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Western Sydney University — Fast Forward

Fast Forward works in partnership with 64 secondary schools across western Sydney to encourage students’ participation in higher education.

Through raising awareness of the many different pathways to higher education, and supporting students with activities designed to increase their aspirations towards continuing education, the Fast Forward program improves educational outcomes. Former Fast Forward students currently studying at Western Sydney University (WSU) mentor and encourage secondary school students to strive for their personal best and to see tertiary study as a realistic and viable post-school option by fostering familiarity with the university environment.

Objectives

Fast Forward supports secondary school students from underrepresented backgrounds across the western Sydney region with activities designed to increase their aspirations towards continuing their education after Year 12 and to raise their awareness of pathway options to higher education.

Fast Forward facilitates the personal, academic and professional development of students, and is a partnership where all participants—secondary school students, schools and teachers, parents and carers and the university community—unite to secure the success of our future generations.

Activities and Progress

The Fast Forward program commenced as a pilot study in 2004 to link students from schools in western Sydney to their local university (WSU) and to encourage students and their families to see tertiary study as a genuine post-school option. A major program expansion in 2011 saw 17 new schools added to Fast Forward, followed by further expansions during 2012, 2013 and 2016 to now reach 64 secondary school partners across western Sydney. Fast Forward student numbers have increased from 1,912 in 2012 to 3,346 in 2016.

New programs were developed in WSU’s Office of Widening Participation to complement and support the increasing demand for Fast Forward. In 2013, First Foot Forward was established out of a need to engage with students earlier on their educational journey to maximise opportunities for aspiration building. First Foot Forward originally partnered with 11 primary schools, and after several expansions reached 3,296 students across 35 schools in 2016. STEPS (Strive Towards Educational Participation and Success) was developed in 2014 to meet the increased demand for many other schools in western Sydney to be part of a secondary school aspiration building program. Providing on-campus and in-school learning sessions for Years 9 and 10 students, STEPS commenced working with 14 schools, expanding to 20 schools in 2015, and in 2016 worked with 2,543 secondary school students.

Outcomes

“I dreamed about becoming a lawyer and going to university but it seemed to be a foreign and alien experience and unreachable for a little kid from western Sydney … I decided to study hard and applied for WSU’s Academic Excellence Scholarship which I had the privilege to win, enabling me to pursue my dream … I would never have realised my desired career path if it was not for the Fast Forward Program.” – Fast Forward Western Sydney University student.

From 2012–16, 2,616 Fast Forward students completed Year 12 with 1,595 receiving offers to university (61 per cent success rate). Of these, 946 received offers to WSU.

Feedback from students, teachers and parents alike demonstrate the resounding success of Fast Forward:

  • 86 per cent of students attending a Year 9 university day reported greater confidence in making decisions about their future educational pathway
  • 85 per cent of students attending a Year 11 university day reported a better understanding about what further education can offer them.

Sustainable Impacts

Fast Forward is funded by the HEPPP, and 2017 was its 14th year of operation. Fast Forward is making a genuine difference to the lives of high school students in western Sydney by improving their access and success in higher education, particularly among students who would typically be underrepresented. This can be evidenced through increased offers to university between 2012–16 among Fast Forward students, a broader reach of students participating in the program, the success of the newly developed primary school and secondary school programs that support and meet the additional demand from Fast Forward, and the positive endorsements of parents, teachers and students alike.

With the provision of HEPPP funding, Fast Forward is positioned as an integral part of the Securing Success strategic plan at WSU. It is an exciting time for the program and we look forward to the continued success of Fast Forward in 2017 and beyond.


This case study was one of 35 featured in the NCSEHE’s 2017 publication Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program: Seven Years On.

Posted 14 November 2018 Posted in General, Low SES