Responding to Covid-19

#AskTeamNStEP – NStEP launches new resources to support staff and students during Covid-19

As staff and students across Irish higher education adapt and transition to new ways of teaching, learning, and assessment, at NStEP we know that student engagement and staff-student communication will be challenging given the circumstances. To support meaningful and effective student engagement during the Covid-19 pandemic NStEP has launched some new Quick Guides for Class Reps and Staff who Teach as well as an online campaign to encourage staff and students, no matter their role, to get in touch. The NStEP team is here to help, so we’re encouraging you to #AskTeamNStEP! Find out more below.

New NStEP Quick Guides for Class Reps and Staff Who Teach

Higher education staff are now creating and delivering teaching from their own homes, juggling family commitments, while trying to ensure students are reassured about the impending assessment period. Meanwhile students are learning in their accommodation, or are back in the family home, trying to adapt their learning to environments that aren’t as conducive as libraries or group study spaces. Student engagement and effective feedback is undoubtedly more difficult in this new reality, never mind ensuring that staff and students can collaborate on key decisions and projects.

Our new NStEP Quick Guides provide some key ideas and pointers for both Class Reps and Staff who Teach, to support efforts to maintain effective communication between staff and students during the pandemic.

#AskTeamNStEP – Submit your student engagement queries!

As staff and students adapt, here at NStEP we wanted to make ourselves available to support you through the challenges ahead. How can institutions ensure student engagement remains evident and central through decision making? How can Class Reps ensure that changes to assessment practices are made in consultation and collaboration with students? How can staff ensure the student voice is heard through their work when there is such limited time to make vast changes and implement them?

We won’t have all the answers, but we are here to help. Even the smallest of solutions can have the biggest of impacts when staff and students work together to achieve them. Our team of staff and student trainers here at NStEP are available to discuss your queries, concerns, and ideas.

Simply submit a query on the #AskTeamNStEP online form and a member of our team will get back to you as soon as possible.

You can also get in touch on Twitter @NStEPie and let us know about your student engagement experiences during the pandemic.

Student Training Programme

NStEP Development Coordinator takes up post!

Back in December NStEP advertised for a new Development Coordinator to join the Programme, and we’re delighted to announce that Dr Jeffrey Cox took up the role last month. Jeffrey has really hit the ground running on the enhancement and expansion of our the current national student training programme. Find out more about Jeffrey and his NStEP plans below!

Dr Jeffrey Cox led our recent Student Training Development Day. Pictured here with some of the NStEP Student Trainers (l-r) Stephen Foley, Yvana Mpessa, Anna Heverin, and Zoe Louise Cummins.

Jeffrey Cox has been appointed Development Coordinator for the National Student Engagement Programme (NStEP). He comes to the role with a broad experience in the education and non-profit sectors and has taught in a variety of contexts in the United States, United Kingdom (Fulbright Exchange), and in Ireland.

As Development Coordinator, Jeffrey is currently leading work on NStEP’s Student Training Programme. Developed in 2016, the Student Training Programme has been highly successful at training class reps across the country to champion student engagement and partnerships at their institutions, ensuring that they have the skills and confidence to effectively represent their peers and affect change. In 2018 the training was further developed to meet the needs of reps for postgraduate taught programmes and in online/blended learning environments.

Building on this success, Jeffrey is currently working to enhance and expand the Student Training Programme and plans to work closely with staff and students’ union officers from participating higher education institutions, as well as the NStEP team of Student Trainers. In addition to reinvigorating the content and structure of training modules, a new system of recognition and digital badging for students who participate in training will also be rolled out for the 2020-2021 academic year.

Despite being in the role for just one month, Jeffrey has hit the ground running, including presenting plans for expansion of student training to the first National Advisory Group for Student Engagement, as well as organising a Development Day to review current training and examine options for student recognition. A number of our Student Trainers will be working with Jeffrey to develop these plans further, ensuring that our training remains student-led and student-driven.

To find out more about the work of NStEP, get in touch!

Contacts details can be found here.

Student Engagement Resources

NStEP Launches Student Engagement Guides for Higher Education Staff

From 2017 until 2019, NStEP Project Teams made-up of dedicated staff and students were busy co-creating resources for use across the sector. These resources are a culmination of learning from analysing institutional practices during our pilot phase, ultimately drawing out themes for enhancement in student engagement.

At the QQI conference on staff professional development on 13th February 2020, NStEP is delighted to launch resources produced by the ‘Staff Roles and Capacity Building‘ Team that was led by AnSEO Cork Institute of Technology and CIT Students’ Union. Below, project Co-Chair Róisín O’Grady tells us more about the ‘Quick Guides‘ they have produced for higher education staff!

