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You are reading: Compass – Your Way to Higher Education
“Compass’ programs are a perfect fit to our school’s goals”


Compass – your way to higher education (Compass) is an innovative program that supports primary and high school students’ motivation, skills and capacity to pursue higher education opportunities. Compass partners with schools where there are significant populations of communities traditionally underrepresented in higher education.

Compass uses a community development framework: partner schools are involved in the development of activities so that they meet the needs of the school community and complement the National Curriculum Framework. This ensures that there is genuine alignment between the school and the university in the goals and outcomes for each project.

Compass has partnerships with 26 metropolitan schools, with projects delivered both on-campus and in-schools. It also delivers 10 regional projects, primarily in Dubbo and Broken Hill. Together the projects build a program with cumulative messaging and experiential activities to build skills and motivation.

Compass is divided into four stages:

  • Discover, Years 3–6, includes museum, theatre and science activities on campus and skills development activities at schools
  • Explore, Years 7–8, introduces a university campus and the opportunity of higher education
  • Inquire, Years 9–10, activities focus on developing critical thinking, independent study and learning skills, and
  • Experience, Years 11–12, focuses on Higher School Certificate (HSC) and higher education preparation.

Compass’ main objectives are to:

  1. provide enriched learning experiences and skill development for students
  2. support teacher skills and capacity
  3. build student understanding of, and positively influence attitudes towards higher education, and
  4. fulfill the university’s social inclusion objectives.

HEPPP Funding
Compass is funded through the Bridges to Higher Education Initiative which is funded by the HEPPP and donations to the University of Sydney.

The success of Compass is measured by both qualitative and quantitative data that is collected by the program and further evaluated by external contractors. Since the inception of the program in 2009 the engagement framework has continued to be strengthened and partnerships have been extended to a wider range of schools.

Table depicting the Compass - Your Way to Higher Education stats for the years 2009 to 2013

  • The number of students, teachers and parents in the program grows each year. To July 2013, Compass has had 43,364 engagements including 38,993 with students, 1,706 with parents and 2,665 with teachers
  • Compass has grown to 34 projects, and from 12 partner schools to partnerships with 26 metropolitan and 14 regional schools
  • Offers have grown from 57 per cent to 63 per cent for students from Compass partner schools to the university’s E12 Early Offer Admission Pathway since 2012 (first intake year).

“In 2008, only 12 per cent of our students went to university. Two years ago 27 per cent went. In 2011, 44 per cent gained admittance. This is a massive change. I am excited by these results and the teachers are happy and proud. Compass has been a massive part of this change. Its programs are a perfect fit to our school’s goals.” – high school teacher, 2012.

The Future Compass is currently growing its work with Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander communities with programs focusing on literacy, skills enhancement and pathways to higher education.

Illustration of three circles, each labelled as either outreach, access, or support, with the outreach and access circles filled with colour

This case study is one of a series of 39 presented in our case study publication, Access and Participation in Higher Education: Outreach – Access – Support.