Informing Aspirations in Rural Regions
Lead University: University of Tasmania
Lead Researcher: Sue Kilpatrick
Research Team: Sue Kilpatrick, Robin Barnes, Jennifer Heath, Samantha Avitaia, Alex Lovat and Wee-Ching Kong
Year Funded: 2014
Funding Received: $385,276
This project identified features of regional outreach programs that were efficient and effective in increasing aspiration, access and participation for prospective students in low SES regional areas. A project team was recruited across three universities—Tasmania, Adelaide and Wollongong—to scope and develop the project. Programs were modified, trialled and evaluated, and a web resource produced for use in the design of regional outreach programs.
- The project was to identify the features of informing aspiration outreach programs that are cost efficient and effective.
- Key components of this included:
- modifying, trialing and evaluating several programs
- producing a resource of features of rural outreach informing aspiration programs that are cost efficient and effective in increasing access and participation for people living in regional areas.
- A project team was recruited across three universities—Tasmania, Adelaide and Wollongong—to scope and develop the project.
- The programs built into the project included:
- The University of Wollongong’s Rural In2Uni, a university preparation program for Year 12 students
- The University of Adelaide’s Children‘s University in regional South Australia. The University has established a partnership with the Adelaide Zoo and online activities that can be accessed internationally.
- The University of Tasmania’s Warm Connections program which is focused on adults in eight regional communities in Tasmania.
- The project built on several existing initiatives, and two existing programs were modified to incorporate the cost effective and efficient features for regional outreach.
- All three programs were trialled between August 2015 and May 2016 and evaluation data was gathered in May and June 2016 and then analysed.
- The project was established in August 2016 and included tools, vignettes and links to other websites. It also included a downloadable Design and Evaluation Matrix for Outreach (DEMO) spreadsheet and other resources for university outreach programs to regional areas, as well as a comprehensive bibliography of relevant literature.
- All three universities found the project lead to implementable outcomes:
- The University of Wollongong confirmed the formula that school alumni plus academic mentoring plus university familiarisation equals university participation. This formula can be implemented in future outreach programs.
- The University of Tasmania indicated that the project demonstrated the potential for university engagement with local community organisations to be an effective strategy for encouraging and facilitating involvement in higher education for people living in regional areas.
- The University of Adelaide indicated that the online component of the project was successful in providing access to learning activities for Australian rural students.
- All three universities planned to make changes to their outreach programs.
- The project team highlighted four key themes that emerged from the project evaluation that should be taken into consideration when university regional outreach programs are designed:
- People in regional areas do have aspirations towards higher education but their expectations of achieving such aspirations are diminished in the face of barriers, challenges and cultural factors associated with regionality.
- A number of factors of regionality are associated with a lack of information about, and experience of, higher education. Making use of existing local infrastructure, networks and organisations to deliver information and support to students and potential students is an effective approach.
- Interventions should begin early and continue over the long term. Evidence of successful lives being shaped through higher education is more readily available in urban centres than in regional ones, so providing alternatives to established family and community views is a key element that should start early—ideally in the primary school years—and continue into adult life.
- Each project reflected the important role people play in informing the aspirations and expectations of others. Electronic and internet-based information has a significant role to play, but effective university outreach will inevitably involve many people.
Summary prepared by the NCSEHE.