James Cook University – Get Into Uni
James Cook University (JCU)’s Get Into Uni program is a major initiative in regional and remote school and community engagement. It works with targeted primary and secondary schools and community hubs to stimulate interest in, and awareness of, tertiary study.
It aims to alleviate potential barriers to access and participation faced by target low socioeconomic status (SES) and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander groups. Get Into Uni delivers in-community and on-campus activities across a region that spans 500,000 square kilometres of North and Far North Queensland, including island communities in the Torres Strait, Cape York Peninsula and the east coast.
The program aims to ensure all students in identified low SES schools, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in identified low SES communities and hubs, have access to tertiary awareness and preparation. The program supports JCU’s strategic intent through meaningful engagement that embraces the diversity of communities we serve, creating opportunities and enduring benefits for our region. The program is aligned to JCU’s Access, Participation and Success Plan in particular supporting the delivery of activities to address pre-entry and access barriers.
Activities and Progress
Over time we have responded to the needs of our communities, learned from experience and adapted to changing resource parameters to evolve our program offering. Currently the program features in-school (Study Explorer), and on-campus (Campus Explorer) engagements.
Campus Explorer schedules visits to JCU’s Cairns and Townsville campuses for groups of students from Year 6 to Year 10 and engages them in hands-on activities with academic staff, while providing insight into life as a university student.
A team of student ambassadors known as the School Squad delivers a range of engagement activities to students, under the 5As framework developed at JCU to:
- raise Aspirations
- raise Awareness
- raise Achievement
- explore Affordability
- promote action for Access.
Study Explorer provides opportunities for the School Squad and JCU officers to visit regional and remote schools and communities to deliver activities, share authentic experiences and answer questions.
During 2016, Study Explorer engaged 3,883 students from 29 participating schools while Campus Explorer attracted 3,149 students from 60 schools; 12 of these school groups travelled over 100 km to participate. Students report high levels of satisfaction with the program, particularly interaction with the School Squad members who share authentic experiences and describe their university journeys.
Meeting the needs of regional and remote schools by taking university to them has allowed Get into Uni to influence many students who otherwise would not have the opportunity to engage with tertiary education. In 2016, 22 per cent of this cohort identified as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and 44 per cent were the first in their family to consider tertiary study. The impact of the program is best illustrated by student feedback, which indicates that in 2016, 73 per cent of students considered university an option prior to participation in activities, however after participating in the engagement program this increased to 81 per cent.
Building sustainable relationships and delivering a meaningful service over a geographic area twice the size of Victoria is a resource-intensive activity. In recent years, funding constraints have limited the scope of engagement and necessitated an adaption of the delivery model.
Solid relationships have been established with the target secondary schools and these will continue to be nurtured in the future while investing in building links with target primary schools to facilitate engagement with younger students, their parents and the community.
The program is Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program (HEPPP) funded; however, collaboration with academic teams and other university initiatives, including a partnership with a local secondary school to create a virtual Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) academy for students in Years 5 to 9, contributes to cost efficiency and greater reach.
This case study was one of 35 featured in the NCSEHE’s 2017 publication Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program: Seven Years On.