Equity Fellows Program
Lead University: Curtin University
Lead Researcher: Sue Trinidad
Research Team: Sue Trindad, James Smith, Louise Pollard, Cathy Stone, Matt Brett, Nadine Zacharias and Erica Southgate
Year Funded: 2014
Funding Received: $1,500,000
Supported by the NCSEHE, six Equity Fellows undertook strategic projects targeted, sector-wide, at improving the access, participation and success in higher education for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. The Equity Fellows built leadership in the equity sector and stronger relations with government; collaborated with stakeholders; set new standards in research and evaluation; and raised the profile of the importance of widening participation in higher education.
- The Equity Fellows Program was managed by the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (NCSEHE).
- The Program supported six Fellows during 2016 and 2017 to undertake strategic, high-impact, high‐profile leadership projects targeted, sector-wide, at improving the access, participation and success in higher education for students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
- Each Equity Fellow spent a period of time working in, and with, the Australian Government Department of Education (DET) in Canberra, facilitating mutually beneficial engagement between the DET and the sector as a way of exchange and leadership opportunities.
- Bringing together higher education researchers with higher education policymakers and administrators was an innovative and creative feature of the Equity Fellowships, enabling both parties to learn from each other and to share different perspectives on student equity.
- The Equity Fellows Program was a National Priorities Pool project, funded until the end of 2017 by the DET under the Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program.
- Two cohorts of three Fellows, in each of 2016 and 2017, have had direct influence and impact on equity in the higher education sector.
- The six Fellows and their Fellowships were:
- Nadine Zacharias; Deakin University (2016) — The Australian Student Equity Program and Institutional Change: Paradigm Shift or Business as Usual?
- Cathy Stone; The University of Newcastle (2016) — Opportunity Through Online Learning: Improving Student Access, Participation and Success in Higher Education
- Erica Southgate; The University of Newcastle (2016) — Fair Connection to Professional Careers: Understanding Social Difference and Disadvantage, Institutional Dynamics and Technological Opportunities
- Matthew Brett; La Trobe University (2017) — Equity, Performance and Accountability
- Louise Pollard; The University of Western Australia (2017) — Remote Student University Success: An Analysis of Policy and Practice
- James Smith; Charles Darwin University (2017) — Strengthening Evaluation in Indigenous Higher Education Contexts in Australia
- Key findings and outputs from the Fellowships included:
- identification of equity issues in the Australian higher education system, and the development and facilitation of approaches to address these issues
- sector-wide leadership in promoting, enhancing and developing good practice in improving access, participation and success in higher education for students from disadvantaged backgrounds
- development of a collaborative arrangement for the ongoing exchange of knowledge between the sector and the DET to inform the delivery of government programs and policy concerned with equity in higher education.
- Equity Fellowship projects have also:
- raised the profile in higher education institutions of efforts to widen participation among students from disadvantaged backgrounds
- established and built on national and international partnerships and collaboration in widening participation.
- The Equity Fellows Program has played a fundamental role in developing and delivering the NCSEHE’s three primary objectives: strengthening the evidence base by informing research directions; collaborating with stakeholders to be at the centre of public policy dialogue; and promoting leadership and innovation in the equity sector.
- The Program has played into these considerations on five levels:
- building leadership in the equity sector
- building stronger relations with government
- increasing collaboration
- setting new and higher standards in research and evaluation
- raising the profile of the importance of widening participation in higher education.
Summary prepared by the NCSEHE.