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NCSEHE 2017 Equity Fellows update

The Equity Fellows Program supports three Fellows each year to undertake strategic, high-impact, high-profile leadership projects targeted, sector-wide, at improving the access, participation and success in higher education of students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Research projects conducted by the NCSEHE 2017 Equity Fellows are making significant progress, having already demonstrated sector-wide impact, both nationally and internationally. We are delighted to present an update on their recent activities, and the upcoming milestones for their projects:

James Smith

“After a series of institutional visits in Finland, Norway and Canada throughout July 2017, I have continued my research into strengthening evaluation in Indigenous higher education contexts in Australia. I have completed 15 interviews with policymakers working in Indigenous or equity higher education spaces in Australia; and a further 17 interviews with Indigenous scholars and thinkers working in Indigenous higher education contexts. Interviews are ongoing, but due to be completed by October 2017.

James Smith

In late August, I was fortunate to participate in an institutional visit to the University of Newcastle hosted by the Centre of Excellence for Equity in Higher Education (CEEHE), which included engagement with staff and students from CEEHE, Centre for English Language and Foundation Studies and the Wollotuka Institute.

Throughout August and September I have also presented preliminary findings from my Equity Fellowship to audiences at the Northern Institute ( in Darwin, CEEHE in Newcastle and the Australasian Evaluation Society International Conference in Canberra.

I was also invited to attend the inaugural Universities Australia Indigenous Strategy 2017-2020 – Reporting Working Party meeting in Canberra in mid-September. It is envisaged key learnings from my fellowship will help inform the proposed UA Indigenous Strategy reporting processes over the coming years. This Working Party meeting was also attended by key representatives from the Australian Government and the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Higher Education Consortium.

I met with the Expert Project Advisory Group on 22nd September 2017 to review recent progress and to plan for the remaining four months of my Equity Fellowship.”

Read more about James’s Equity Fellowship project, Strengthening Evaluation Within Indigenous Higher Education Contexts in Australia.


Louise Pollard

“I held my first Advisory Board meeting on 7 April 2017 and participated in an Equity Fellowship study tour with Associate Fellows Melinda Mann and Dr Nicole Crawford visiting Canadian universities and participating in the 2017 Canadian Association of College and University Student Services (CACUSS) Conference.

Louise Pollard

I am currently conducting case study visits to three institutions across Australia, interviewing staff and students about the experiences of remote students at each institution, and have greatly appreciated the support I have received by all. Concurrently, I am investigating data received from the Department of Social Services on the various financial support mechanisms some remote students can access.

On 16 October 2017, I will host an Equity Fellowship Symposium, ‘The Clever Country: The importance of investing in regional and remote students‘ at The University of Western Australia. This symposium will bring together the collective knowledge and experience of a panel of experts from across Australia to discuss ways to support regional and remote students to succeed in higher education. Discussion will explore the value of investing in higher education from the perspective of the individual, community and the university sector.”

Read more about Louise’s Equity Fellowship project, Remote Student University Success: An Analysis of Policy and Practice.


Matt Brett

“An NCSEHE Equity Fellowship provides an opportunity to focus on a discrete nationally significant project over the course of a single year.

Nine months have been spent exploring the interactions of student equity with performance and accountability systems in higher education. The research has involved analysis of Australian higher education policy frameworks, novel analysis of higher education statistics, and stakeholder surveys and interviews. The research has highlighted an intricate, broadly distributed, and deeply embedded commitment to student equity that permeates performance and accountability systems in higher education.

There is no crisis of accountability in Australian higher education. However, there is an evident dilution of focus as one progresses from the espoused importance of student equity in higher education policy and institutional strategy, to the implementation of policy and strategy, and, evaluation of system and institutional performance. This gap between near universal acceptance of student equity as an important feature of higher education, and prominence of student equity in key accountability systems presents opportunities for recalibrating and strengthening accountability systems.

The final stages of the Fellowship will be focused on describing these opportunities with greater clarity, disseminating research findings through a range of conferences and seminars, and working with key stakeholders to translate opportunities into actionable outcomes.

Recent fellowship activities have included my second Advisory Board meeting on Friday 19 May; presenting Education for Remote & Regional Australia at the UWA Social Impact Festival on 26 July; and ‘From Masseurs to Mass Participation – Reasonable Adjustments and Inherent Requirements in Historical Context‘ at the ATEND Inherent Requirements Symposium in June.”

Read more about Matt’s Equity Fellowship project, Equity, Performance and Accountability.


Read the final reports from the inaugural 2016 Equity Fellows, published during 2017:

Zacharias, Nadine. 2017. The Australian student Equity Programme and institutional change: Paradigm shift or business as usual? Perth: The National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (NCSEHE). 

Stone, Cathy. 2017. Opportunity through Online Learning: Improving student access, participation and success in higher education. Perth: The National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (NCSEHE). 

Southgate, Erica. 2017. Fair connection to professional careers: Understanding social difference and disadvantage, institutional dynamics and technological opportunities. Perth: The National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (NCSEHE).

Posted 10 November 2017 Posted in Disability, Editorial, General, Indigenous, Low SES, Regional, rural and remote