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Flinders University – The River Journey


Flinders University provides a suite of interventions for prospective university students from low socioeconomic (SES) backgrounds, raising aspiration and enabling access for participation in higher education.

The River Journey aims to encourage students to explore and map their education and career futures using the metaphor of a winding river, recognising that life journeys do not always progress in a straight line.

Students learn, from upper primary to senior secondary, to consider the benefit of higher education in achieving their career objectives and life goals.


  • The Department of Education and Child Development
  • Catholic Education South Australia
  • Association of Independent Schools South Australia
  • The Smith Family.


The River Journey was developed after discussion and feedback from primary and secondary educators in low SES areas. This revealed a gap in understanding about what universities were, how they could be accessed and how participation in higher education could benefit their students.

Flinders River Journey student quote

The program is supported financially through Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program (HEPPP) Partnership allocations and was developed to:

  • assist in improving the understanding and awareness of higher education as a viable post-school option
  • assist in pre-tertiary achievement, either at school or via an alternative pathway, to enable consideration for access to higher education.

Activities and Progress:

The River Journey commenced in 2012 with the participation of a single primary school in an Adelaide outer southern suburb involving 20 students. The majority of students involved in the pilot had limited knowledge of university or professional career pathways.

The initial presentation aimed to trigger interest in higher education and possible opportunities for further study. From learnings in the pilot, the River Journey has evolved to include age/year level-specific interventions including:

  • Encounter (Year 7) — Triggers students’ interest in higher education and possible opportunities.
  • Explorer (Year 8) — Helps students remain motivated toward achieving their education/career goals.
  • Investigator (Year 9) — Exposes students to new or unknown options for the future and supports their interest.
  • Navigator (Year 10) — Examines careers, attainability and employment prospects.
  • Senior Presentation (Years 11 and 12) — Examines the modern career landscape, employability and individual directions beyond secondary school.

The River Journey program includes interactive on-campus experiences that enable students to experience life as a university student and learn about courses and access opportunities.

From simple beginnings, the River Journey has evolved to become a comprehensive support program focusing on careers and higher education participation for students from low SES and/or other disadvantaged backgrounds from Year 7 to Year 12. The River Journey has grown from one school and 20 students in 2012 to 52 schools and 5,603 students in 2016.


Since 2012, the River Journey has assisted 9,969 students from low SES backgrounds to learn more about careers and university participation, understand access pathways to university, and consider participation in higher education as an achievable post-school option. Feedback received from school staff involved in the project suggests that students who participate are more engaged in their schooling, talk openly about opportunities to go to university and are generally more motivated for success. This is particularly the case for engagements with upper primary to middle secondary students.

River Journey senior secondary presentations commenced in 2014. A sample of eight participating secondary schools indicated increases between seven per cent and 10 per cent in applications to Flinders University for 2015.

Sustainable Impacts:

The Flinders University River Journey program has enabled many disadvantaged students in primary and secondary education across South Australia to consider university participation as an achievable post-school option.

River Journey has proven to be effective, as illustrated in data suggesting increased applications to Flinders University by students from low SES schools and education communities. This benefit is supported by educators and students as evident through increased participation in the program.

Currently the River Journey program relies on HEPPP funding allocations, adding to the comprehensive nature of the program across multiple year levels. Future incarnations of the program may include the voluntary participation of current university students sharing their ‘River Journey’ with prospective university students.

This case study was one of 35 featured in the NCSEHE’s 2017 publication Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program: Seven Years On.

Posted 19 February 2018 Posted in Disability, General, Indigenous, International, Low SES, Regional