The last National Student Engagement Network to be held in-person at (what was then called) the Institute of Technology Carlow, was just days before the initial higher education shut down due to the pandemic. Much has changed since, so the next NStEP network event for staff and student reps will provide a chance to consider some of the big topics in student engagement.

The National Student Engagement Network – supported by the NStEP partners in the HEA, QQI, and USI – brings together student representatives and staff from across roles and remits in our participating institutions. It provides a chance to share practice, discuss challenges, learn new student engagement ideas, and shape the direction of NStEP itself.

The next Network takes place from 10am – 3.30pm at Maynooth University‘s impressive Library building. Thank you to the team’s at Maynooth Teaching and Learning and Maynooth Students’ Union for their support in organising this exciting opportunity to bring students and staff from across the Irish higher education sector together again.

The Network will explore a number of themes, including student engagement in quality assurance and enhancement activities, supporting students in governance and decision-making, student partnership in student services, SaPiA (student partnership in assessment), resources for supporting students’ union officers, and student success strategies. Importantly, the Network has a chance to consider how these issues and ideas can be addressed in their own institutions, as well as shaped at the national level.

Find out more about our speakers and contributors below. More speaker details will be added in the coming weeks, so stay tuned!

Registration is now open on Eventbrite for student representatives and staff from our 25 participating institutions, listed here.

Speaker Information

International Keynote – Student Engagement in Quality Assurance

Maureen McLaughlin – Academic Registrar & Director of Student, Library and Academic Services at Northumbria University

Maureen’s theme – What has Student Engagement ever done for us? The what, why and how – observations from a UK perspective.

Maureen McLaughlin originally joined the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA UK) in 2009 as an Assistant Director and was the Institutional Review (England and Northern Ireland) Method Coordinator. She led the training and deployment of reviewers, including the introduction of student reviewers in England and Northern Ireland reviews. She became Dean of Quality and Standards at University of Gloucestershire in early 2014, leading the University through its successful QAA Higher Education Review in April 2015. 

Maureen returned to QAA in autumn 2015 as the Head of Engagement leading on the Agency’s wider engagement with the key higher education stakeholders. Following a restructure, she was appointed as the Head of Universities and Standards, working with cross Agency teams to develop and deliver stakeholder engagement, institutional liaison programmes, the redevelopment of the UK Quality Code, and the development and delivery of services, events and activities for QAA’s key stakeholders: students, institutions and professional, statutory and regulatory bodies.

Subsequently joining the University of Warwick in July 2019 as the Director of Education Policy and Quality, Maureen led the team in the management and coordination of quality assurance, enhancement, policy development and implementation and academic governance across the University. In September 2021 she took up the post of Academic Registrar at Northumbria University in September 2021, leading a team of over 500 staff to achieve strategic ambitions around learning and teaching, research and student employability across the University.

Perspectives on Quality Assurance from a Students’ Union Officer

Niall Daly – President of Maynooth University Students’ Union

Niall’s theme – Broadening Student Engagement in Quality Processes

Niall Daly is the current President of Maynooth University Students’ Union, and was previously the Vice President for Education. As an undergraduate student in International Business, Niall was elected a Student Senator and became deeply involved in the academic affairs work in his SU. He subsequently became an NStEP Student Quality Assurance Reviewer at the national level, participating as a member of QA panels in various institutions. As an SU Officer, Niall continued his interest in student engagement in quality as a member of the Maynooth University Quality Committee.

Student partnership approaches in student supports

Rachel Murphy – Graduate Intern at Trinity Disability Service

Rachel’s theme – The path to meaningful student partnership in student support services

Rachel is the Trinity Disability Service’s Graduate Intern. Prior to this she was a member of the Trinity Ability co_op, a co-operative movement led by disabled students in Trinity. She led the Towards Inclusive Clubs and Societies Project in 2021/22, which was awared Equality Campaign of the Year at the USI Student Achievement Awards 

In her new role as Graduate Intern she will continue to work towards improving student life for disabled students by liaising with the Disability Service, the Trinity Ability co_op and the Student’s Union. She will also work directly with students through the Community Engagement drop-in to support them to become more involved in extracurricular activities.

Rachel works on the Trinity Disability Community Engagement project. This centers around the new disAbility Hub and supporting the disabled population of Trinity to engage in the wider college community. This involves facilitating and supporting the Trinity Ability co_op, promoting cocreation and student partnerships within the service and planning activities in the disAbility Hub.

Exploring the experiences of students in institutional governance settings

Kevin McStravock – Lead Policy Officer (Devolved Nations and Europe) at the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA UK)

Kevin’s theme – “You’re in the wrong seat”: Exploring perceptions of power dynamics among student governors

Kevin McStravock (he/him) is a policy and communications professional with over six years experience working across the UK and Irish higher education sectors. He currently works as Lead Policy Officer (Devolved Nations and Europe) for the UK’s independent quality body, the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) having previously held the position of PR, Press and Communications Officer there.

Kevin is a former Deputy President/Vice President for Academic Affairs at the Union of Students in Ireland and former Vice President (Coleraine) and President at Ulster University Students’ Union. Kevin holds an undergraduate degree in Journalism with French from Ulster University and recently completed his Masters in Student Engagement at the University of Winchester. His masters thesis will be the focus of Kevins’s contribution at the network.

Student engagement in policy and practice

Ruth Burchell – Quality Specialist (International Insights) at the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA UK)

Ruth’s theme – An overview of UK student engagement in policy and practice (delivered with Kevin McStravock, QAA)

Ruth’s HE career working in policy and practice spans 27 years, during which time she has forged strong networks and relationships across the sector whilst working within different types of providers and in wider sector organisations. During this time, she has developed administrative processes, national advice and guidance and coordinated projects; she has set up student representation systems and offered academic and pastoral support to students. This wide-ranging experience across higher education affords Ruth a unique overview and perspective of the sector in the UK and beyond.

Ruth has a strong professional interest in the promotion of an enhancement-led quality culture. Her HE specialisms; include quality and standards in practice and policy, student engagement, student experience, administration, programme coordination and admissions. Ruth is currently studying for her MA Student Engagement with Winchester University and as part of her new role at QAA will develop a strong QAA International Network and is currently leading on the redevelopment of UK guidance around Supporting and Enhancing the experience of International Students in the UK.

Further speakers are still to be announced and a full Network schedule will be posted here in the coming weeks.

Registration is via Eventbrite and is for staff and students at participating institutions only. Spaces are limited. If you are uncertain about the status of your institution in NStEP’s network, please get in touch.

Those who may be interested in attending could include students, student reps, staff who teach and those who support teaching and learning, quality officers, senior management and leadership across HEI governance, staff in support services, and those who work on national policy. If you are an NStEP key contact for your institution, please share this information among your peers and colleagues who may be interested.

Please direct all queries to