National collaboration leads to vision for student equity: The Best Chance For All
Type of Publication: Professional commentary
Lead Organisation: NCSEHE
Year Published: 2019
Lead Researcher: Nadine Zacharias
A nationwide initiative by the NCSEHE, led by Dr Nadine Zacharias and Mr Matt Brett has informed fundamental principles for shaping an equitable higher education system moving into the next decade.
The collaborative process yielded a core policy statement: The Best Chance for All.
Advancing Australia’s future depends on all its people, whoever and wherever they are, being enabled to successfully engage in beneficial and lifelong learning.
Contributing to: A fair, democratic, prosperous, and enterprising nation; reconciliation with Indigenous Australia; and cultural, civic and intellectual life.
Achieved by: An inclusively designed system with multiple entry and exit points; proactive removal of barriers to participation; and tailored support where needed.
Accountable through: An integrated approach to measuring success at institutional and national levels to align performance with policy objectives.
Over 150 stakeholders directly shaped the policy statement and key recommendations to achieve a more equitable higher education system. Stakeholder consultation commenced with a workshop conducted with sector experts. A discussion paper formed a reference point for written submissions and public roundtables held in every state and territory and regional centres.
Recommendations for future policy, practice and research were directed to the Australian Government Department of Education and Training (DET) and higher education institutions.
“A comprehensive and evidence-based life cycle model for lifelong learning should be developed, and positioned within the rapidly-changing landscape of education and employment,” Dr Zacharias said.
“On an institutional level, a nuanced understanding of diverse student cohorts would inform the design of intentional, integrated and inclusive processes, curricula, and support systems.”
The report also recommended partnerships and collaborations between institutions and disadvantaged communities be enabled and coordinated as part of a holistic approach to student equity.
“Equitable education is central to nation building and, as such, should be affirmed and supported through relevant government policy,” Mr Brett said.
“Consistent with a nation-building perspective, it is argued that any national indicators of ‘success’ should be aligned with sector-wide goals, based on a broad consultative process and be relevant to localised need and national policy.”
The report argues that the scope of current evaluations should be broadened. Success should be understood through a more sophisticated lens, integrating quantitative and qualitative indicators spanning pre-enrolment to beyond graduation and sensitive to the changing characteristics of learners and learning.
Project Consultant Professor Sally Kift emphasised the importance of the work to Australia’s national future, productivity and social cohesion.
“The Best Chance for All speaks to the essence of an Australian fair go for all people,” Professor Kift said.
“Access to a quality education should not depend on who your parents are, where you went to school or where you live. Lifelong learning is now essential for all to prosper in the face of Industry 4.0 disruption to traditional labour markets.”
NCSEHE Director Professor Sue Trinidad said while significant advances have been made toward achieving an equitable higher education system in Australia, the sector needs to anticipate, and respond to, future challenges and opportunities.
“The NCSEHE is committed to building upon an expanding research base, and providing platforms to share good practice principles and professional expertise,” Professor Trinidad said.
“This initiative has given equal voice to a broad spectrum of stakeholders whose valuable insights will positively advance student equity in the long term.”
The full report, The Best Chance for All: Student equity 2030 — A long-term strategic vision for student equity in higher education is accessible here.