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Developing a national framework for supporting rigorous equity program evaluation

A major conclusion from the Critical Interventions Framework recently prepared by Drs Ryan Naylor, Chi Baik, and Professor Richard James from the University of Melbourne was the need for increased rigour and detail in equity program evaluation. Dr Naylor, funded via one of twelve NCSEHE research grants, will address this gap by developing resources to support the effectiveness of university equity programs.

Dr Naylor says:

“We simply don’t know if government or institutional money is being well spent on [equity] programs, despite the best intentions of all involved; it is currently difficult to directly compare kindred equity programs, and evaluation is often piecemeal or an afterthought. What is needed is a tool to address this gap, to enable the sector to have a rigorous discussion about what works and what doesn’t.

In the face of a likely reduction in funding for equity projects given the federal budgetary constraints, ensuring that equity funding results in optimal outcomes is important. We must ensure that our equity programs are cost effective, that they are targeted at the right groups, have a rigorous and evidence-based design that is likely to be effective, and are properly evaluated. These issues currently confront every institution in the Australian higher education sector; my project will provide resources to begin this task.”

Dr Naylor’s project, which is expected to conclude in January 2015, will result in a resource that will enable equity practitioners and executives to develop the equity participation programs offered by an institution to maximise the outcomes for students from equity groups. The heuristic will be practical, useful at both the strategic and the program level, and will help create rigorously evaluated, evidence-based and effectively targeted equity programs.

Dr Ryan Naylor is an Early Career Researcher and lecturer in the Centre for the Study of Higher Education at the University of Melbourne. In 2013, he was the first author on a project commissioned by DIICCSRTE (now the Australian Government Department of Education) to develop a Critical Interventions Framework for addressing equity in higher education. This project was delivered on time and on-budget, and was well received by participants at the 2013 National Equity Forum. Dr Naylor is also a participant in the OLT-commissioned project Academic Workforce 2020: Framing a National Agenda for Professionalising University Teaching. He has previously been the recipient of two University Learning and Teaching Initiatives Grants and will soon begin a University Early Career Researcher grant examining equity program evaluation through the lens of positioning theory.

Posted 6 May 2014 Posted in General