Doing student voice work in higher education: An exploration of the value of participatory methods


School of Education, University of Southampton, Highfield, Southampton, SO17 1BJ, UK. E-mail:


This paper will review the existing student voice work in higher education and critique its current weaknesses, particularly in relation to conceptualisations of and commitments to participation, transformation and empowerment. It will be argued that the employment of participatory methods in higher education student voice work offers a way to address these weaknesses. The potential of participatory methods is illustrated and discussed using two case examples drawn from one higher education institution in the UK. The first case provides an illustration of what is called ‘transformation of the familiar’, while the second case provides an illustration of empowerment, through recognising the importance of what is not voiced by students, as much as what is voiced. It is concluded that whilst a participatory approach to student voice work in higher education has potential, further work is required in order to evaluate the long-term impact of projects that use such methods.