Facilitating an Innovative Future Through Equity: #FIFTE16
On Monday 28 November 2016, the NCSEHE hosted the Facilitating an Innovative Future Through Equity 2016 National Research Forum at the National Press Club in Canberra. The Forum was an exciting opportunity for equity policy makers, researchers and practitioners to come together, share ideas and contribute to shaping the future of equity in Australian higher education.
Master of Ceremonies, Ms Monica Attard OAM, initiatied proceedings by acknowledging and welcoming Ngunnawal Elder Aunty Agnes Shea to the Forum. Aunty Agnes spoke briefly on the history of the Indigenous peoples who have called Canberra home for thousands of years before formally welcoming attendees to Country.
NCSEHE Director Professor Sue Trinidad subsequently welcomed guests to the Forum, explaining the gathering would identify the trends and issues driving equity in higher education and incite ideas to shape equity policy for the benefit of people from disadvantaged backgrounds. Forum attendees each received a copy of a supplementary research publication the NCSEHE developed specifically for the Forum.
— Sally Kift (@KiftSally) November 27, 2016
Professor Trinidad provided guests who may be less familiar with the NCSEHE’s work with a brief overview of the Centre, including its origins at the University of South Australia, its three core programs of activity, and the funding received by the Australian Government Department of Education and Training and Curtin University, making the Centre’s work possible.
Universities Australia Chair and Western Sydney University Vice-Chancellor Professor Barney Glover was scheduled to speak, however was a late apology. Professor Glover recorded a brief message for the Forum, outlining Universities Australia’s support of equity in higher education and reiterating the importance of higher education participation for all, including those who are marginalised.
Emeritus Professor Lesley Parker, Chair of the NCSEHE’s Advisory Committee and the Equity Fellows Programme Selection and Reference Committee, took the stage next to introduce the Equity Fellows Programme and the NCSEHE’s inaugural three Equity Fellows, Dr Nadine Zacharias, Dr Erica Southgate and Dr Cathy Stone. Professor Parker noted that a success of the Australian Government’s Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Programme was the funding of the Equity Fellows Programme, an iniative led and managed by the NCSEHE.
The Equity Fellows Programme facilitates the undertaking of strategic, high-impact, high-profile leadership projects targeted, sector-wide, as improving the access, participation and success in higher education of students from disadvantaged backgrounds. With each funded Fellow receiving up to $215,000 and 12-months to undertake their work, the size of the grant, length of the research period, the highly competitive nature of the nomination process, and the fact that the Fellows work with staff at the Australian Government Department of Education and Training means that the quality of research is high and very practical.
Professor Parker invited Dr Nadine Zacharias to present on her Fellowship work, which has examined the way the Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Programme funds have been utilised by Australia’s 37 public universities. Dr Cathy Stone presented next, discussing the challenges and opportunities associated with online learning for higher education students, and the ways through which universities can better support their online students, many of whom are mature age and the first in their family to undertake higher education. Dr Erica Southgate was the final 2016 Fellow to present, detailing her research into emerging technologies and the ways in which they might be harnessed to provide disadvantaged students with opportunities to which their more privileged peers are privy.
After a brief morning tea, Federal Minister for Education and Training, the Hon. Simon Birmingham, took the stage to congratulate the sector for its work in improving rates of higher education enrolment by students from disadvantaged backgrounds; share his background as the first in his family to attend university; and announce the NCSEHE’s three 2017 Equity Fellows.
With the ’16 @NCSEHE Equity Fellows & pleased to introduce the 3 fellows for ’17 – looking forward to hearing about your projects #FIFTE16 pic.twitter.com/6roOtnqkzb — Simon Birmingham (@Birmo) November 28, 2016
NCSEHE Program Leader and Executive Director of the John Curtin Institute of Public Policy, Professor John Phillimore, presented next, discussing the Centre’s annual Student Equity in Higher Education Research Grants Program. Professor Phillimore advised delegates that the NCSEHE has funded 34 research grants for a total investment of $1.44 million between 2014 and 2016. The Grants Program operates via a competitive nomination process with multi-disciplinary and multi-university collaborations encouraged, with over 200 individual researchers, academics and practitioners having participated since its commencement.
Forum Master of Ceremonies, Ms Monica Attard, introduced the day’s next segment, a Pop-Up Panel focused on The Ten Conversations. Dr Andrew Harvey (La Trobe University), Mr Andrew Norton (Grattan Institute), Professor Marcia Devlin (Federation University Australia), Mr David Fintan (Australian Government Department of Education and Training), Mr Craig Ritchie (Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies), Ms Mary Kelly (Queensland University of Technology), Professor Peter Noonan (Mitchell Institute for Health and Education), Dr Ann Stewart (NCSEHE Adjunct Professor), Ms Belinda Robinson (Universities Australia) and Dr Lin Martin (TEQSA) each led group conversations focused on a different equity issue. At the end of the session, conversation leaders took turns in feeding back to the room between two and five policy ideas their groups had generated.
The day’s final session involved a question and answer segment featuring NCSEHE Advisory Board member and Director (Policy Impact) of the Crawford School of Public Policy at ANU, Professor Bruce Chapman, and Professor of International Higher Education at the UCL Institute of Education, Professor Simon Marginson. Professor Chapman discussed Australia’s income-contingent loan program (HECS) and its inherent equity relative to alternative higher education loan structures. Professor Marginson noted that access to higher education in Australia was quite good, however the country has some way to go in terms of improving its student completion rates.
NCSEHE Director Professor Sue Trinidad brought the day’s proceedings to a close by thanking delegates for their engaged participation and informed recommendations, stating the NCSEHE would provide feedback to the sector in due course as to outcomes derived from the Forum. Professor Trinidad noted that aspects that had become quite apparent throughout the day’s discussions were those of the need for rigorous evaluation and transparency in the way student equity is measured and managed, and the importance of cooperative, coordinated and sustained approaches to equity between higher education institutions.
Facilitating an Innovative Future Through Equity: 2016 National Research Forum Summary (13Mb)