THE SaPGL Matrix

There are two important interrelated questions, which need to be considered and openly discussed in the early stages of staff-student partnerships (Matthews 2017).

  1. Who will engage in SaPGL?

This question is about the breadth of engagement, or representativeness of the student cohort. It is represented as the horizontal axis in the SaPGL Matrix

   2. What form will the partnership practice take?

This second question is about the depth of engagement, the roles students assumes, and how much agency they enact in the partnership. It is represented in the vertical axis in the Matrix.


The SaPGL Matrix was developed and refined through critical participatory action research with 13 staff-student partnership teams in four Australian universities.

The purpose is to stimulate discussion and reflection among all members of the partnership as they develop a shared understanding and agreement about who will be included and what their roles will be.

Reflection on these ‘who’ and ‘how’ questions is critical to the formation of ethical partnerships. ‘Students as partners’ projects which do not take a reflexive approach to diversity and inclusion tend to shore up the cultural and social capital of the more privileged students (Matthews 2017). Partnerships which value the contributions of students from all cultural-linguistic backgrounds, and foster trusting respectful relationships between all partners provide rich opportunities for global learning (Green 2018).

There is no ‘right’ answer to the questions of who the partners should be, and which roles they should play. Partnership teams need to discern the level of engagement right for their context (Bovill & Bulley, 2011). In some contexts, inviting a selection of students as informants or consultants to provide critical feedback to lecturers as the minimal form of ‘partnership’ may be the most pragmatic course of action to take. (For example, where there are large very diverse classes, inexperienced teaching teams and/or a lack of institutional support). In other contexts, it is possible to engage all students as partners with equal responsibility for the global learning curriculum.