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MAP4U uses institutional and community assets to sustain effective programs designed to increase participation in higher education


Murdoch University’s Aspirations and Pathways for University (MAP4U) program is designed to increase the participation in higher education of under-represented students from the south-west corridor of Perth. Activities include: curriculum and pedagogy initiatives; university–school outreach programs; development of parental support programs and student–teacher pathway planning; development of academic and alternative learning academies within schools, and aligning schools with university pathway programs.


  • Murdoch University
  • Curtin University
  • Challenger Institute of Technology (other TAFE/Colleges)
  • AIME – Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience
  • Department of Education Western Australia
  • Catholic Education Office
  • Association of Independent Schools of Western Australia
  • Rockingham City Council
  • Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA
  • Rockingham Education Development Group
  • Peel Development Commission
  • multiple government, independent and Catholic high schools
  • not-for-profit organisations
    >>Big Picture Education Australia
    >>South Metropolitan Youth Link
    >>Youth Connect.

Within the project region, the percentage of people aged 15 or over with a degree is nine per cent, well below attainment levels for the Greater Perth Area (16.1 per cent) and Australia (15.6 per cent). MAP4U’s aim is to increase the tertiary participation of local students through programs implemented by each school and supported by Murdoch through programmatic research and funding allocations.

The partnership allows schools to take the lead in developing programs that fit their communities’ and students’ learning styles and interests. Grounded methodology underpins this approach, with programs the result of local inquiry rather than ‘off-the-shelf ’ solutions. The overall objective is to develop sustainable programs that will grow the number of eligible, willing and able students to attend university.

MAP4U works with 22 high schools to develop sustainable, school-led programs. These partnerships are guided by school/university compacts (MOUs) linking performance indicators, as designed by key stakeholders (including the schools), with each school’s context. The resulting programs fall into four categories.

1. Building Academic Aspirations and Achievement (BAAA) programs target student, family and community aspiration building. These include the development of in-school academies, pathway planning structures, specific Indigenous mentoring (AIME) and programs designed to develop parents’ capacities to support their child’s future planning.

2. Innovative Curriculum and Pedagogy (ICP) programs include university–school instructional programs that are task-focused and connect students with university mentors that share the same interest and industry professionals. These programs operate for a minimum of six months in order to develop effective relationships between school students and mentors.

3. Big Picture Academies (BPA) are schools within schools that focus learning around student interests, with the support of an advisory teacher. Student interest is developed through connection with family and experts from the relevant industry and eventually exhibited. The involvement of the family and community in student learning develops a strong network for advice and support.

4. University Enabling Programs (UEP) create non-traditional pathways to university. Students who will not get an ATAR, or who achieve a low ATAR, are able to attend enabling courses with a view to further bridging courses or direct entry into undergraduate degrees.

Over 1,000 students have been surveyed and over 30 students and staff interviewed in the first year of MAP4U. Data collection is focused on student perspectives of their educational and occupation futures and how these are influenced by attitudes, experiences and support networks.

Initial survey data self-reported by students indicate a desire for tertiary education with careers predominantly in the professional and managerial domains. Qualitative
feedback from students, staff and principals indicates that program activities are having positive impacts on students’ engagement with school, supported by indicators such as attendance and student behaviour.

School engagement with MAP4U has increased substantially, with more schools developing a wider variety of programs. Major compact development includes: 11 AIME and seven school BAAA compacts, 10 ICP compacts, five BPA compacts, and 16 UEP compacts. All schools participate in minor compacts such as participation in science, arts and university-enabling workshops. Participation in task-centred outreach has grown from approximately 30 students in 2013 to over 200 students in 2014. Data shows a doubling in student participation since MAP4U began.

The challenges facing young people, including Indigenous youth, in the region are understood, and the need for intensive, long-term, labour-intensive interventions is accepted. Interventions that build on existing understandings (local knowledge), networks and local government priorities and strategies are required. One-off short-term interventions or ‘quick fix’ responses to complex and protracted educational and social problems are typically unsuccessful. Compact development between key stakeholders has explicit guiding principles, such as community engagement, social inclusion, and youth participatory action research; and considers the unique nature of young people and the characteristics of the local learning environments.

The partnership works because:

  • development of a compact occurs over multiple meetings during a 6–12 month period, ensuring the guiding principles are considered and consensus and trust is developed between participants
  • an advisory board comprising local stakeholders, academics and leaders in education and community organisations informs the compact development and provides independent feedback
  • milestone reporting is structured and survey data from participants is iterative and ensures processes and outcomes are regularly considered and judged upon agreed key performance indicators.

MAP4U will continue to develop strategic relationships with existing partners and develop new partnerships with schools, TAFE institutions, other universities, government departments (e.g. Centrelink) and not-for-profit community groups. MAP4U is currently working with schools to integrate initiatives into school strategic planning so that the responsibility for program sustainability is transferred to the individual schools.

The demand for MAP4U initiatives has increased with funding restrictions limiting the type and variety of programs state schools can provide. Sourcing funding beyond the current model is a priority for MAP4U to ensure the sustainability and expansion of the program beyond the initial three-year period. Project research will focus on the evaluation of program processes and outcomes and changes in school culture. Key performance indicators linked to ATAR completion, course enrolments and pathway program enrolments will be assessed.

Image depicting four types of partnerships. All four types are highlighted.

This case study is one of a series of 31 presented in our case study publication, Partnerships in Higher Education.

Posted 17 March 2015 Posted in General, Indigenous, Low SES