Staff and students often assume hierarchical positions in their relationship with one another – that of expert and novice, teacher and student or instructor and apprentice. You’ve likely already experienced this during your time at Imperial. In some ways it is a necessary part of education, but it doesn’t always have to be, nor is it always the most effective model to achieve the best outcome. StudentShapers, which the Union and College have worked together to develop over the past twelve months is about cultivating authentic staff-student partnership in education, providing a way for both UG and PG students to get involved in educational design or educational research projects.

In all StudentShapers projects, staff and students are encouraged to break down those traditional power hierarchies to work constructively and creatively together. Why? Because students are experts too, just in a different way to staff. Students are experts in being students, thinking like students and know exactly what it’s like to work through challenging content both individually and with other students at Imperial. By recognising this and enabling staff and students to work together in authentic partnership - the creativity, quality and impact of project outputs is made all the greater and more wide-ranging.

Imperial is not alone with the development of StudentShapers – a number of other universities have similar schemes. However, what we have here is a strong Academic Rep Network which does a great job at providing the College with feedback and ideas on how to improve our educational experience. Now, with StudentShapers, the College can not only listen to feedback from students but also collaborate with students to work on that feedback, continuing to develop education at Imperial.

So what’s in it for you? StudentShapers is a great opportunity to engage with your education in a new way, where your creativity, input and ideas will be just as important as those from anyone else involved in the project. Not every student has the opportunity to apply their skills to shaping education at Imperial – joining a StudentShapers project is a fantastic way to set yourself apart and challenge yourself in a new field. On top of this, all StudentShapers projects have an associated bursary to support the engagement of the student(s) involved in the project.

Most StudentShapers projects run over the summer vacation, but there are a few long term projects that run for longer periods of time. If you are thinking about what to do this summer, take a look at one of the many projects available at The projects vary in both length and content – from redesigning a module or lab through to researching how students interact with digital learning. Check out the featured projects here to get an idea of what to expect!

Featured project: Imperial Visualisations

Over the past few years a project in Physics has been developing a digital visualisations library of science and engineering concepts. These allow the learner to interact with the concept, understand the underlying mathematics and see how they apply to their particular learning. The project is now expanding to other departments and will be implemented more widely in learning of key concepts in subjects- As one recent student partner on the project noted:

“As I had just finished first year myself, I felt I had a good idea of the areas that could be supplemented by a visualisation”

The project continues this year with further StudentShapers opportunities available.

Featured project: Imperial MedSTEP

Last summer staff in the Faculty of Medicine partnered with year 1 and 2 students to develop the ‘Self Tests for Exam Preparation’ platform. By engaging with students the design of the online portal particularly suited the way students study and prepare for exams and how questions could be designed, whilst the staff partner ensured the content was clearly linked to the curriculum and matched to module learning objectives. One of the student partners within the team commented:

“The implementation of weekly group gathering (round table) helped improve my capacity to receive and give criticism in a professional manner, which undoubtedly improved my teamwork skills”

The project continues this year with further StudentShapers opportunities available.