This week the National Student Engagement Programme (NStEP) hosted the ‘Student Leaders in Quality‘ training event, at which the national Student Trainers Pool and a large group of Student Quality Assurance Reviewers were trained up for their new roles – a first for the Irish Higher Education sector! 

Here at NStEP we live by the rule that students are experts in their own learning, giving them the expertise and insight to engage in quality enhancement, governance, and student representation. Our new Student Leaders in Quality event brought together two groups of student experts to train them up so that they could unlock that potential!

Student Quality Assurance Reviewers Pool

The Student QA Reviewers Pool is a joint collaboration between Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) and the Union of Students in Ireland (USI), with the aim of recruiting and supporting students to be involved in quality assurance review panels across the Irish Higher Education sector. NStEP has supported the Pool since 2017.

qqi_1The QA Reviewers and the Student Trainers spent the morning together to learn about the Principles of Student Engagement and how they relate to quality assurance and enhancement. In mixed groups they considered the ‘student learning experience’ (SLE) and how each aspect of it related to their own experiences of third-level education. This facilitated a fascinating reflective discussion on how their own experiences were different from those around them and how to consciously ensure they were considering the diverse student learning experiences of learners across Higher Education.

In the afternoon, USI’s Kevin McStravock walked the Reviewers through methods of effective feedback, while Walter Balfe gave an informative presentation on QQI’s work in quality assurance, highlighting how each panel review operates, including institutional review, validation, and re-engagements. We were delighted to have Naomi Jackson, Dean of Academic Affairs at CCT College Dublin, as well as Callaghan Commons, Vice President for Academic Affairs at DCU Students’ Union, to share their perspectives as a previous panel Chairperson and student member respectively during QQI reviews.


The Reviewers were then divided in to groups and given scenarios to consider for each particular kind of review process, and once they had delved in to the detail in front of them, they had the opportunity as mini-panel review teams to question our willing facilitators in role plays. A few of our facilitators would make Oscar winning actors!

“It is vital that the student reviewers involved in QQI’s processes are equipped with the knowledge and skills needed to ensure that the student experience is central to those processes. The NStEP training session was meticulously well thought out and structured to encourage each participant – QQI’s future student quality reviewers – to draw on their own experience, to be confident of their role as a student expert, and – ultimately – to be aware of the positive impact that they can have on the Irish education system.”

Mairéad Boland, QQI Senior Quality Officer

Cathal Curry, a 4th year Marketing, Innovation and Technology student in DCU, participated in the training, stated that:

“NStEP training was hugely beneficial. We got to grips with what quality reviews are, how they work, and how best to amplify the student voice within them. I am looking forward to raising the issues and concerns, as well as the positive experiences that students across the country are having in third level institutions in 2019. I think that the student reviewers pool is the best way to do that.”

NStEP Student Trainers Pool

The NStEP Student Trainers Pool is now in it’s 4th year, welcoming seven new trainers from across the country to the pool, who will now travel across institutions to train up class representatives to amplify the student voice and effectively represent their peers.

For the first time NStEP trained the Student Trainers in Ireland, having previously travelled to sparqs Associate Trainers Residential each Summer. The assistance of sparqs of the past 3 years has ensured that the capacity to create a successful training here in Ireland has now become reality.

nstep2Current UCD Students’ Union President, and former longest-serving NStEP Student Trainer, Joanna Siewierska, returned to train up the enthusiastic NStEP Student Trainers, as well as the new Student Trainers from Ulster University Students’ Union. We were delighted to welcome UUSU, strengthening collaboration cross border!

Student Trainers training up class representatives is a crucial part of what NStEP does – ensuring that building student leadership capabilities is driven by students themselves. Having such a talented student leader as Joanna return to deliver a high quality training to our new Trainers demonstrates how Ireland continues to lead the way on meaningful student engagement – thank you Joanna!

The training lasted for 2 days, and focused in on training methodology and supporting an inclusive and engaging learning environment for class reps. EDDKYi4W4AAwDCBOn day two our new Trainers got the opportunity to deliver their own 20 minute training sessions. Each Trainer was able to utilise the skills and ideas that they had learned about over the course of the training, putting them to use in front of our ‘SLiQ Factor’ judges! It was top marks all round – each Trainer demonstrated real talent for delivering engaging, informative, and exciting training.

“It’s been a great experience to come back to train the next NStEP trainers. I’ve enjoyed my role in the programme over the last three years very much, and it was a pleasure to share what I’ve learned and to help the new team develop their skills. The trainers were enthusiastic and gelled as a team immediately. Delivering the content went smoothly and it was lovely to get to know them. I’m excited for the trainers to get started and hopefully to hear how they’re getting on!”

Joanna Siewierska, NStEP Senior Student Trainer

The Student Trainers are now all set to deliver our Student Training Programme across participating Higher Education institutions and Students’ Unions. Stay tuned to hear how they get on!


Our new Student Trainers are (L-R): Stephen Foley (CIT), Seán Whelan (TUD Tallaght), Yvana Mpessa (Maynooth), Joanna Siewierska (Senior Trainer), Scott Green (NUIG), Karolyn McDonnell (IT Carlow), Catherine Kane (DCU). Missing from photo: Zoe Louise Cummins (TCD), as well as Laura Neeson, Grace Boyle, and Niamh Curran (UUSU).

The National Student Engagement Programme (NStEP) is a collaborative partnership programme established in 2016 by the Higher Education Authority (HEA), Quality & Qualifications Ireland (QQI), and the Union of Students in Ireland (USI). It aims to foster a sense of value on student engagement across Higher Education in Ireland, develop the leadership capabilities of students, and support institutions and staff to create meaningful student partnership. To find out more, please contact the Programme Manager at