Our project:

Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) led this project because it is committed to improving student engagement across the student lifecycle and recognises the transformative potential of strong student-faculty partnership in pursuit of this goal. While much has been written about the importance of student engagement, there seemed to be no central repository for “how” staff could begin to purposefully integrate student engagement practices in their work. We felt, having an established Student Engagement Office, a pre-existing working relationship with sparqs since 2014 and the experience of working with all academic departments across CIT’s four campuses, we had something to offer in terms of leading out in the provision of information on student engagement for staff at other Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). 


This project aimed to create a set of quick guides designed to support varied staff and student roles across HEIs and Students’ Unions who want an immediate and short introduction to why and how they might contribute to their institutional capacity to enhance student engagement, progression and success in their contexts. 

How we achieved it:

Our first task was to establish a project team that was representative of a wide variety of staff in different positions to explore the role of staff in enhancing Student Engagement in Higher Education Institutions (HEI’s). Given that there are a variety of staff roles across an Institution, the project team agreed to create 5 cluster groups to help consolidate the ways in which staff in particular roles can practice student engagement. Each cluster group actively sought staff and student contributions. The project team led by Cork Institute of Technology involved a group of people who wanted to make a real contribution to advancing student engagement in Ireland.

Benefit of using these guides/value: Why we would like people to use it. 

Each quick guide is tailored specifically for staff working in each of the 5 cluster groups identified above. They are designed to be user friendly and act as a guide to help staff to start or continue a conversation on student engagement in their own HEI.  Each guide includes the definition of Student Engagement (SE); why staff would wish to enhance SE, what activities should be prioritised to maximise SE and what resources and support should be made available to support staff in fostering SE. The contribution of Students’ Unions across the sector was very valuable in the development of these resources. 

These quick guides have also been endorsed by international experts in the SE/Teaching and Learning arena.  We hope that all staff will use this resource to develop, inform and/or enhance their own practice. 

To view the 5 Quick Guides please visit where NStEP will be releasing over the coming months a range of other guides, reports, and tools for student engagement that have been developed by our Project Teams.

For further information contact Project Co Chair: Róisín O’Grady, Student Engagement Officer, Cork Institute of Technology (

The National Student Engagement Programme wishes to thank sparqs for their assistance to the Project Teams. We would also like to thank the team at AnSEO CIT, CITSU, and all members of the wider Project Team from across the sector, both staff and students, for their work to make these resources a reality.


NStEP Student Training Programme accepting bookings for early 2020

NStEP is now accepting student training session bookings from institutions and students’ unions for the new year. To schedule a session and find out what it involves, read more below.

The NStEP training sessions are designed to work well in groups of up to 30 students! Here Stephen Foley (NStEP Student Trainer/CIT student) is training up class reps in the University of Limerick.

NStEP has trained over 2,700 student representatives since our foundation in 2016. Each year we launch the training programme for booking in the Summer, with over 40 sessions delivered from September to November. Another round of training is then scheduled for January through to March, depending on demand. NStEP Student Trainers, all full-time students from Irish higher education, criss-cross the country delivering training sessions, which include introductory class rep training, postgraduate taught, and online training.

Find out more information about the training from our call for bookings that went live in Summer 2019: NStEP launches Student Training Programme for Autumn 2019

What does NStEP training involve?

NStEP student training sessions are designed for class representatives (undergraduate and postgraduate taught), with training delivered to prepare and support them to carry out their roles effectively on behalf of their peers, working positively with staff members in their college to achieve change and enhance the educational experience of all.

The training has received overwhelmingly positive feedback since the first sessions were delivered in 2016. Find out more about the training and the feedback we have received here.

Book an NStEP training session!

To book a training, please complete the form at this link. Please ensure to request a booking as soon as possible. NStEP cannot guarantee that we will be able to deliver training on your preferred dates, so the sooner that a request is received the better. If there are no Student Trainers available to deliver the training on your preferred date, we will get in touch to arrange an alternative that suits your institution/SU.

Please ensure to thoroughly read the Booking Guide for 2019 before requesting a training session. It contains all the need-to-know info about hosting the training, including the materials that the trainers will require and the kind of venue that is needed to ensure the training is engaging and interesting.

If you have any queries, please do not hesitate to get in touch by emailing

NStEP Student Trainers Yvana Mpessa (Maynooth student) and Zöe Louise Cummins (Trinity College student) delivering training to class representatives in Dublin Business School

Applications to the National Student Quality Assurance Reviewers Pool open!

