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2016 Equity Fellows

The National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education is pleased to announce Equity Fellowships for 2016 have been awarded to Dr Nadine Zacharias, at Deakin University, and Dr Erica Southgate and Dr Cathy Stone at the University of Newcastle, Australia.

The NCSEHE’s three Equity Fellows will undertake strategic, high-impact, high‐profile leadership projects targeted, sector-wide, at improving the access, participation and success in higher education of students from disadvantaged backgrounds. The Fellows will each spend a period of time working in and with the Australian Government Department of Education and Training, facilitating mutually beneficial engagement between the Department and the higher education sector.

Dr Zacharias’ Fellowship aims to understand how Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Programme (HEPPP) was operationalised by universities, whether the HEPPP is enabling systemic change across all universities, and to what extent the vision of a more equitable Australian higher education system was realised through the national equity program.

Dr Zacharias explained that while Australia is internationally regarded as a leader in improving access to Higher Education, differences in approach and results between universities have become apparent.

“The national HEPPP program has given us five years of data, which will show us what is working and what is not,” Dr Zacharias said.

“As part of the Fellowship, I will also develop an evidence-based understanding of the most successful approaches and establish whether the program is enabling systemic change at the institutional level, as intended.”

Dr Southgate will explore how schools and universities can use new technologies to connect disadvantaged youth interested in professions such as law, medicine and engineering.
As a scholar within the University of Newcastle’s School of Education, Dr Southgate has already produced successful digital resources designed to help students develop literacy and study skills, including free apps such as Uni Tune In, Apostrophe Power and Sentence Hero.

Dr Stone will investigate student retention and success in open-entry online learning at Australian universities, Open Universities Australia and the Open University in the UK to identify approaches and strategies that engage and support online students and help them to persist and succeed in their studies. Dr Stone’s background in social work includes her role in the University of Newcastle’s School of Humanities and Social Science, as well as counselling and professional management roles in the higher education sector. Her academic and professional background has provided detailed insight into the education experience for diverse student groups, including mature aged and first-in-family students.

The Equity Fellows have direct influence and impact on equity in the higher education sector through the identification of equity issues that affect the Australian higher education system, leadership in promoting, enhancing and developing good practice in improving access, participation and success in higher education, and a collaborative arrangement for the ongoing exchange of knowledge between the sector and government.

NCSEHE Director, Professor Sue Trinidad, congratulated the inaugural Fellows.

“Higher education is key to people from disadvantaged backgrounds achieving their potential,” Professor Trinidad said.

“While progress has been made, there’s more to be done.”

“I congratulate our 2016 Fellows, commend their commitment to this important area of work, and look forward to the contributions their research will make to better outcomes for equity students.”


Read the final reports, published in 2017:

Zacharias, N. (2017). The Australian student Equity Programme and institutional change: Paradigm shift or business as usual? The National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (NCSEHE). Curtin University: Perth.

Stone, C. (2017) Opportunity through Online Learning: Improving student access, participation and success in higher education. The National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (NCSEHE). Curtin University: Perth.

Southgate, Erica. 2017. Fair connection to professional careers: Understanding social difference and disadvantage, institutional dynamics and technological opportunities. Perth: National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education.

Southgate, Erica., Shamus. P. Smith, and Hayden Cheers. 2016. Immersed in the future: A roadmap of existing and emerging technology for career exploration. Report Series Number 3. Newcastle: DICE Research. Retrieved from http://dice.newcastle.edu.au/DRS_3_2016.pdf

Posted 5 February 2016 Posted in General