Today, Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) are bombarded by pressures and challenges demanding innovative responses. Although international higher education continues to experience considerable growth, there still is a need to review the learning landscapes of mature higher education systems. In such times, and especially when the financial demands on prospective students change, the relationships between the student and the university, or more crudely between the customer and the provider, are modified and expectations are likely to rise. In response to these challenges, a common central theme has been the need to improve 'student engagement'. Yet this is a term which is widely used but often misunderstood or misinterpreted.
As Student Engagement: Identity, Motivation and Community shows, student engagement needs to be addressed systematically and strategically, requiring far more than the adoption of a consumer approach to student learning, or palliatives such as the cosmetic boosting of student numbers on university committees. The underlying challenges require empowering students across institutions to make change for themselves, so creating 'active citizens'. All the chapters of this ground-breaking book have been co-written by staff and students from a single Higher Education Institution (HEI), yet the contributions are only located in the wider literature and avoid both myopic introspection and inappropriate generalisation. The case studies describe approaches based on partnership and not on the transaction, but they also show that the challenge is not just to institutions and decision makers in the sector but to the student bodies themselves. They indicate that both institutions and student representative bodies alike need to question some of the long held dogma on how universities and students should interact.