NCSEHE 2016-17 Annual Report
This fourth Annual Report outlines the activities of the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (NCSEHE) that continue to illustrate the breadth and depth of the ongoing initiatives undertaken to link with stakeholders — including academic researchers, policy analysts in government and education, and equity practitioners. In these endeavours we act as a key catalyst for connecting stakeholders and acquiring and disseminating the latest research and information to build a more equitable higher education system in Australia.
While the majority of our effort remains focused on the Australian education sector, we also engage directly with respected overseas research organisations, enabling us to incorporate news on international best practice though our reports, communications and presentations at international events. As a result of our collaborations, we have been invited to host the World Access to Higher Education Day in Perth, Australia in 2018.
We value our links with all of Australia’s universities and related educational institutions and we look forward to continuing to inform programs and policies in ways that make them more efficient and effective in maximising the engagement of equity students in higher education. We thank our stakeholders in being an important part of the ACIL Allen external evaluation of the NCSEHE undertaken during 2016, which has resulted in a new Strategic Plan development and direction.
One of the key functions of the NCSEHE is identifying gaps in the sector’s knowledge of equity in higher education and funding research projects that shape progressive change in higher education. The Centre has continued to build a growing reputation for evidence-based research and policy in three major areas:
- Over the last four years the Centre has funded 47 external competitive research grants, committing $1,945,733 to further inter-sectoral research, resulting in numerous policy recommendations to government, and communications publications that inform stakeholders in research, policy and practice.
- The Equity Fellows Program has seen a total of six Equity Fellows—three for each of 2016 and 2017— undertake major research projects, in collaboration with other institutions with expertise in equity, with Fellows working for part of their project within the Australian Government Department of Education and Training (DET). The outcome has been worldclass quality research projects of practical value that are shaping public policy in equity, while also providing leadership within the sector.
- The Centre has won, or participated in, a number of research projects funded by the Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program (HEPPP). Collaboration with Stakeholders The NCSEHE has a strong ethos in networking and collaboration with stakeholders to develop policies and programs that will contribute towards a better and fairer education system in Australia.
We continue to forge, and strengthen, links wherever possible to achieve this and have engaged in a number of initiatives:
- In November 2016 the Centre organised a Facilitating an Innovative Future Through Equity forum, held at the National Press Club in Canberra. The forum developed the Ten Conversations which examined key issues in equity and the solutions
for some of the challenges identified. Many of Australia’s leading equity specialists spoke at the Forum, accompanied by some prominent international experts on equity. The Minister for Education and Training gave an encouraging welcome address to participants about the importance of equity in our higher education system and how the NCSEHE and the Equity Fellows program have contributed to better understanding of critical issues.
- The Centre has also held strategic research exchange meetings with a number of centres and institutes across Australia to better coordinate and explore research issues. These have included: the Centre of Excellence for Equity in Higher Education, the Melbourne Centre for the Study of Higher Education, La Trobe University’s Centre for Higher Education Equity and Diversity Research, and the Mitchell Institute at Victoria University.
- The Centre also organised 13 events in 2017 including workshops, presentations and webinars.
- A new series of workshops, Building Legacy and Capacity, has been launched to synthesise, codify and disseminate findings from research and practice. Two workshops have been completed in 2017 and two more are planned for 2018, plus a suite of resources and webinars presented by workshop participants.
Communication plays a vital role in connecting and informing stakeholders and contributing to strategic objectives in promoting equity in higher education. Over the past 18 months, the communications function has continued to show some impressive gains in key indicators, with stakeholders responding positively to publications and other information initiatives. The following are indicators of performance measured between June and December 2016, against January to December 2017.
- The average number of website visits rose from 7,436 to 14,012 per month.
- Seven NCSEHE funded research reports published in the 2016 reporting period, and 13 during 2017, with 10,311 downloads of the 2017 reports.
- Followers of NCSEHE on Twitter rose from 917 in December 2016 to 1,236 in December 2017, with the number of interactions with Centre tweets increasing from an average of 14,047 to 25,661 per month.
- Subscribers to the monthly eNews increased from 1,358 in December 2016 to 1,648 in December 2017, with unique opens and average clicks both rising.
- Four events were conducted in the second half of 2016, and 13 during 2017.
- Mass media coverage was broadly successful including notable Centre publicity in The Australian, The Age, the Sydney Morning Herald, Triple J Sydney, 9News.com.au and Campus Morning Mail.
