Listening to students for tomorrow, today: engaging students to define the future of higher education

  • Sarah Speight University of Nottingham
  • Gillian Moreira University of Aveiro
  • Dag Husebo


This article examines the voices of students engaged in a cross-European student symposium organized by the European Consortium of Innovative Universities (ECIU) in 2018. Entitled ‘Learning for Tomorrow, Today: Future Fit Universities for 2040’, its aim was to explore how students perceived a ‘future fit’ university for 2040. This date was chosen as a mid-horizon point. Twenty students from 11 universities attended with university leaders and higher education policy makers. A dataset consisting of field notes, written expressions on table cloths, post-event student evaluations, and over 3 hours of video-material was accumulated, and has been analysed through video-hermeneutics and content-analysis. Five students became co-authors after critically reading and validating the text and analysis. The research question posed is how students perceive teaching and learning in a future fit university in 2040. Using an ‘engagement through partnership’ model, we argue that combining the voices of current and future stakeholders moves the sector a step closer to ‘future fit’ higher education. Our main finding is that students are eager to contribute to policy and strategy, and to practice. The students demonstrate a wish to help shape teaching and learning in the future university. Furthermore, they express a view that universities must play a significant role in securing core societal values. And finally, they state that higher education is an important vehicle for developing future citizens able to take part in a democratic Europe and world. At no stage in the discussions did students question the existence of universities in 2040.

How to Cite
Sarah Speight, Gillian Moreira, & Dag Husebo. (2020). Listening to students for tomorrow, today: engaging students to define the future of higher education. Student Engagement in Higher Education Journal, 3(1), 96-114. Retrieved from