The Office of Widening Participation undertakes activities that contribute towards the participation targets set by the Federal Government: that by 2020, twenty per cent of higher education (HE) enrolments at undergraduate level should be from people from low socioeconomic status (SES) backgrounds.
This aim is achieved by targeting students from non-traditional backgrounds in local schools and is a fundamentally important initiative contributing to the ideals of social justice and the wider financial and economic health of Australia in providing well-qualified and motivated entrants into the workforce.
Widening participation in higher education is a crucial part of our mission. Our aim is to promote and provide to all potential students the opportunity of access to, and successful participation in, higher education and to assist and support them to successfully complete their course of study.
To achieve these objectives we remove barriers to higher education, whether these are financial, physical, emotional, social, or cultural.
We also strive to provide:
- Interactive experiences both on and off the university campus in order to raise awareness and aspirations and to contribute towards achievement levels.
- Targeted outreach activities to meet the needs of a wide range of learners and prospective higher education students in primary and secondary schools, colleges, employer and community settings.
- Information, support and link activities for education facilitators including teachers, lecturers, career and pastoral guidance staff, training providers, community workers and parents/carers.
The elements below form the cornerstone of our approach to this work;
- Targeting to succeed
Distinctively, our activities target schools and communities identified as disadvantaged on multiple socio-economic indicators and target within schools to reach students from non-traditional backgrounds who may be first in their family to attend higher education but have the potential to benefit from studying at higher education level.
- Evidence based policy
Ongoing work to provide comprehensive data and detailed analysis forms a vital element of our impact analysis. All modes of intervention are assessed for measures of success and reviewed on a regular basis.
- Early Intervention
Research in widening participation consistently demonstrates that intervention with students at the youngest age possible has a greater impact on aspiration-building and academic motivation.
- Long Term Investment and Sustainability
For 25 years, since the inception of Western Sydney University and through forerunner institutions, there has been a mission commitment to Widening Participation; this has resulted in an ever-improving success in rising participation figures which results in more students studying in higher education from non-traditional backgrounds. The most successful activities are those creating 'generational' impact -– a student who is the first in their family to attend university then has children for whom higher education becomes a natural consideration. Projects that 'root' in communities provide 'routes' to higher education!