The National Student Quality Assurance Reviewers Pool was established by Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) and the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) in 2017. Since then NStEP has worked to support the pool through our bespoke training programme for reviewers and by allocating students to QQI review panels across higher education.

The latest call for applications to the pool has now opened. Pool members will receive training from NStEP, QQI and USI on quality assurance in Irish Higher Education and quality review procedures.

The Student QA Reviewer’s Pool is made up of students trained by QQI and USI to sit on review panels and ensure the student perspective is evident throughout quality assurance in Ireland. As full members of the panel teams, student reviewers are valuable and valued as part of the process, gaining important experience and insights in to issues of higher education governance.

Student Reviewers are paid for their time on panels and are reimbursed for expenses.

2020 Applications now open!

To apply please complete the form found here:  Student QA Reviewers Pool Application Form

More information about the role of reviewers can be found below. Please read the guidance below before applying.

Applications will close on 6th January 2020. Applicants will be informed whether or not they were successful by the 11th January 2020.

If you have any queries, please contact Oisín at

Student Reviewer Training

The Pool training will be hosted by NStEP, QQI, and USI in Dublin on 21st January 2020. Applicants are expected to be available for this training.

NStEP has developed the training to support student reviewers to understand the importance of their role in ensuring a high quality system of higher education in Ireland, ultimately benefiting thousands of students. The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) outlines the importance of the student voice and providing effective feedback. Quality & Qualifications Ireland (QQI) takes the reviewers through their roles on review panels, how quality assurance processes operate in Irish higher education, and the impact that it can have. For more information about the work of QQI, watch their introductory video here:

More About Quality & Qualifications Ireland (QQI)

Quality and Qualifications Ireland is a state agency established by the Quality Assurance and Qualifications (Education and Training) Act 2012 with a board appointed by the Minister for Education and Skills.

Their functions include those previously carried out by the Further Education and Training Awards Council (FETAC); the Higher Education and Training Awards Council (HETAC); the Irish Universities Quality Board (IUQB) and the National Qualifications Authority of Ireland (NQAI).

In the area of qualifications, they are responsible for maintaining the ten-level NFQ (National Framework of Qualifications) are an awarding body, setting standards for awards made in the NFQ. They validate education and training programmes and make extensive awards in the Further Education and Training sector including in the Education and Training Boards as well as in the Higher Education private sector. They also provide advice on recognition of foreign qualifications in Ireland and on the recognition of Irish qualifications abroad.

In the area of quality assurance, QQI is responsible for reviewing the effectiveness of quality assurance in further and higher education providers in Ireland. This includes the universities, institutes of technology, Education and Training Boards and providers in the private further and higher education and training sectors (availing of QQI awards). The outcomes of these external reviews are published on the website


NStEP Launches call for applications to the National Advisory Group for Student Engagement

The National Student Engagement Programme (NStEP) recently launched a new Strategy 2019-2021, setting out a vision for the development and enhancement of student engagement in Irish higher education. In order to realize that strategy and vision, NStEP is now seeking applications from staff and students to a new National Advisory Group for Student Engagement.

The National Advisory Group for Student Engagement will have a huge role in ensuring that NStEP is meeting it’s ambitions for student engagement and partnership. The Group will consider the strategy and the programme’s plan of work, advising on actions and projects that can embed meaningful staff-student partnership. Members of the Group will be able to shape the national agenda for student engagement, receive reports from NStEP staff, and gain an experience of creating change in Irish higher education.

To learn more about the work that the Advisory Group will be supporting, check out the NStEP Strategy 2019-2021.

The membership of the Advisory Group will consist of students, representative bodies, academic staff, professional support staff, and an NStEP Student Trainer. The group will be co-chaired by the USI Vice President for Academic Affairs and a representative from either the QQI or the HEA on a rotational basis.

To find out more about the remit of the Advisory Group you can find the ‘terms of reference’ here.

We are now seeking applications from staff and students across Irish higher education. Two academic staff, two professional/support staff, and four students will be appointed to join the existing Advisory Group members (see the ‘terms of reference’ mentioned above).

We are seeking applications from individuals who are motivated and passionate about active student voice and meaningful engagement between students and staff across their institutions. When applying you should be able to demonstrate this commitment to student engagement.

There will be four meetings per academic year, each lasting for a half of a working day. You will be asked to review papers in advance of meetings. The terms of reference details the work of the Group.

You will be invited to engage in other NStEP activities from time-to-time, but you will not be expected to get involved if you aren’t available beyond the four agreed meetings.

