Widening Participation and Outreach

Enabling access to higher education for underrepresented students

University education has the potential to open career opportunities and be transformative. But only if you can access it in the first place. Our mission is to change the educational trajectory for young people from backgrounds underrepresented in higher education. This includes students from:

  • low socio-economic backgrounds
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds
  • rural and regional areas

We achieve this through a multifaceted approach aimed at increasing access, participation and success for underrepresented students, such as:

  • leading the development and direction of a Widening Participation Strategy for the University
  • advocating for more inclusive equity related policy, pathways and practices at the University of Sydney and through broader sector wide engagement and collaboration, leading to the development of the 2019 Access and Participation Plan
  • ensuring regular revision of admissions pathways for students from low Socio-Economic backgrounds and the support available for those students once they are at the University Sydney
  • identifying and positively impacting broader equity cohorts such as First in Family students enrolled at the University
  • collaborating extensively with Faculties and Schools to expose potential students to faculty experiences across multiple streams of activity and inquiry as part of our on-campus educational program
  • collaborating with DVC-E Educational Innovation, to establish grants for academics to support widening participation and student equity related research opportunities and projects, with the intention to grow the research base to inform policy and practice.
  • coordinating with Educational Innovation a University-wide Widening Participation Network (WPN) to bring interested researchers and practitioners together as a community of practice to inform and extend expertise around social inclusion initiatives and opportunities
  • leading and delivering an educational outreach program that provides innovative in-school, on-campus, in-community and online learning experiences to support the academic and personal preparation of students for higher education.
  • supporting transformational change in schools through professional learning opportunities to improve the individual and collective efficacy of secondary school leaders and teachers.
  • leveraging arts and community partnerships to maximise the reach, breadth and depth of engagements and build academic capacity and cultural capital.

WPO Schools Program

The WPO Education Program provides innovative in-school, on-campus, in-community and online learning experiences to support the academic and personal preparation of students for higher education.

We support transformational change in schools through professional learning opportunities to improve the individual and collective efficacy of secondary school leaders and teachers.

Current University of Sydney students facilitate learning engagements, powerfully role model success, share their own University experiences and advocate for the opportunities higher education can bring.

Our achievements

We are committed to innovative, strategic initiatives that extend the depth and impact of our program. This allows us to be responsive to changes in educational contexts and new opportunities to work with young people, their schools and communities.

Below, we’ve set out some of the practical ways we’ve recently helped students access higher education and succeed in their studies.

Reinvigorating the Wingara-Mura pre-tertiary outreach program

We have developed two new strategic initiatives for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. This included our regional hub expansion project to four regions, and STEMex enrichment program. We also continue to expand our reach to EAS schools in Western Sydney through establishing geographical hubs in Mount Druitt/Blacktown, Fairfield, Liverpool, Bankstown and Campbelltown and partnerships with LGA libraries in these areas.

Partnering with Western Sydney University

We conducted research into how universities identify students from low socio-economic backgrounds so they can be better supported as part of a National Priority Pool (NPP) grant from the Commonwealth Government under HEPPP. This research will help universities understand their students' needs better, and therefore inform programs that address these needs more accurately.

Analysing new ways to report on the medium and longer-term impacts of the program and engaged the Centre for Social Impact at UNSW and engaged a research team through the Sydney School of Education and Social Work.

The research team consists of The University of Sydney, Sydney School of Education and Social Work:

  • Professor Valerie Harwood
  • Professor Debra Hayes
  • Dr Samantha McMahon
  • Dr Sheelagh Daniels Mayes
  • Dr Shannon Said
  • Dr Nathan Berger ( University of Western Sydney)

We also developed a Theory of Change and a new evaluation framework that includes for the collection and analysis of both qualitative and quantitative data from external sources such as school NAPLAN results, median ATAR shifts, HSC subject selection choices and numbers of students engaged in ATAR pathways.

Seeking new ways of documenting the impact of our program and capturing the parts that happen incidentally, or are difficult to survey

This led to a longitudinal documentary titled “Our Time”, to trace the life decisions and educational journey of nine young Aboriginal and Torres Islander Students who have been part of Wingara Mura over a period of three-to-four years.

Our recent programs

Our new programs include:

  • Narratives and NAPLAN teacher professional learning
  • Prep for NAPLAN Year 9
  • Future Fridays: Year 10/11/12 on-campus experience days that include:
    Year 10: Preparation for Senior Study (English, Maths and General Study Skills)
    Year 11: Thinking Ahead, Smash Essay Writing and Critical Thinking
    Year 12: HSC Exam Prep, Promote Yourself, Smash Research Skills
  • Open Day Residential Program
  • Sydney Writers’ Festival partnership including Russ the Story Bus and secondary school Festival experiences
  • Australian Museums Science Festival experience for Year 5 and Year 9
  • Story Factory partnership for Craft of Writing workshop, Digital Literacy teacher PL (metro and regional) and Photofaction
  • Principal Professional Learning Program: Leading Excellence
  • Supported teachers from south west and western Sydney to attend the STEM Teacher Enrichment Academy
  • The Link Project English literacy collaboration Link West and Link Writerly with the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
  • TEDxYouth@Sydney 2019 experience at the Seymour Centre for senior students

We recently built on and further developed programs including:

  • Expansion of Study Centres and Information Evenings to include Liverpool City Library, Max Webber Library, HJ Daley Library, Ingleburn Library and Whitlam Library
  • Regional Expansion into new schools and hubs including Central West, South Coast, Central Coast and North Coast NSW

We also sponsored several large community focused events to expand our reach:

  • Sponsorship of 2017 Gillawarna Festival for primary schools in Western Sydney
  • Supported 2017 Mungo Youth Project
  • Sponsorship of the 2018 Country Education Foundation (CEF) Scholarship Guide