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What do we mean by community? For students, this might be their immediate learning community – other students on their course, or with whom they share a particular interest or characteristic (perhaps a postgraduate or international student community). But they will interact with the local community outside of their college or university as well: some will be studying locally to their homes and families so might be embedded within the local community and others will be developing relationships as learners who are living near their institutions for part of the year and are part of another community, in a different part of the UK or a different country, at other times. Some may be remote from their institution, studying at a distance, which gives another experience of being part of a learning community.


Partnerships go two ways, and members of a local community will also have a relationship with a college or university and its learners, whether that is because an institution is local or because there are learners within the community but at a distance from their institution.


When they are successful, community partnerships can be enormously enriching for everyone, but what does that look like and how can community partnerships be built and strengthened for the enhancement of the student learning experience?


This project aims to explore how these different communities interact and enrich each other and how individuals move within and between them. Over this year, we will explore communities through a range of outputs.


  • Short, filmed case studies showcasing student-community partnerships. 
  • Photo gallery illustrating the Learner Communities and the diverse ways in which learners interact with their communities.
  • Guidelines to support student organisations in building relationships with their local communities. 
  • Presentation at the Enhancement Themes Conference in June 2023.

Project outcomes

Learner Communities: The photography output

The student learning experience has always extended beyond the classroom. In recent years, however, the spaces in which students live and learn have expanded. The pandemic significantly increased the use of hybrid and distance learning courses; housing markets in Scotland have driven students to stay further from their campuses; and a nationwide push to increase the number of international students in the country has all meant that the idea of a traditional “journey to campus” is no longer an accurate representation of students today.

To understand how students can learn in partnership with their community, it is crucial to understand what these learning spaces look like and the communities our diverse student bodies inhabit. This artistic output, first shown at QAA Scotland’s International Enhancement Conference in June 2023, aims to demonstrate to educators the experience of diverse student groups learning in Scotland’s communities and better equip higher education policymakers to respond to the current student experience.

Exploring Community Partnerships in Learning, Teaching and Assessment: Conference workshop

This workshop presentation explored how students, students’ associations and their institutions engage with the community outside their college or university, focusing on learning, teaching and assessment spaces. When they are successful, community partnerships can be enormously enriching for everyone, but what does that look like, and how can community partnerships be built and strengthened to enhance the student learning experience? What are the existing examples of practice in Scotland where institutions are working in partnership with the community on learning and teaching? What does ‘community’ mean in the context of hybrid and online courses?

Exploring Community Partnerships in Learning, Teaching and Assessment

Publication date: 22 Jun 2023

In June 2023, this presentation was delivered at QAA Scotland's International Enhancement Conference. It was led and facilitated by steering group members, supported participants in exploring these questions and considering how we can best create and sustain supportive and effective community partnerships that benefit all parties.


Guidelines for Developing Community Partnerships

There are many opportunities for colleges, universities and student groups to work in partnership with their local communities and, where these are successful, the experience can be enriching for everyone concerned.  

These guidelines, curated by Oluwafunmilola Akinoso following a workshop with members of the Student-led Steering Group 2023, provide some key considerations to support the development of successful community partnerships. 

Developing community partnerships: Guidelines for student groups and institutions in Scotland’s colleges and universities

Publication date: 22 May 2023