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I received a very heavy package last week that contained the culmination of about two years hard slog. The Student Engagement Handbook is an edited volume of 40 chapters by authors from around the world focussed, unsurprisingly, on the many facets and features of student engagement in higher education.

Liz Dunne, my colleague from the University of Exeter, and I have been working on this for the past two years but for both of us it feels like a culmination of many years of research into and involvement with student engagement in higher education. We were approached by the publishers (Emerald) to write a book on student engagement and we didn’t really have to think twice about it. At first we thought we would write the entire thing together, perhaps focussing on 8 or 9 areas of interest and expertise to us both. However, we soon found ourselves coming up with lists of 45 to 50 facets of student engagement that could be covered and thought we would push our luck with the publishers and propose a more comprehensive volume of edited chapters by many authors. We were pleasantly surprised when they offered their full support and told us to get on with it (in the nicest possible way).

The next concern was to approach all the potential chapter authors we had assumed would be interested in writing for us. We had a list of 60 or so who could author or co-author about 35 chapters and so we started to get in touch. We were trying to be realistic, so were expecting only about 20 or so to respond and be able to give up the time needed, but again we were pleasantly surprised by the number of yeses we received. Indeed both Liz and I are extremely grateful to the authors for their hard work and patience, working through various drafts, responding to our comments and accepting editorial decisions with good grace.

Liz and I were determined from the outset that we wanted to produce something that would be of practical use to people working in higher education anywhere in the world. We have authors from Universities around the world, writing about academic practice that can be applied anywhere, in any context.

For me, it has been a very challenging learning experience. I haven’t done any academic writing since I was at University, and that was nothing like this! But I’ve found the whole thing very fulfilling, especially finally having the opportunity to put some of my own thoughts, experiences and theories to paper and have them seriously challenged by peers.

There are some themes and issues falling out from the book that I’m hoping to blog about over the next few weeks. But for those of you who just can’t wait, get on to amazon straight away, it’s available in hardback or kindle versions, I’m sure the University library could do with a couple on their shelves.

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