CQUniversity Widening Participation
In 2014, programs were delivered to a total of 155 schools
From 2011–2014, the Central Queensland University Widening Participation team worked with over 20,000 students to promote, raise and support aspirations of school students towards university. Eight Widening Participation programs were delivered to students in Years 5–12 across 155 schools. Student-centred activities included on-campus experiences, aspiration building exercises, demystification and awareness-raising about university, and career development. Programs include Indigenous and primary school specific activities and a mentoring program with Year 11–12 students and current Central Queensland University undergraduate students.
- 155 schools in the Central Queensland Region
- Central Queensland University (CQUniversity)
- East Coast TAFE
- Central Queensland Institute of TAFE (CQIT, now merged with CQUniversity)
- Central Queensland Indigenous Development Ltd (CQID)
- Australian Defence Force (ADF)
- other organisations have also contributed as minor partners.
To increase the participation of under-represented groups in higher education in regional Queensland, the CQUniversity Widening Participation team developed the Engage Education series of programs for school students.
Programs tailored to different age levels encourage dream building and goal setting, while raising aspirations, promoting resilience, and deconstructing perceived barriers to higher education. To achieve this, partnerships with over 155 schools in Central Queensland have been established. Eight programs were developed to reach out to the student bodies that were least represented in higher education participation, covering a region north to Calen, south to Gayndah and west to Winton.
CQUniversity aims to embed programs into the school curriculum via practitioner-delivered programs and teacher professional development. In 2014, programs were delivered to 155 schools. In addition to the keystone programs involving students from Years 8–12, outreach activities include programs solely focused on Indigenous students, and students in their final years of schooling.
One of the lowest participant groups in higher education are those from regional and remote communities. With 52 per cent of the Queensland population residing outside of the major metropolitan area, a Mobile Education Trailer (MET) brings a university experience to students who may not otherwise have the opportunity because of their location. The MET is a classroom on wheels that travels to schools, showcasing university life to students through a virtual tour and highlighting a range of career opportunities through stories from high-profile role models.
Parents, caregivers, teachers and school leaders are included in supporting students during the programs. By involving key people in a student’s life, a sustained change in attitudes is cultivated around higher education, making the decision to study more accepted.
The Engage Education programs are now presented across all year levels (past Year 5) so more students are successively participating in programs and becoming familiarised with university. In early 2014, the survey question ‘I believe it is possible for me to go to university’ showed an increase in agreement of 19 per cent after completion of the program.
Many students mentioned that university was a ‘scary place’ before the program in their feedback. Post-program, students said their fears were allayed once they were able to walk around and see the university for what it was, and the welcoming nature of the university community.
Feedback indicates that students display a marked increase in interest in pursuing higher education. Teachers have commented on increased engagement in the classroom immediately following the Engage Education programs. One teacher provided this feedback after the MET program:
“Many have not really seen university study in their daily and family lives, so the idea that uni is for anyone, anywhere, anytime is really positive for these students.”
Another teacher confirmed the positive impact of involving parents in the program:
“Exposing them to the idea that their child could go to university even if no one they know does.”
Students have also commented on changes in perspective about going on to higher education:
“The experience changed my view about the career I want to pursue.”
“I realised what steps I could take to start my dream career.” – student.
In 2010, a Queensland consortium was formed when eight Queensland universities planned a coordinated approach in response to the Bradley Review. The CQUniversity Widening Participation Strategy is guided by the ‘Widening Participation in Queensland: a coordinated approach’ Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), the outcomes of the 2009 CQUniversity Social Inclusion Symposium and the CQUniversity Student Equity and Social Inclusion Plan.
Quality programs cannot be delivered successfully without the support of academic and professional university staff. Academics provided an insight into program offerings, university procedures and graduate outcomes. Professional staff provided information about access and support for students through their university journey.
Similarly, during specific Engage Education programs, VET staff provided an experience for students who were interested in a more vocational education pathway. In addition to VET partnerships in the Rockhampton region, the ADF provided support and information to students about military pathways after school completion.
These partnerships work because:
- Programs in conjunction with CQID target the specific needs of Indigenous students to encourage and support participation in higher education.
- A high level of trust and understanding has been developed between schools and the Widening Participation practitioners around the importance of the programs and their integration into the busy school curriculum.
- Practitioners support teachers in schools by providing tailored careers programs and resources to complement career education curriculum.
In 2014 over 7,000 Central Queensland students will be exposed to the Engage Education programs. Every year level from 6–12 in cluster schools from across the region will have the opportunity to participate in the final round of current Engage Education programs in 2014.
A successive strategy will leverage off the current Widening Participation strategy and will be developed for long-term sustainability and community engagement. CQUniversity is committed to providing all students with equitable access to higher education regardless of their location or socioeconomic status.
This case study is one of a series of 31 presented in our case study publication, Partnerships in Higher Education.