Influencing the Key Influencers: Strategies and Resources for Engagement in Regional Australia
Lead University: University of Western Australia
Lead Researcher: Judy Skene
Research Team: Judy Skene, Elisa McGowan, Louise Pollard
Year Funded: 2014
Funding Received: $347,650
A pilot program was conducted to improve access to higher education for regional and remote students from low SES backgrounds by designing and implementing innovative strategies and resources to engage and inform their key influencers: parents; teachers; and community leaders. Key activities included school visits and workshops (including career development), community events and expos, and the establishment of relationships with community organisations.
- The project was to improve access to higher education for regional and remote students from low socioeconomic status (SES) backgrounds by designing and implementing innovative strategies and resources to engage and inform their key influencers: parents; teachers; and community leaders.
- There were three key sets of activities in developing the project:
- establishing relationships with community organisations in Perth, Geraldton and Carnarvon, including: the Western Australian Centre for Rural Health (WACRH); City of Greater Geraldton; Durack Institute of Technology; Midwest Joblink; Aboriginal Workforce Development Centre; Mingenew Lions; Shire of Carnarvon; and the Grains Research and Development Corporation
- school visits to partner schools in the Mid West region in conjunction with Aspire UWA (University of Western Australia) core activities:
- 1244 students participated in core Aspire UWA workshops while an additional 592 students participated in career development workshops
- preparation and participation in six community events and expos in the Mid West region.
- The project successfully developed a range of resources and strategies to engage the targeted audience. Key achievements included:
- Resources were developed for the classroom:
- These activities were well received by students and teachers alike with students taking university more seriously and working harder to get there.
- Many of the activities have since been embedded in the core program of activities and adapted for use across the whole Aspire UWA program. The Year 12 activity developed through this project for the Mid West region had so far engaged 392 students in Perth partner schools at the time of report submission.
- Resources have been well received cross the sector:
- As a result of various collaborations established through the project, at the time of report submission, three organisations had approached the University to utilise the tools and information contained in the resources.
- Community engagement was positive:
- The strategy developed to engage key influencers at community events was well received and was adapted for use across the broader Aspire UWA program.
- Institutional change occurred:
- Collaboration with the UWA Careers Centre enriched the resources developed and led to professional development opportunities for Aspire UWA staff. The success of this collaboration was instrumental in Aspire UWA securing external funds to expand to the Peel region, forming partnerships with 11 schools and extending the collaboration with the Careers Centre.
- The project was evaluated to assess its contribution to improving the participation of students from disadvantaged backgrounds in higher education:
- Regular internal meetings for activity refinement were undertaken resulting in continual improvement and refinement of the resources and activities.
- The Aspire UWA Evaluation Framework was adopted to assess the outcomes:Six hundred and eighty-six students from 17 schools across the Mid West and Gascoyne regions completed a survey:
- Forty-five per cent were First-in-Family
- Fifty-eight per cent indicated they would like to go to university after school
- Sixty-one per cent indicated that their family were their key influencers in deciding to go to university (followed by teachers at 31 per cent and friends at 25 per cent).
- An external evaluation of the project, conducted by Ann Jardine, Director of AimHigh at the University of New South Wales, concluded that the project was a success across key criteria used to evaluate the project.
- The project provided a self-informing pathway to support students from disadvantaged backgrounds in regional areas to aspire to and reach university. Lessons from the project may assist other universities to support regional students across Australia.
Summary prepared by the NCSEHE.