Regional Schools Outreach Program
Evaluations consistently report the success and relevance of the Regional Schools Outreach Program for the schools it works with, along with a demonstrable change in interest towards higher education
The Federation University Australia’s Regional Schools Outreach Program (RSOP) works in partnership with 49 regional western Victorian schools, to address the interplay between geographic and socio-economic factors which result in lower rates of access to higher education of regional and remote students, compared to those from metropolitan areas.
Since 2007, the RSOP has developed and expanded its work with school students and their families, delivering a wide range of in-school, on-campus, and more recently online, activities. These activities are age-specific (working across Years 5-12) and respond to the many barriers facing regional, remote and LSES students in completing secondary school and in accessing higher education. A key feature of the RSOP is the involvement of student ambassadors (currently 50 regional Federation University Australia students) who co-deliver the program, providing real points of contact for information and inspiration.
“I am so glad that I have been in this session today. I thought that … university is only for [really smart] students and it costs lots, but now I know that there are ways that I can go if I want.” – student.
Federation University Australia is the amalgamation of the University of Ballarat and Monash Gippsland campus as of 1st January 2014
The overarching aim of the RSOP is to increase access to higher education among students from regional/ remote and LSES backgrounds in western Victoria.
The RSOP is fully funded by HEPPP (until the end of 2014), as one of 11 HEPPP programs in Australia funded through the first round of the HEPPP Partnership competitive bid process.
“Since the RSOP came and spoke at the school … [university] doesn’t seem as scary as I thought. It would increase my options.” – student.
“I’m more confident to help my daughter now. With our support it will really give her the boost she needs.” – parent.
The RSOP conducts annual internal evaluations to measure reported shifts in students’ aspirations, and the effectiveness of programs and activities. These evaluations consistently report the success and relevance of the RSOP for the schools it works with, along with a demonstrable change in interest towards higher education. Student, teacher and parent evaluations are consistently positive about the RSOP’s impact.
“When no-one in the family has gone [to university] before, it’s really hard. This has helped us and students equally as much.” – parent.
“For many of our students the RSOP demystifies university. It creates a new conversation for them.” – teacher.
The future development and responsiveness of the RSOP will be informed by an external longer-term evaluation currently underway, looking at qualitative data from RSOP students, parents, principals and teachers, and quantitative data on RSOP school students’ applications to higher education, and school retention.
“We had a student who had never contemplated university who now considers it as a possible pathway in the future. If he didn’t experience university through this program he would most likely have lived his entire life without ever setting foot inside one.” – teacher.
There will be further development as outreach activities in the Gippsland region of Victoria come under the banner of the new Federation University Australia in 2014.
This case study is one of a series of 39 presented in our case study publication, Access and Participation in Higher Education: Outreach – Access – Support.