Compass leads way to more diverse student body

23 September 2009

This Friday 25 September students from Marrickville and Kogarah high schools will be welcomed by Annette Cairnduff, director Social Inclusion, and will hear from two current University students. After a campus tour they will take part in sessions such as computers and face recognition, how to make medicines, how to think like a lawyer and how to design a great building.

The inaugural Compass University Experience Day is part of the "Compass - find your way to higher education" program, launched in June by the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Educationand Social Inclusion Julia Gillard and University of Sydney Vice-Chancellor Dr Michael Spence.

At the program's June launch the Minister announced the Rudd Government's target for one in five university students to be from low socio-economic backgrounds by 2020.

Dr Spence says the program builds on the University's strong history of support for low socioeconomic status students, including extensive financial, learning and personal support, and a specialised first-year transition program.

"The University of Sydney recognises there are real barriers for many people to attend university or aspire to higher education, and that is why we are taking a leading role in the drive to increase the numbers of students from low socioeconomic backgrounds undertaking tertiary studies.

"Research shows that aspirations are formed early in life and that family experience of higher education is a key factor in influencing attitudes. Compass will engage with students, teachers and their parents early in their schooling, with continuing contact throughout their school career," Dr Spence said.

The Compass project is jointly funded for three years with $3.5 million from the federal Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations; $2 million from the University of Sydney; and $100,000 from the NSW Department of Education and Training.

The University of Sydney is partnering with the NSW Department of Education and Training and selected secondary and primary schools in Sydney to develop and run outreach, mentoring and professional development programs to increase school completion rates and raise community expectations and student aspirations.

The Compass project will focus on years 3, 4 & 5 and years 8, 9 and 10. In 2009 it will engage more than 1,200 students in the Kogarah and Marrickville regions at two secondary schools and six feeder primary schools. In 2010 the program will expand into another eight schools in south-west Sydney.