The Bridges to Higher Education Initiative
Written by Catherine O’Donnell, Chair, Bridges to Higher Education
Bridges to Higher Education is a collaborative body consisting of five leading NSW universities:
- Australian Catholic University
- Macquarie University
- University of Sydney
- University of Technology Sydney, and
- University of Western Sydney.
The collaboration’s aim is to improve the participation rate of students from communities under-represented in higher education in NSW.
Bridges was supported by a $21.2 million Commonwealth Government grant and began work in 2012.
In July 2015, the Bridges collaboration presented the final KPMG Report 2011-2014 to the Australian Government at an event held at Rooty Hill High School. The Honourable Senator Marise Payne was the representative of the Australian Government at the event. Prime Minister Tony Abbot also had a presence, by way of video and highlighted the importance of widening participation work and its value now and on future generations of Australians.
An outline of the Bridges work and effect are as follows.
The objectives of Bridges were fourfold:
- Improved student academic preparedness and outcomes
- Increased student awareness of higher education
- Increased student confidence and motivation towards higher education and their ability to access it, and
- Increased school and community capacity.
Working together to achieve these objectives resulted in the following:
- 96 projects
- 314 schools
- 298,980 student contacts
- 28,172 parent contacts
- 15,644 teacher contacts, and
- 60,948 indirect student contacts and 10,926 teacher contacts through our online and television series.
KPMG was commissioned by Bridges to produce an independent report on its work from 2011-2014.
KPMG’s flagstone statement was:
“Bridges achieved its objectives to increase LSES student access to and participation in university. The expected economic return to LSES communities is 54 million dollars in projected earnings and tax revenues as reported in the cost benefit analysis by KPMG. This can be broken down to a six dollar return for every dollar invested in Bridges projects. This translates to a three-fold return to the NSW community-at-large.”
Bridges is indeed proud of this report and its effect. Making a positive difference in communities that are under-represented in higher education brings enormous satisfaction to all involved. As evidenced by the KPMG Report, changing perceptions and attitudes to higher education and education in general, increasing engagement in education, and fostering pathways to higher education makes for deeper community development and progress.
It is now imperative that all involved see that programs and projects of this kind continue to develop and endure so that real educational equity is realised in all Australian communities.