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LEAP Macquarie Mentoring Program

Mentors work with students from Years 9–12 to bridge the gap between high school and higher education


The LEAP Macquarie Mentoring program is a needs-based mentoring program that supports high school students from refugee backgrounds in their investigation of higher education and higher education pathways. The program was set up in 2011 by Macquarie University as a widening participation initiative in partnership with the NSW Department of Education and Communities (DEC), and high schools in western and southwestern Sydney. The program recognises the need for ongoing support of people from refugee and humanitarian entrant backgrounds to successfully engage in higher education.

The program runs over an 11 week period each university semester and recruits Macquarie University students, some of whom are from refugee backgrounds themselves, to be Macquarie Mentors. Mentors work with students from Years 9–12 to bridge the gap between high school and higher education, and to support the students to take ownership of their education. As the mentor program is a needs- based program, areas of focus are student-led with the aim of supporting their engagement in education, developing confidence and relevant cultural capital, and broadening their understanding of the Australian higher education system and all the options within it.

The program aims to support students to engage in school life, progress in their studies and to plan their transition to higher education. The program specifically aims to:

  1. develop confidence, resilience and self-belief
  2. raise aspirations towards further study
  3. develop social and cultural capital to navigate the tertiary education system
  4. develop study and research skills
  5. develop an awareness of school and university cultures and expectations in the Australian context, and
  6. increase understanding of tertiary education pathways.

HEPPP Funding
The LEAP Macquarie Mentoring program is largely funded by HEPPP with support from DEC for teacher relief. Funding goes towards training mentors, transporting them to and from the high schools each week, and hosting all the students and their teachers at Macquarie University for one day a semester to experience university life.

Due to the needs-based approach that the program takes to mentoring, the impact and outcomes of the program can differ from student to student, and the long-term effect of the program may only be visible years after a student has participated. However, the LEAP Macquarie Mentoring program uses multiple evaluation techniques to record indicators of raised student confidence, increased engagement in education and motivation to continue education.

In recent evaluations:

  • 77% of students said their belief in their ability to complete higher education had changed positively
  • 44% said they had gained a lot of knowledge about higher education
  • 34% said they had gained skills that would help them in the future, and
  • 34% said that they had a greater understanding of their future options.

Three students from semester 1, 2011 are now known to be enrolled in university, citing the program as an influence.

“Before I participated in this program, I was thinking about dropping out of school, thinking about what’s the use of going to school if I know that I won’t have enough ATAR to get into uni. Now I know there are many other programs to help me get into uni.” – participating high school student.

The Future
The LEAP Macquarie Mentoring program is responding to requests to expand to new schools, supporting more students from refugee backgrounds to investigate the options that exist for them in higher education, develop their confidence, and engage in their education.

Illustration of three circles, each labelled as either outreach, access, or support, with the outreach and access circles filled with colour

This case study is one of a series of 39 presented in our case study publication, Access and Participation in Higher Education: Outreach – Access – Support.

Posted 15 January 2014 Posted in Culturally and linguistically diverse, General