Report finds Bridges program a powerful key to higher education access

A program involving the University of Western Sydney which aims to increase higher education participation for students from under-represented communities is having a profound impact, according to a new report.

Compiled by KPMG, the interim assessment of the $21.2 million Commonwealth Government program Bridges to Higher Education shows the initiative is delivering highly positive results for families from Greater Western Sydney and rural NSW, as well as those from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds.

The report showed that in two years Bridges programs have engaged with schools and TAFEs in Greater Western Sydney and rural areas, achieving interactions with over 143,000 students, over 12,000 parents and carers, and over 8,500 teachers.

Commencing two-years-ago, Bridges to Higher Education is a collaborative project involving the University of Western Sydney, Australian Catholic University, University of Technology, Sydney, Macquarie University, and the University of Sydney.

It encompasses 88 projects including student-mentoring initiatives, summer schools, tutoring and preparatory programs, and community engagement programs.

Key interim report findings show

  • 98 per cent of participating students demonstrated improved academic performance
  • 88 per cent of students showed improved learning progress
  • 84 per cent of students reported improved motivation to continue to year 12 and greater confidence in their academic abilities
  • 87 per cent of students reported an increased awareness of alternative pathways to university
  • 98 per cent of participating teachers reported being better supported to engage students in learning
  • 91 per cent of parents and carers reported an increased capacity to support their child's higher education goals

"Increasing access to higher education for sections of the community who traditionally miss out on this invaluable opportunity is one of the most pressing issues facing contemporary Australia," says Annette Cairnduff, the Chair of Bridges to Higher Education.

"That means we first have to change some prevailing attitudes around higher education, build an awareness of the opportunities available, and improve academic outcomes in the years leading up to university."

"The Bridges program is achieving all these goals, having had a major impact not only on students, but also on teachers, parents, carers, and community members who provide such an important support network."

Ms Cairnduff says the program encompasses all aspects of increasing higher education awareness and access.

"Our programs not only help prepare students for the challenges they're likely to encounter throughout high school and university, they also help schools to enrich classroom practices and motivate their students to learn," she says.

"Bridges programs have also broadened families' views around the availability and value of higher education opportunities, and even increased many students' confidence to challenge cultural or gender-specific expectations around their future."
 
About Bridges to Higher Education

Bridges to Higher Education is a $21.2m initiative, funded by the Commonwealth Government's Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program (HEPPP), to improve the participation rates of students from disadvantaged communities in higher education. Bridges is a partnership to create new aspiration- and attainment-building programs and build on existing programs targeting school-age children and their parents.

Ends

21 July 2014

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