News & Events

NCSEHE Forum: World Access to Higher Education Day #WAHED2018

Event Details
Tim Winton Lecture Theatre - Curtin University, Bentley, Western Australia
28 November 2018

World Access to Higher Education Day (WAHED) Australia

The NCSEHE hosted the Australian WAHED hub conference at Curtin University, Perth, attracting 138 delegates.

The event was opened by Curtin University Provost Professor John Cordery and Minister The Hon. Dan Tehan MP (via video link).

Student Voice: Individual student stories and panel discussion Chaired By Professor Sally Kift

The “student voice” was a central theme of the WAHED Australia conference. Nine inspirational students told their stories of overcoming barriers to higher education, through individual presentations and a student panel Chaired by Professor Sally Kift. We were privileged to host this group, selected from the online NCSEHE My Story — Student Voice series.

Conference delegates shared in celebrating the students’ personal and academic achievements despite challenges presented by backgrounds including low socioeconomic status (SES), Indigenous, care-leaver, mature age, regional and remote, and disability. Encompassing the full spectrum of the student journey—from first year to post-graduation and employment—they offered unique insights into the motivations, barriers, and support needs of individuals facing complex, and often compounding, disadvantage.

A feature display of life-sized cut outs complemented the Student Voice element of the conference. This visual representation of the diverse cohort was highly commended by delegates who were able to read excerpts from each student’s personal story, accompanying their likeness. Connections were forged between sector professionals and students during a meet-and-greet session, opening mutually-beneficial conversations on student equity in higher education.

Keynote — Professor Glenn Withers

Keynote speaker Professor Glenn Withers (Australian National University and the University of New South Wales Canberra) spoke on Universities: Who needs them? Value and Benefit of Australian Universities. Professor Withers helped to establish the Productivity Commission, the Crawford School, Australia and New Zealand School of Government (ANZSOG) and was founding CEO of Universities Australia.

His speech addressed common areas of criticism for Australian universities, and the countervailing considerations for each, while commending university innovation in the face of funding challenges. Professor Withers concluded with comments on what can be done better—with a particular focus on equity students— providing a summary of policy recommendations.

2018 Research Fellowship — Associate Professor Maria Raciti

Emeritus Professor Lesley Parker delivered an overview of the NCSEHE Equity Fellows Program, before introducing 2018 NCSEHE Research Fellow Associate Professor Maria Raciti. Associate Professor Raciti shared the findings from her project, How the perceived risks of going to university influence the decision by people from low SES backgrounds to participate in Australian higher education.

Making career decisions is becoming increasingly complex and fraught with risk. Perceived risks are WAHED SUMMARY Events Speakers Professor Glenn Withers, Mr Matt Brett, Dr Nadine Zacharias and Ms Tahlia Danks. 29 endemic in the decision to go to university and Maria’s Fellowship drilled down into the role of perceived risks in light of the contemporary career context where traditional ways of planning careers no longer work. With more occupations to choose from than ever before, young people experience confusion or even decision paralysis. With predictions that jobs in the future are more likely to need a university education, there is a need to accelerate efforts to increase participation of people from low SES backgrounds to prevent the further deepening of social inequalities.

The project provided practical ways to translate project insights into impact for both upstream stakeholders (for example, government) and downstream stakeholders (for example, universities and schools). The Fellowship report will be published by the NCSEHE in 2019.

Student Equity 2030 — The Best Chance for All 

Mr Matt Brett (2017 NCSEHE Equity Fellow and 2018/19 Visiting Fellow) and Dr Nadine Zacharias (NCSEHE 2017/18 Senior Research Fellow) presented A Vision for Student Equity 2030.

During 2017–18 the NCSEHE conducted a series of workshops and webinars through the Building Legacy and Capacity Project — a strategic initiative to further extend the Centre’s capacity in synthesising, codifying and disseminating learnings from student equity research and practice to inform future initiatives, studies and policy.

The final workshop in the Building Legacy and Capacity series brought together researchers, practitioners, policymakers and policy influencers to advance a national conversation on Equity 2030 — a long-term strategic vision for student equity in higher education. The 2018 Student Equity 2030 Discussion Paper built upon the existing work of the NCSEHE and the Building Legacy and Capacity Project, outlining key concepts, challenges and contradictions associated with achieving student equity in higher education in an era of near universal participation. Written responses were complemented by 10 roundtable discussions held in major Australian capital cities and regional centres.

A final report, The Best Chance for All, informed by feedback from written submissions and face-to-face workshops, will soon be published by the NCSEHE.

Live cross to launch WAHED UK

WAHED Australia concluded with a live cross to Dr Graeme Atherton and Professor Helen Higson to launch the UK event at Aston University, Birmingham.

We were able to share the Australian program and outcomes, as well as outlining the diverse work of the NCSEHE.

Social reception and SPERA Conference welcome

The evening social event was the launch of the first of the 2017 NCSEHE Research Grants Program reports, People seeking asylum in Australia: Access and support in higher education, and the official opening of the 2018 Society for the Society for the Provision of Education in Rural Australia (SPERA) Conference.

Event program:

WAHED Program

PowerPoint presentation:

Minister’s Address: The Hon. Dan Tehan MP:

Keynote transcript — Professor Glenn Withers, Australian National University (ANU) and the University of New South Wales (UNSW) Canberra:

Universities: Who needs them? Value and Benefit of Australian Universities

Recorded address by Dr Graeme Atherton — Director, National Education Opportunities Network (supplementary to the live cross to WAHED Beyond Borders UK Conference):

View the international #WAHED2018 Twitter feed 


World Access to Higher Education Day (WAHED), led by the National Education Opportunities Network (NEON), and supported by NCUK, networked multiple conferences globally to focus the attention of stakeholders from across the world on the issues of access and diversity in higher education.

The NCSEHE was proud to represent Australia for the inaugural WAHED, positioning Australian advances in student equity research, policy and practice within an international context.

World Access to Higher Education Day had the following objectives:

  • engage stakeholders from across the public and private sector in equitable access to higher education
  • act as a global platform that can add value to work being undertaken at local level, and also can lever in greater support for equitable access work at national and international level
  • establish goals to orientate action to make access to higher education equitable across the world
  • launch a new global Higher Education Access & Diversity consortium
  • articulate ‘access to higher education’ as including the completion of quality higher education and progression into post-higher education study/work for learners from underrepresented groups.

WAHED components

  • A network of international conferences occurring on WAHED 2018 — Worldwide organisations/institutions will host events on WAHED 2018.
  • Worldwide ‘access & diversity slam’ — Individual countries will showcase innovative access and diversity activities in their own countries.
  • Global student voices campaign — Bringing together the voices of students from diverse communities and their stories from across the world.
  • Launch of the Global Higher Education Access & Diversity Consortium — It is envisaged such a consortium will focus in particular on building the evidence base and using this to advocate for change and driving forward innovation in practice.


Posted 11 June 2018