NCSEHE 2014-15 Annual Report
The NCSEHE generates and disseminates news and contemporary evidence and research in student equity in higher education. The impact of this proactivity is a more informed and better-equipped sector, able to implement evidence-based programs, policies, and practice, and engage in continuous improvement, enhancing the lives of students from disadvantaged backgrounds. In the first two years of our two and a half year funding cycle, the NCSEHE connected practitioners, researchers and stakeholders, achieving a key objective given to us by the Australian Government. Our partners and collaborators recognise the value of the NCSEHE as the key national organisation with the ability to bring together a range of stakeholders to engage in evidence-based progress to achieve student equity in higher education.
Our outreach and engagement metrics go some way in reflecting the impact the NCSEHE has made in a short period of time. Between 1 June 2014 and 31 May 2015, our website, ncsehe.edu.au, received 90,512 visits from 44,153 unique visitors. Our eNews subscribers number 642, and our Twitter followers exceed 530 people and organisations, many from overseas. Research reports and subsequent media attention are used to promote the NCSEHE’s purpose of building our impact and reputation. Our collaborators include government agencies, universities and other research facilities, equity program managers and individual practitioners both across Australia and internationally.
As outlined in last year’s Annual Report, Progress Report 3 for the Australian Government Department of Education and Training, the NCSEHE’s Operational and Research Business Plan, and a number of Director’s Reports provided to our Advisory Board, the NCSEHE has, with a staff of only 3.7 equivalent full-time employees:
- continued its strong performance, meeting all KPIs required to honour its contract with the Australian Government;
- in 2014, attracted additional research funding for five new projects totalling over $520,000, which includes funding to develop the Equity Performance Framework for Australian Higher Education;
- in 2015, attracted additional research funding for $1.72 million via the Australian Government’s HEPP-funded National Priorities Pool programme;
- enhanced the NCSEHE’s visibility and brand recognition with internal and external stakeholders, including awareness of the Centre nationally and internationally;
- published and disseminated new research findings;
- provided supervision for two high-quality Doctoral students currently completing their studies full-time within the NCSEHE; and
- continued to collaborate with internal and external research staff and visiting fellows, along with important stakeholders.
As a part of the NCSEHE’s Conditions of Grant, the Centre funded 12 external competitive research grants in 2014, and another 12 for research to be conducted in 2015. This represents a financial commitment to further inter-sectoral research in excess of $1.08 million over the Centre’s two and a half year contract. In brief, in 2014, our research grants attracted submissions from 133 investigators from 34 institutions. A total of $741,328 was committed to funding the 2014 grants. In 2015, the Centre received 44 proposals from 138 researchers and practitioners, nationally and internationally, from 19 institutions. A total of $342,820 was subsequently committed.
At the end of 2014, the NCSEHE submitted six Expressions of Interest for the Australian Government’s HEPP-funded $9.5 million National Priorities Pool. Of the six submissions, the Centre was successful in securing funding for three projects. Two of these projects will be completed by the end of 2015: the Enabling courses for SES student groups project, the IT solutions project, and the Social marketing strategy to low-SES communities project (led by QUT and involving the NCSEHE and EPHEA as key reference group members and partners) will be completed by July 2016. An additional significant project gained by the NCSEHE, the Equity Fellows Programme, is worth $1.54 million between 2015 and 2017. The Equity Fellows Programme is an exciting initiative that will fund six National Fellows over the course of the funding, three in January 2016 and three in January 2017. The Fellows will work on equity-based research projects in collaboration with the Australian Government Department of Education and Training, the NCSEHE and selected institutions.
Further NCSEHE outputs generated during the 2014/15 reporting period are detailed in the Research Program and Outreach and Engagement sections of this Annual Report and include:
- 28 publications, including the case study publication, Partnerships in Higher Education. Another four papers are forthcoming and two are under review.
- eight published research and opinion pieces for the online website, The Conversation
- three online editorials
- 16 keynote and conference paper presentations
- 12 public forums, each of which attracts on average 40 guests, for a total of just under 500 total participants nation-wide, and
- 23 eNews editions, available on our website
The degree and range of activity and intervention within the higher education sector makes strategic program evaluation and communication of the findings essential to capacity building. The NCSEHE has brought its unique capabilities in evaluation of equity programs to generate information and evidence to stimulate discussion and improve equity outcomes.
Finally, the development of the NCSEHE’s five-year Strategic Plan allowed the team to reflect on its activities and outputs and refocus for the future. Based on feedback from our valued stakeholders, we know the NCSEHE’s most significant contribution to date has been that of connecting and engaging the equity workforce (spanning the research, policy and practice domains), and equipping practitioners with the skills necessary to engage in ‘evidence-translation’ activities. The strategic objectives for the NCSEHE into the future include:
- conducting research and building a research community to produce high quality, national research and publications;
- improving outcomes at the program, institutional and national level;
- contributing to public discussion and providing evidence to inform government policy in the area of disadvantage in higher education;
- providing equity practitioners with resources, knowledge, best practice exemplars, informed advice and the evaluation of programs; and
- creating national and international linkages, partnerships and collaborations to build capacity to improve participation and success in higher education.
The National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education is building a more detailed understanding of the unique needs of individual equity groups, the impact of which will result in the development and delivery of better-tailored programs and policies to meet the needs of these groups. The NCSEHE continues to build evidence to support systemic change in the promotion of student equity in higher education. In this way, the Centre seeks to fulfil its aim of improving higher education participation and success for marginalised and disadvantaged people.
Professor Sue Trinidad
National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education