Universities join forces to widen higher education participation

14 December 2011

Five Sydney-based universities are set to work together to increase the numbers of students from lower socio-economic backgrounds in higher education, with the announcement of $21.2 million in Federal Government funding over four years for the Bridges to Higher Education project.

Bridges to Higher Education is a unique collaboration bringing together the collective resources and experience of the University of Sydney, University of Western Sydney, University of Technology, Sydney, Macquarie University, and Australian Catholic University.

The funding comes from a $150 million Commonwealth initiative aimed to get universities working collaboratively to address the decade long challenge of increasing the numbers and proportion of students from low socio-economic backgrounds in higher education.

The programs that will come under the Bridges to Higher Education banner are particularly focussed on the growing population of Greater Western Sydney - home to over 1.8 million people - and traditionally under-represented in higher education participation rates.

Professor Derrick Armstrong, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education) said, "Importantly this funding will enable the University of Sydney to broaden and deepen the work of our Compass program which, together with the social inclusion programs of the other four universities, continues to break new ground. In the case of Compass this has meant a cohort approach and a focus on early engagement of students in primary school.

"The partnership of five universities in this program is significant. Working with school and community partners we can have real impact on engaging young people who previously might not have considered higher education as an option. Together we will reach more schools, students, school leavers, teachers and parents.

"The funding will support new and innovative programs that will have national significance such as utilising technology to bring virtual programs into classrooms.

Bridges to Higher Education will draw on the five universities' existing partnerships with significant education, government and non-government organisations, including the NSW Department of Education and Communities, TAFE NSW, Universities Admissions Centre (UAC), AFL NSW/ACT, The Smith Family, and Tutoring Australasia.

It will also develop new, innovative and integrated programs that draw on academic strengths of the respective partners, maximising the use of the virtual environment through activities such as virtual visits and connected classrooms, community TV programs, and other web-based and online initiatives.