U@Uni – University of Technology Sydney
The University of Technology Sydney (UTS) Widening Participation Strategy delivers a whole-of-university approach to increasing the number of students from underrepresented equity groups accessing and completing university study, in particular students from low SES backgrounds and Indigenous students.
The UTS U@Uni program is a key component of the strategy, focusing on outreach to schools and communities. The program includes two-week summer schools and shorter workshops on campus, school-based tutorials delivered by UTS students, and teacher professional learning and networking involving UTS academics. This integrated set of evidence-based activities aims to holistically and responsively address the needs of target students in their secondary school years.
- Department of Education NSW and 20 south-western Sydney high schools
- The Smith Family, Public Education Foundation, NSW
- Industry partners including: Cisco Systems Australia; Google Australia; and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
The program aims to encourage student aspiration for university study, and support academic achievement well before the point of enrolment, through an integrated suite of activities developed in partnership with targeted schools, TAFEs and communities.
The program works with and through its partners to:
- improve students’ academic preparedness and outcomes
- increase students’ awareness, confidence and motivation toward higher education
- build teacher, school and community capacity
- broaden students’ family knowledge about higher education
- develop and sustain effective community and stakeholder partnerships.
Activities and Progress
Commencing in 2009 as a one-week program for 30 low SES students, U@Uni has expanded to include four strands of activity that reach approximately 4,000 secondary school students, 630 parents and 150 teachers annually, while engaging over 100 UTS students as mentors and tutors in its delivery. While the extent and reach of the program has changed over time, the objective and approach continues to reflect UTS’s student-centred approach to learning. On-campus time for secondary school students sees them engaged in actively learning skills and content, and the ability to work within a group to solve authentic real-life issues, while demystifying university and increasing their confidence and motivation to attend university.
The current U@Uni program includes four strands of activities:
- Summer School: A two-week on-campus learning experience in which students take part in one of six summer schools in the areas of design, media and communications, business, science, engineering and information technology, and health.
- HSC Tutorial Scheme: School-based tutorial sessions delivered by UTS students to assist Year 11 and 12 students.
- On-campus workshops: Hands-on, interactive experiences working with UTS academics, students and resources as well as industry experts for Years 10, 11 and 12.
- Teacher professional learning builds teacher capacity and creates a community of practice inclusive of UTS academics.
Program impact is measured in the form of student and teacher surveys, interviews, focus groups, direct observation and informal feedback. Students are surveyed before participating in a U@Uni activity, immediately after, and on exiting the program.
Both quantitative and qualitative evaluation data demonstrate that U@Uni is contributing to positive outcomes for students.
Social justice is a critical part of UTS’s strategic plan and institutional culture, with the actions of staff and students reflecting the role it aims to play in increasing public good, increasing social mobility and equity, and in supporting the creation of enabling environments for communities to thrive.
To strengthen its focus on social justice, UTS is developing a Social Impact Framework to demonstrate its current collective impact and to guide future sustainability. UTS’s Widening Participation Strategy is a crucial component of that framework, with the U@Uni program a key intervention supporting the both wider participation outcomes and broader university aims.
In the foreseeable future U@Uni will continue to focus on south-western Sydney, while expanding to support UTS’s Social Impact Framework by also engaging with the schools and communities within the UTS local precinct.
This case study was one of 35 featured in the NCSEHE’s 2017 publication Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program: Seven Years On.