Griffith University – Uni-Reach & Uni-Key
Uni-Reach provides students from Years 6 to 12 with scaffolded activities to foster and develop aspirations, career interests, and pathways to university. For Uni-Reach participants and other equity students who enrol at Griffith University, Uni-Key provides a smooth transition and support for first year students with peer mentoring, academic workshops and social support.
Uni-Reach’s school and community partners in Griffith’s South East Queensland and northern New South Wales catchment include:
- 22 Queensland secondary schools
- 19 Queensland primary schools
- 3 Queensland adult education centres
- 23 New South Wales primary schools
- 4 TAFE institutes in Queensland and New South Wales.
Uni-Key is supported in both the university curricular and co-curricular space by collaborative partnerships in Learning and Teaching, Student Support and Development services, and other elements supporting student success.
Griffith fosters a holistic and whole-of-institution approach to retention and success for students from equity backgrounds, recognising the particular challenges for these cohorts.
Uni-Reach and Uni-Key are complementary programs supporting aspiration, access, participation and success through key points along the student journey. HEPPP has facilitated significant scaling up and increased depth for Uni-Reach with aspiration-building activities, career development and peer mentoring, assisting students to develop their early ideas about capabilities and future careers.
Uni-Key uses paid and trained peer mentors to ease transition into university and improve engagement. The combination of academic and personal co-curricular activities increase learning confidence, create a sense of belonging and improve student success.
Activities and Progress
For over 20 years Uni-Reach has been underpinned by best practice in career development and widening participation. Its strong school partnerships are built on longstanding relationships, and since 2010 have been supported by the Queensland Widening Participation Consortium. The program’s scaffolded activities from Years 6 to 12 feature peer mentors, career practitioners and equity specialists engaging with students, parents, educators and community partners. In-class and on-campus mentor-led programs feature discipline-specific activities to stimulate interest in post-school study and career options. Students are assisted to access university through educational access schemes and equity scholarships which recognise their personal circumstances.
Once enrolled, Uni-Reach students and other equity groups are encouraged to register for Uni-Key. Uni-Key includes a pre-orientation program, regular peer mentoring sessions based on discipline areas, academic skills workshops, online discussion boards and resources, and social activities. These activities are facilitated by experienced, high-achieving peer mentors from similar backgrounds. HEPPP has allowed this program to develop a strong and professional mentor network whose participation in the program not only helps new students to develop a sense of belonging and improved engagement, but contributes to their professional development and graduate attributes.
National research backed by the Queensland Widening Participation Consortium and institutional evaluation has seen strong evidence-based outcomes. A 2011 Australian Learning and Teaching Council award and continuous positive participant and community feedback also confirms program best practice.
In the last five years over 37,480 school students and 1,100 parents have attended Uni-Reach activities. In the last three years 7,350 adult learners have also been engaged. Around 150 mentors support the program annually. Student perceptions regarding the statement ‘I believe it is possible for me to go to university’ generally increase by 25 per cent after participating in Uni-Reach activities. The transformation of mentees in their first year of university into confident learners has been a key focus of Uni-Key. Around 20 per cent of Uni-Key participants have participated in Uni-Reach. In the last five years 450 mentors have participated in Uni-Key, supporting 1,730 mentees.
Qualitative data consistently illustrates high satisfaction for all participants in the mentoring process and data also shows improved retention outcomes. At the end of the first year many mentees subsequently become mentors to ‘pay it forward’.
In 2016 Uni-Reach and Uni-Key marked 20 years, providing a chance to reflect on two decades of program evolution and success. Griffith has a strong commitment to these programs, and the HEPPP has enabled them to develop, expand and grow with the changing needs of prospective and current students. The strong evidence base assists in continuous improvement and innovation in a climate where national funding has been reduced.
Unprecedented registrations for Uni-Reach in 2017 means Griffith will continue to work with partners to develop innovative and engaging programs which reflect student need. Mentee registration for Uni-Key in 2017 has already exceeded the previous year, and Griffith’s trimester model requires continuous innovation to meet the changing needs of new students. Targeted extension activities for adult learners, LGBTIQ+ students, and students with disabilities are part of the expansion. Additional training opportunities for mentors also continue to evolve.
This case study was one of 35 featured in the NCSEHE’s 2017 publication Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program: Seven Years On.