New campaign aims to improve access to university

7 April 2014

The University of Sydney is one of five universities to join forces with the NSW and ACT Universities Admissions Centre (UAC) to create a tool for potential students who do not come from a background of higher education.

The Make Your Mark website complements and supports the significant on-the-ground work the universities are undertaking - such as the University of Sydney's Compass Program - in partnership with schools and communities.

The five participating universities have been working together as since 2011 as Bridges to Higher Education, chaired by the University's Director of Social Inclusion, Annette Cairnduff.

"There are many questions facing students who may be the first in their family to undertake further study," she says. "Make Your Mark is the answer to the first question: 'Where do I start?'

"We know that for many families, particularly those with no experience of further education, sending their child off to higher education can be daunting. Make Your Mark provides information about the options, pathways and support available.

Not just for recent school leavers, Make Your Mark is a portal for potential students of any age who want to find out more about their options.

"Make Your Mark provides all the vital background information about further education and how it can help people achieve their individual life goals and benefit the wider community," said Andrew Stanton, Managing Director of UAC. "UAC is really pleased to be part of Make Your Mark, because it's different to our usual role in helping people ready to embark on further study - this is all about reaching out to people who haven't got that far yet and giving them a starting point."

By 2018 demand for people with higher education qualifications will outstrip supply to the magnitude of 22,000. Students from low socio-economic backgrounds Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds and people from regional communities are the least likely to consider further education as an option for them.

"Once they get to university these students do well but they might opt out of further education because the process is unknown to them or they don't know what support is available. This website provides them and their families with the information so they can make informed decisions," said Ms Cairnduff.

In just two years, Bridges has had over 200,000 contacts with school students. Recent research from KPMG has shown the programs are having a profound impact on the student outlook, with 97 percent of students surveyed having indicated increased confidence levels in their academic abilities. 87 percent of students surveyed felt better prepared for university and 81 percent reported improved motivation to complete year 12.

Ms Cairnduff continued, "By working with UAC we have been able to develop a comprehensive, engaging website that has applicability for anyone thinking about higher education anywhere in the ACT or NSW."

In a statement of support, the vice-chancellors of the five participating universities said: "Make Your Mark will be a great asset for students, teachers, parents and community role models alike. Access to higher education positively changes lives, communities and the economy."

Along with Sydney, other Bridges participants are: The University of Western Sydney; the University of Technology, Sydney; Macquarie University; and the Australian Catholic University. Bridges is funded by the Higher Education Participation and Partnerships program.

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