Student members will receive a stipend of €12.30 per hour, plus expenses.

Application Process

To apply you have to complete a short form outlining your experience and motivation.

The student application form is here.

The staff application form is here.

Applications close at 5pm, Friday 13th December 2019. Applicants will be informed in the new year whether or not they have been successful.

If you have any queries about the National Advisory Group or the application process, please don’t hesitate to contact Oisín at


NStEP Launches new Strategy 2019 – 2021

In mid-2019 the National Student Engagement Programme (NStEP) sought the views of staff and students from across Irish higher education in a consultation process to decide the direction that NStEP should take during it’s next strategic phase.

On 14th November 2019 NStEP launched the programme’s first strategy at Maynooth University during an annual conference. Attendees at the conference will explore how NStEP can support and embed the principles of student engagement across the higher education landscape. The new strategy represents a commitment and aspiration to create meaningful staff-student partnership across the sector.

Click the image to access the NStEP Strategy 2019 – 2021

The strategy sets out a new vision and mission for NStEP, reflecting on the achievements of the programme since it was launched in 2016.

To achieve the aspirations of both students and staff across the sector, the strategy sets out three strategic priorities for 2019 – 2021, which are:

  • Strengthening the value of student engagement nationally
  • Developing the leadership capabilities of students in Irish higher education
  • Supporting staff and students across the sector to foster a culture of partnership

To view our strategy, click the image above.

To find out more about participation in NStEP, please email


Save the date: NStEP Conference 2019

The National Student Engagement Programme (NStEP) is pleased to extend a ‘save the date’ invite for our upcoming conference on November 14th 2019, hosted by Maynooth University and Maynooth Students’ Union.

NStEP is now entering our next strategic phase from 2019 until 2021. This conference provides an opportunity to lay out a road map for development and enhancement over the next few years, broadening the reach of student engagement practices, and strengthening the value and culture of staff-student partnership throughout Irish Higher Education.

You can register for the conference here.

Further details on the speaker line up and agenda please visit the main webpage for the conference here.

If you have any queries, please do not hesitate to contact us at


NStEP launches call for more HEIs to join the programme!

The National Student Engagement Programme (NStEP), which currently works to support staff and students to foster a culture of partnership across 23 Irish Higher Education Institutions, is delighted to launch a call for more HEIs to join the programme in 2019/2020!

The National Student Engagement Programme (NStEP) was launched in March 2016 by the programme partners, Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI), the Higher Education Authority (HEA), and the Union of Students in Ireland (USI). The 2016 pilot involved five higher education institutions – NCI, WIT, NUIG, LyIT, and CIT. Subsequently the programme grew to include 23 higher education institutions across the public and private sectors.

NStEP supports student engagement in Irish Higher Education Institutions, seeking to champion a strong culture of student and staff partnership through practice-based activities and informing policy developments.

Student engagement is underpinned by the idea that students are partners and co-creators, and NStEP aims to actively embed these principles within Higher Education through its work. Involvement in NStEP requires a partnership between HEI staff and student representatives, with HEI leadership and Students’ Union leadership signing partnership agreements to participate.

The work of NStEP is shaped by three strategic priorities, which are:

  • Strengthening the value placed on student engagement
  • Developing the leadership capabilities of students across Ireland
  • Supporting institutions and staff across the sector to foster a culture of partnership

Why join NStEP?

NStEP operates a national student training programme, led by Student Trainers (all full-time students), who come to your campus to train your Class Reps to engage actively in the quality assurance and enhancement of their education, building their capacity to close the feedback loop and to work constructively towards change.

Once your institution has joined NStEP, we will work with you to develop an institutional analysis workshop that helps you to self-assess current engagement practices, bringing staff and students together to examine the barriers and enablers to student engagement in your institution. The programme offers ongoing institutional support to develop institutional strategies for staff-student partnership. 

The programme also seeks to foster a sense of value and commitment to student engagement nationally, developing our national network events to allow for sharing of practice and ideas across the sector, while creating resources and policy guidance on effective ways to embed the ethos and principles of student engagement.

As NStEP prepares to launch it’s new Strategic Plan, we’re delighted to welcome higher education institutions that have not previously participated to join the programme and work with us to enhance student engagement across Irish Higher Education.

Expressions of Interest

NStEP will be in touch with institutions and Students’ Unions across the country in due course, but in the mean time, if you would like to make any inquiries about this call, please do not hesitate to email or call 0860460526.

You can find a full list of NStEP participating colleges here.