Despite students being a primary stakeholder in the oversight of their education, historically there have been limited opportunities for students to actively participate in university governance.  

The acknowledgement of student unions and their members as official stakeholders was built out of decades of activism on student priorities.1 Students called for advancements on issues like tuition hikes and curriculum vitality, eventually leading to institutions making structural changes for student representative positions. As student involvement in university decision-making has increased over time, the emphasis is now on defining what meaningful participation looks like. 

Not only does student engagement benefit the student community, it’s also crucial for the university itself. When students are included in decision-making, the governance becomes more informed, responsive, and relevant to those it serves.2 Student perspectives are necessary to properly shape policies and practices, often determining the longevity of their effectiveness.2 Bridging the gap between the university administration and the campus community encourages an accountable and transparent system that builds trust.1   

Meaningful participation is more than tokenistic representation: it’s the active engagement of all relevant stakeholders. This means creating spaces where decision-makers have access to information, opportunities to provide input, and enough influence to shape contributions.3 Ensuring that all stakeholders are not only provided a position, but are supported to participate, is integral to a functional governance system.4  

The vast majority of responsibility for building and maintaining proper representation falls onto the institution, but the Union continues to strive to ensure students can be active participants in campus decision-making.  

In 2011, the Union established the Student Caucus program to provide a pathway for students interested in serving on behalf of their community in TRU’s governance structure. Last year the Student’s Union selected over seventy-five students to participate on various university committees that have student representatives built into their membership.

Additionally, the Union has been calling for adequate student representation on the TRU Senate through Academocracy. The current Senate structure is based on a college system and includes only four student positions. The goal of Academocracy is to transition to a research university Senate model that would ensure a broader and more inclusive representation of our campus. 

Building systems that promote effective, community-focused decisions takes careful consideration and collaborative input to ensure their functionality. To learn how you can participate in or support these spaces, please connect with us via the contact information below.  

For more information:    

Shariyer Chowdhury
University Affairs Member at Large  

Sierra Rae
University Affairs Coordinator  

  1. Muhsin, S Martono et al. (October 2019) The Relationship of Good University Governance and Student Satisfaction. International Journal of Higher Education, Vol 9.  
  2. Shahabul, H., Muthanna, et al. (2022) Student participation in university administration: factors, approaches and impact. Tertiary Education Management Vol 28, 81–99.  
  3. Temple J.B. (Aug 2009) Promoting Inclusive (and Dialogic) Leadership in Higher Education Institutions. Tertiary Education Management Vol 15, 277-289.   
  4. Planas A, Soler P et al. (May 2013) Student Participation in University Governance: The opinions of professors and students. Studies in Higher Education, Vol 34, 571-583.