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Deakin Engagement and Access Program

DEAP continues to have a growing effect on student aspirations for higher education


The Deakin Engagement and Access Program (DEAP) is an outreach program for Year 7 to 12 students at schools in Melbourne, Geelong and Victoria’s Barwon South Western Region. Using a strengths-based approach to building community capacity, DEAP works with partner schools to deliver on-campus and in-school activities. Activities encourage aspiration for post-school education and cover academic enrichment, study skills, and Special Entry Access Scheme (SEAS) workshops.


  • 30 schools across the Geelong and Barwon South Western Regions; and Eastern, Southern and Western Metropolitan Regions of Victoria
  • Barwon Adolescent Task Force
  • The Smith Family – Learning for Life Scholarship
  • Deakin University
    >>ASPIRE program (School of Education)
    >>PASS program
    >>Deakin School News Network (School of Communication and Creative Arts)
    >>Division of Student Administration
    >>Institute of Koorie Education
    >>Deakin International – Northern Bay College.

The communities that DEAP works with include populations experiencing multiple barriers to access to, and participation in, tertiary education. DEAP aims to build on the aspirations of young people to participate in higher education by improving their capacity to achieve academically, developing an understanding of pathways and preparing students for the transition to university. DEAP works with under-represented schools, parents, carers, families and community organisations to encourage and support young people.

In 2014, DEAP reached around 10,000 students, as well as parents and community members. Activities are designed around a strengths-based approach, which has demonstrable benefits for communities experiencing multiple disadvantage. Flexible enough for adaptation to meet different schools’ needs, DEAP activities are tailored to each year level.

Activities include:

  • Parental engagement workshop, for parents of primary and early secondary students. Raises awareness of the benefits of higher education.
  • ‘Building blocks to Uni’ workshop, Year 7. Introduces tertiary education, exploring the connection between school now and students’ futures and pathways. University student ambassadors interact with students and answer questions.
  • Academic enrichment workshop, Year 8. Provides a taste of tertiary study options, delivered by university students or academic staff.
  • Deakin School News Network, Year 9. Deakin staff, local reporters and teachers help students develop video, audio or written news reports, which are then shared with other schools via the Deakin portal. Allows exposure to university staff, students and facilities.
  • Deakin Experience Day, Year 10. Students visit Deakin to learn about studying at university and life on campus – exploring the campus, interacting with university students and experiencing discipline-based workshops.
  • Study skills, Year 11. University students deliver workshops focused on study success, including time management, study skills, examination tips and stress management.
  • Deakin in your careers office, Years 10 to 12. Deakin staff run drop-in sessions in schools, providing information to students about course planning, preferences, pathways, campus life and support, prerequisites and related subjects.
  • SEAS workshop, Year 12. Students learn about the Scheme, which allows for extra consideration during the selection process for students who have experienced educational disadvantage.

DEAP is having a growing effect on student aspirations for higher education. This is evident in the increase in students from partner schools enrolling in university from 2010 to 2013 (15 per cent), and enrolling at Deakin (42 per cent).

Qualitative feedback shows that DEAP activities have a positive impact on students’ engagement with school and interest in post-school study.

“Our students gained confidence after participating in the … workshop. They felt that their strengths and abilities were acknowledged.” – school teacher.

“I learnt that there could be different ways to get into university.” – student.

The partnership works because it was born out of school needs – greater engagement with the university, with requests for academic engagement and a clear articulation of pathways to university for students.

DEAP staff work closely with partner schools to develop and deliver activities for each year level which are flexible and tailored to the school’s priorities. This ensures buy-in from schools, and better engagement with the activities.

Developing an MOU with each partner school has proved useful. This outlines the operational model of the program and the areas of cooperation for both parties, as well as providing guidance for emerging issues.

DEAP is governed by a reference group comprising Deakin staff, school principals and careers advisors, representatives from The Smith Family, a Deakin student ambassador and Deakin researchers. The reference group provides strategic and expert advice on the implementation, continuous improvement and evaluation of DEAP.

As a result of the program’s positive outcomes, school partnerships have developed with greater trust and acknowledgement of the value of DEAP. Communicating the outcomes to schools and community partners, both informally and through an annual report, is crucial to the success of the partnership.

“We appreciated your presence at our school over the last few weeks with Subject Expo and Victorian Tertiary Admissions Centre (VTAC) Information evening. It is wonderful to feel part of such a positive and constructive school/university partnership.” – principal.

In 2015, DEAP will broaden its collaboration with community partners to maximise the reach and impact of activities. Further community-based activities are being developed in collaboration with headspace (National Youth Mental Health Foundation), as well as with the Geelong Cats Community Program and the Victorian BioScience Education Centre. There will also be more focus on other disadvantaged groups. There are plans to work with the National Disability Coordination Officer for the area, to develop disability-related workshops.

Activities will be expanded to target students in Years 3 to 6, as aspirations are influenced early in life by social context and parental attitudes. This will also widen the scope for parental engagement. In 2015, another of Deakin’s HEPPP-funded projects will develop a whole of program evaluation, to assess progress against objectives and enable further program developments.

Image depicting four types of partnership. Inter-sectoral and Social/Community are high...

This case study is one of a series of 31 presented in our case study publication, Partnerships in Higher Education.

Posted 4 February 2015 Posted in Disability, General