voice activities

7. Support required for student voice participants

To enable students to lead and contribute to their fullest potential, it is critical that they are given the appropriate support for the activity in which they are involved.

For those students expected to contribute to a higher extent or over a longer period, it is strongly recommended that a brief position description be developed to help clarify the role which the student will play and the commitment expectations. It is advised that induction and training sessions are provided. For example this would be relevant for those students sitting on committees, part of reference and advisory groups and members of volunteer programmes such as Class Representatives and student mentors. Inductions should cover the practicalities of the activity including:            

  • Who is involved
  • The objectives of the activity
  • Time commitments
  • The format of the activity
  • Expectations of those involved
  • How the group will communicate

Allocating staff buddies to students joining committees for the first time can be useful in helping the transition and providing an extra level of support.

Training should look to address specific skills required of the students to be an effective contributor; this might include but is not limited to:

  • Asserting yourself
  • Maximising your meeting participation
  • Creative thinking and problem solving
  • Influence and persuasion
  • Dealing with difficult people
  • Negotiation skills
  • Chairing committees
  • Personal productivity

For one-off, in-person activities, e.g. focus groups, a briefing should be given on the day which outlines the activity and expectations of the students involved. It is also important to outline how outcomes will be fed back to those involved.

For those one-off interactions where contribution is considered to be to a lower extent, e.g. Surveys, and voting in Student Elections, induction and training is not necessary but a summary of the activity and the importance of student involvement should be made clear in supporting materials, along with information on how the loop will be closed (see below section on Closing the Loop).

8. Recognition and contribution

The University places a high value on the student voice, and with students committing a considerable amount of their personal time to participate in activities, it is only fair that students’ contributions should be recognised and rewarded appropriately. Guidelines have been developed to help staff coordinating student voice opportunities determine when remuneration is appropriate given the level of contribution involved and a suggested value. While remuneration may not be appropriate for all activities, it is important that we still look to acknowledge the contribution that students are making. It is noted that a large number of student voice contributions are already remunerated (e.g. Curriculum Framework, Academic Quality Audit) and the guidelines look to provide a framework and a consistent approach for those activities which do not currently remunerate and for new projects coming online.

See Appendix 2: Remuneration guide

9. Value-add opportunities for student voice participants

While it is important to remunerate and/or compensate students for their time and efforts where appropriate, it’s also important to consider what other opportunities can be offered to enhance the overall experience of student voice participation. The University offers a number of initiatives which can be used to recognise, reward and further develop Students who have made a notable contribution to the student voice activities. A few of those are outlined below.

  • Formal letter of commendation from the University: A valuable referral for students and an opportunity for the University to express gratitude and recognise a special contribution over and above the norm.
  • Co-curricular recognition programme: The programme encourages and recognises students’ involvement in co-curricular activities that develop skills and learning experiences through a structured and meaningful way. Many of the student voice activities that take place at the University are recognised through the Co-curricular Recognition Programme, which sees students work through a series of pathways, depending on their chosen activity. Completion of two paths will enable students to achieve the Distinguished Graduate Award, which is recognised on the student’s academic transcript.
  • Leadership Programmes: The University offers a range of structured experiences designed to help emerging leaders enhance and develop skills sets, abilities and confidence. Examples of current programme are outlined below:

Leadership through learning

Dean's Leadership Programme

The Case Programme

  • Alumni Connect – this informal online mentoring tool connects current students seeking career insights with alumni who are willing to share their experience and expertise.
  • Elected student positions – students with an interest or passion for advocacy and change should be made aware of the opportunities to stand in student elections. This may be as part of a Student Association, Student Group or to be the University Council Student Representative.
  • Mentoring – student voice activities provide opportunities for staff to provide mentorship for students. Providing insight into university operations, governance, leadership will help upskill and develop capabilities of participating students. This can be done on both an informal or formal basis.

10. Closing the loop

Closing the loop (sometimes referred to as ‘following up on’ or ‘closing out’) is often just as important as collecting the feedback, it lets students know that their voice has been heard and their opinions considered. Closing the loop provides an opportunity to articulate what changes have been made and the reasons behind decisions. Establishing a link between the action and feedback improves transparency and instills a sense of confidence in the student body, making them more willing to engage with feedback mechanisms in the future.

Important things to consider to ensure closing the loop is done effectively:

  • Make a feedback plan with your students. At the start of the student voice activity consider what is a feasible and meaningful way to share the impacts of their involvement and the final outcome of the initiative.
  • Have a robust process to capture and collate feedback, this may be through notes or recordings for example.
  • Do not save it all for the end. Share updates throughout the activity so that students are aware of how their participation is adding value and influencing the initiative.
  • At the end of the activity, close the loop by communicating three things:

Appreciation – acknowledge the end of the activity and thank students for their participation

Engagement Outcome/Impact: Share how the contributions and participation of students influenced the initiative

Initiative Outcome/Impact: Share if the initiative met is aim, its outcome, impacts or progress made to date

  • Close the loop in a timely manner. Even if the initiative has not yet been completed, aim to close the loop within 30 days of the student voice activity ending.
  • Share tangible outcomes of the work. Send on copies of final reports, materials or policies that were developed through the initiative. Invite the student voice contributors for a tour of the new space, or to attend a launch event etc.

11. Academic Freedom

The University looks in no way to stifle or limit the opinions expressed in student voice activities.

Those participating in activities, whether remunerated or not, are protected by Academic Freedom which relates to the freedom of staff and students, within the law, to question and test received wisdom, to put forward new ideas and to state controversial or unpopular opinions.

12. Privacy

Privacy is of huge importance when students may be disclosing personal or sensitive information. It is important to be aware of the University’s Privacy Policy prior to collecting student’s personal information. If you are collecting personal information as part of the student voice activity only collect what information is needed and be transparent about how the information will be used, stored and shared prior to engaging students in a student voice activity.

13. Content Warnings

Some topics addressed through student voice activities have the potential to be confronting. Consider using a content warning prior to any such activity. An example is given below.

This [hui] contains material that may be emotionally and intellectually challenging to engage with. The topics covered today are [insert topics]. I encourage everyone to consider this a safe space where we can learn about this difficult content bravely, empathetically and thoughtfully. Those running activities should familiar themselves with the support services that are available to students, and information shared regularly with students.

Should you wish to discuss any of the above information in more detail or would like support in exploring student voice opportunities in your area please e-mail


Diversity among students includes, but is not limited to learners of varying ages, cultures, religions, sexual orientation, gender identities, international learners, refugee background learners, disabled students, distance learners, and students experiencing care responsibilities.

Student Associations and Groups are the student-led organisations which have applied and been registered as a recognised Student Group as part of the University-wide Student Groups network.

Student experience refers to the learning, teaching and assessment experience and the wider student experience, including the experience of student support services.

Student Voice refers to facilitating authentic student engagement through partnership in institutional decision-making and governance for learning & teaching, research, and the student experience.

Student Voice activities refers to the recognised activities or initiatives through which the student voice contributions are received.

University means Waipapa Taumata Rau, University of Auckland and includes all subsidiaries.

University projects refers to change/improvement projects which are initiated to address a particular aspect of a services or programme.

Document management and control

Owner:  Associate Director Student Engagement and Wellbeing, Campus Life

Policy advisors: President of Auckland University Students’ Association, President of The University of Auckland Postgraduate Students Association, and Pro Vice-Chancellor Education

Content manager: Manager, Student Engagement

Approved by: 11 December 2023

Approved date: 11 December 2028