Student Engagement in Knowledge Exchange Competition evaluation

The Office for Students and Research England launched the £10m Student Engagement in Knowledge Exchange programme in 2020 to develop the evidence base on the nature of, and benefits from, student engagement in knowledge exchange activities.  Knowledge exchange is the wide range of activities undertaken by higher education providers with external partners such as businesses, the public sector, and community groups, to benefit the economy and society.

The programme supported 20 projects led by higher education providers across England to develop and share understanding of effective practice, and to inform on-going policy and investment.

SQW was appointed to evaluate the programme. This included a meta-analysis of projects’ self-evaluation reports, and in-depth case studies focused on the role of the programme in addressing issues of equality, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) in student knowledge exchange. In parallel, we provided on-going evaluation support and advice to projects, and facilitated a series of workshops to share learning and insights on good practice amongst project partners.

The final evaluation report has now been published by the Office for Students, and is available here.

The report highlights the progress made by projects in delivering a wide range of activities to support student engagement in knowledge exchange. The scale of activity was notable, with over 20,000 students engaged by projects, and involving over 3,600 partners (including businesses, HEIs, schools and colleges, and NHS Trusts, amongst others). A range of positive benefits were realised for students, partners and institutions, and the report identified key factors that may be generally transferrable and represent ‘good practice’ in supporting effective student engagement and optimising student benefit. These included for example:

  • involving the student voice in project design processes, including to enable activities to meaningfully overcome barriers to engagement
  • providing opportunities for students to engage in activities in ‘real-world’ contexts and environments, which helps to secure and retain engagement
  • providing inclusive application routes, and leveraging existing networks and communities to reach target groups (including students’ own networks)
  • for projects which involved KE between students and businesses, ensuring that these were effectively ‘matched’ (e.g. in terms of their priorities, experiences), strengthening outcomes for both students and partners.

For more information about the evaluation or SQW’s wider work in knowledge exchange, please contact Joe Duggett.