Research Database

U@Uni Summer School Program: Implementing Summer Schools as a Successful School Outreach Strategy

Type of Publication: Research report

Lead Organisation: University of Technology Sydney

Year Published: 2014

Lead Researcher: Lisa Aitken

Report written by Lisa Aitken (UTS) and presented at the 2013 Equity Practitioners in Higher Education Australiasia (EPHEA) Conference held at UWA


Students from low socio economic backgrounds are significantly under represented in higher education in Australia. The Longitudinal Survey of Australian Youth (LSAY) research program reported that socio-emotional factors were important in encouraging young people to continue studying, and identified a strong link between student attitudes and stated intention to enter higher education and eventual participation in higher education (Hillman, 2010). Factors predicting university study ‘are achievement at age 15 years, sex, socioeconomic status, intention to pursue a degree and attitude towards school.’ (Lonsdale & Anderson, 2012, p.15). Outreach programs, access schemes and school partnerships between tertiary education institutions and schools are vital in engaging, informing and motivating high school students to participate in higher education.

Consistent international research indicates that school and community partnerships provide positive outcomes for students. A recent report by Lonsdale & Anderson (2012, p. 2) it is noted that strong school-community connections can facilitate a variety of benefits such as ‘social, intellectual, financial, psychological and performance’. Schools that engage with community enhance the school culture and prepare students for the twenty first century. Furthermore schools that engage with community have been shown to be ‘highly effective’ and provide opportunities for both teachers and students (Lonsdale & Anderson, 2012).

Universities in the U.K, Australia and America have engaged in schools outreach programs with low socio economic schools for over a decade. Through evaluation and research, effective characteristics have identified. In a study of effective precollege programs in America, almost all case studies identified the building of selfefficacy and students belief that they can succeed as a major characteristic in effective programs. A U.S based program called ‘Foundation for a College Education’ (FCE) commented that they are most successful working with students and parents to “make sure that they have the information and the confidence to be effective advocates for themselves” (Swail et al. 2012, p.viii). Bandurra (2005) believes that self-efficacy affects the way in which students engage in tasks and this is a vital part of schools outreach.

In Australia, the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (NCSEHE) has undertaken research into outreach practices, identifying 10 characteristics of successful programs. These characteristics include: people rich programs; offers of financial support; long term and sustained (not just one off interventions); offer an enhanced curriculum; are cohort based; include campus visits and are research driven (Bowes et al. 2013). These characteristics indicate that universities need to create programs that bring together teachers, academics and students on campus in long-term projects.

A vital aspect of effective outreach is having ‘people rich’ programs. The National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) have found that students who receive mentoring and work with students from a similar age group had a higher estimated probability of enrolling in university. They found that mentoring raised aspiration and assisted in removing barriers perceived in higher education (Curtis et al. 2012). Effective outreach is multi layered involving university spaces, engaging mentors and collaborative relationships.

Read more: U@Uni Summer School Program Research Report

Aitken, L. (2013), “U@Uni Summer School Program: Implementing Summer Schools as a Successful School Outreach Strategy.” University of Technology, Sydney, Australia.

Posted 11 February 2014