Connecting with our 'third university spaces'

Dr Domonic Conroy, Head of Collaborative Partnerships for the School of Social Sciences and Professions, on the joy of meeting students from London Met's collaborative partnerships.

Date: 28 June 2022

Meeting a new group of students is always exciting. There is the you, the them, and the unique chemistry that comes from engaging with and understanding something about each other. Partnership students study at their own home based institution (whether as 'campus' or 'online' courses) that are accredited via London Metropolitan University. As someone who works in collaborative partnerships, I would typically meet students through site visits. But May 2022 presented an opportunity to connect with one of our partnership students in person. Entrepreneurial spirit on the student's part made this possible - a recent graduate from one of our European partnerships getting in touch to meet up with someone from London Met and to see our institution close up. 

With a longstanding teaching background in distance learning settings, I was quite familiar with the idea of studying without actually visiting a space built from bricks and mortar. However, meeting Wietse* was fantastic partly because it was an opportunity to connect with a partnership student (or a student studying within a 'third space' learning setting, as some scholars have referred to educational partnerships).

I took Wietse and his wife around our university. I was proud to show him our excellent teaching facilities, our attractive and well-designed communal garden area, and some of the characterful corridors in the institution that have struck me while working at London Met (the corridor with a photo of ex-London Met student Vic Reeves wearing graduation clothing for example). Showing Wietse our top floor view of North London including Hampstead Heath and Emirates Stadium, and some time for photos as momentos (pictured above), brought the visit to a close, and Wietse and his wife left the campus to sample London's cultural attractions.

During conversation Wietse and I shared accounts of our different pathways into higher education; it seemed that we had connections there that transcended geography, nationality or life histories. For me, meeting Wietse put my role as School Partnerships Lead into perspective, helping to show me that students are always much more than data on a spreadsheet or numerical outcomes in terms of progress and performance. Each student, on our campuses and in our collaborative partnerships, is a living, breathing, life history full of ideas, energy and often long-cherished plans that we can, collaboratively, help to realise.

*Real name amended to protect student identity