The pilot program has shown the potential UNI4YOU could achieve in the long term not only for individuals, but also in communities where UNI4YOU is delivered
Uni4You, introduced in Raymond Terrace/Karuah (Hunter Region, NSW) in 2013, has since expanded to include Cessnock and North Lakes (Central Coast, NSW). It provides activities to support the engagement of economically and geographically marginalised adults in the University of Newcastle’s (UON) enabling program, Open Foundation. Educational aspiration is stimulated through pre-enrolment study and information sessions in accessible locations within the communities. Weekly study meetings encourage students’ successful completion of Open Foundation.
- University of Newcastle
>>Family Action Centre (FAC), Faculty of Health and Medicine
>>AIM HIGH Program
>>English Language and Foundation Studies (ELFS)
- The Smith Family
- Irrawang Public School
- Thou Walla Family Centre Schools and Community Centre, Irrawang Public School
- Cessnock East Public School
- San Remo Neighbourhood Centre.
The Hunter region experiences high levels of nonengagement in tertiary education by adults (20 years and above), often due to a lack of awareness about access pathways and understanding of the support available to enable successful completion. Many individuals in these communities have disengaged with study early and experienced long-term unemployment, yet demonstrate intelligence and aspiration for change.
Uni4You uses the extensive outreach experience of the FAC to provide information and support to adults that either may have never identified tertiary study as an option for them, or have previously attempted tertiary study but not succeeded due to socio-environmental factors.
By combining the expertise of three of UON’s units (Equity and Diversity through the AIM HIGH Program, ELFS and the FAC), information and innovative practice is shared, enabling the wrap-around support that is required for successful engagement and completion of study by marginalised adults.
Uni4You offers an integrated program of support and activities to further encourage and support students, which complement the traditional activities offered to enabling program students.
Program coordinators, who have extensive experience in community and family work, engage with schools, early childhood centres, child and family services and similar organisations to promote and encourage potential participants to engage in Open Foundation via online study or on campus. Intensive outreach prepares students for Open Foundation through activities such as home visits, pre-enrolment information, and study preparation sessions including academic writing and mathematics refreshers.
Once enrolled, intensive support from the program coordinators continues and weekly tutorial support sessions facilitated by university-appointed tutors commence. The peer support enabled from these sessions has been a program highlight to date. The program coordinators also continue to promote and develop pathways and relationships in the communities to engage with greater numbers of potential students.
Childcare, text books, wifi and computers are tangible resources supplied by the program partners that many students have accessed.
Measures are now also being taken to ensure an inclusive, whole-of-family approach to educating families in ways to support the student and engage in the change process around study. The program represents an important opportunity for adults from marginalised communities to gain assistance in making decisions regarding tertiary study, and in maintaining participation at university.
Uni4You has been offered in the communities of Raymond Terrace/Karuah from mid-2013. Seventeen individuals from this community enrolled in Open Foundation in 2014 as a result of information sessions and home visits conducte by the project coordinator. This represented a 58 per cent enrolment increase in the community from 2013.
Nine of the 17 students participated in a mid-year evaluation, which confirmed students continued studying because of Uni4You support. Program coordinators, weekly tuition sessions with child care provisions, and information and skills preparation sessions were acknowledged as valuable by most students.
Partner organisations acknowledge the potential Uni4You could achieve in the long term, not only for individuals, but also for its ability to influence social and cultural identity change in communities where it is delivered. Uni4You also provides further learnings in relation to some of the challenges faced by prospective students in gaining knowledge about and accessing support they might require from a university setting.
In Raymond Terrace/Karuah, Uni4You was initially funded by The Smith Family, through the Australian Government’s Communities for Children initiative, an initiative which seeks to address disadvantage for families with children aged 0–12 years. The expansion and continuation was enabled through HEPPP funds. The UON has a strong relationship with The Smith Family and together recently launched an MOU. Both partners plan to continue working together on this and other community-based programs into the future.
Activities of Uni4You are conducted through local schools, schools as community centres, and neighbourhood centres. Infrastructure support is offered by these organisations, including wifi, access to laptops and other computer devices. These community partnerships are vital as they encourage individuals to attend as they are easy to access and familiar (many students are parents). Child care is provided by the partners and they ensure all risk management is appropriately undertaken. UON has a trusting, mutually respectful relationship with the community partners, as all organisations are contributing to the Uni4You Program.
Further promotion and scheduling of Uni4You activities will occur in each area of current influence. Additional support for students’ partners and extended family will also be offered. A factor in the withdrawal from studies by marginalised mature-aged students is a lack of support through the change process that occurs through tertiary study. Increased community development to enhance understating and appreciation for tertiary study will be ongoing, enlisting the support of additional schools and local non-government agencies. Additional communities will be offered some Uni4You support activities as the impact on families and communities becomes clearer. It has been important to embed evaluation into the program, as this has assisted in guiding the program: this will be expanded as activity and student numbers increase.
This case study is one of a series of 31 presented in our case study publication, Partnerships in Higher Education.