Key publications have included:
- Informing Policy and Practice II and III – the second and third annual summaries of NCSEHE-sponsored research projects
- Facilitating Student Equity in Australian Higher Education
- Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program: Seven Years On — a case study of 35 initiatives funded under the HEPPP
- three online NCSEHE Focus reports offering insights and recommendations on three equity groups — Disability; Low SES; and Regional and Remote
- Building Legacy and Capacity Workshop One: Summary of Outcomes and Recommendations — a good practice guide and recommendations informed by the workshop and webinar
- NCSEHE National Equity Fellows Forum: Synthesis of Group Discussion — a collation of the directions for student equity in higher education raised by delegates at the 2017 NCSEHE National Equity Fellows Forum
- eleven monthly newsletters, Equity Insights, which inform subscribers of developments in research, policy and practice, as well as events and items of professional interest
- Briefing Note: Equity Student Participation in Australian Higher Education: 2011 to 2016.
Conferences and Presentations
The Centre’s professional staff have attended numerous conferences and seminars, giving keynote presentations at high-profile national events, including:
- The Equity Practitioners in Higher Education Australasia (EPHEA) Conference at Deakin University
- The Australian Association for Research in Education (AARE) Conference in Fremantle.
In total, NCSEHE staff gave presentations at 25 external conferences and events in 2016 and 48 in 2017. The Centre also hosted 9 public events, delivered by NCSEHE staff and visiting national and international experts. Each presentation attracted on average 34 guests for a total of over 300 participants.
While the activities of the Centre feed into policymakers’ deliberations through many communications and reports, one formal process in which education policy is influenced is through submissions to public inquiries. The Centre has made submissions to the following inquiries:
- Education Evidence Base Inquiry (Australian Government Productivity Commission).
- ACIL Allen Consulting HEPPP Review.
- The Transparency of the University Admissions Process (Higher Education Standards Panel).
- Enabling Courses for SES Student Groups (Higher Education Standards Panel).
- Recommendations for the Rural and Regional Enterprise Scholarships (Australian Government Department of Education and Training).
- Feedback on Recommendations for the Rural and Regional Enterprise Scholarships (Australian Government Department of Education and Training).
- Improving Retention, Completion and Success in Higher Education (Higher Education Standards Panel).
- Possible Key Elements of HEPPP Guidelines (Student Inclusion – Indigenous and Equity Team, Australian Government Department of Education and Training).
- Independent Review into Regional, Rural and Remote Education (Australian Government Department of Education and Training).
- The Review of Identified Equity Groups (Institute for Social Science Research).
Notable policy implications directly arising from NCSEHE funded research were illustrated in the DET 2017 data release, Selected Higher Education Statistics 2016. A new measure of equity was integrated based on a student’s first address when entering higher education; this was as a direct result of research undertaken by Buly Cardak and Matt Brett under the 2016 NCSEHE Research Grants Program.
Evaluation, Performance and Future Development
The Centre has worked hard to continually improve its efficiency and effectiveness in meeting its objectives. To this end, there were two significant developments over the last year:
- An independent report, Evaluation of the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education, was produced by ACIL Allen Consulting to evaluate the appropriateness, effectiveness and efficiency of the Centre and its activities. The key findings were positive and welcomed by the Centre, which had already begun to act on areas identified in the report and will implement other recommendations to further strengthen the Centre.
- A new Strategic Plan has been developed for the NCSEHE which will support the strengthening of institutional practices to achieve three objectives: promote leadership and innovation in the equity sector; strengthen the evidence base by informing research directions; and collaborate with stakeholders to be at the centre of public policy dialogue.
These initiatives will frame the continued and significant positive contribution that the NCSEHE makes to shaping a better higher education system in Australia.
Building a More Equitable Higher Education System
The NCSEHE is better placed than ever to inform research, policy and practice in order to improve higher education access, participation and success for marginalised and disadvantaged people. As part of this mission, the Centre will continue to assist in closing the loop between equity policy, research and practice through its three core programs of Equity Policy, Evaluation Program and Research Program. Increasingly, the activities of the Centre are likely to be focused on the changing nature of equity considerations as the worlds of work and education rapidly evolve. Equity is a driver for a better economy and society and the Centre looks forward with optimism in contributing to building a fairer Australia.
Professor Sue Trinidad
National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education
National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education: Annual Report (June 2016 to December 2017)