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You are reading: Fellowships to tackle some of Australian universities’ biggest challenges

The National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (NCSEHE) at Curtin University has announced Equity Fellowships for 2024, which have been awarded for research into some of the biggest challenges in higher education, including student poverty and work placement, AI and data, and the effectiveness of regional universities.

The new Equity Fellows are Associate Professor Amani Bell at the University of Sydney, Ms Danielle Keenan at the University of Technology Sydney and Dr Bret Stephenson at La Trobe University.

Since 2015, the NCSEHE Equity Fellowship Program has produced strategic, high-impact, high-profile research, policy and practice work focused on making it easier for students from disadvantaged background to access, participate in and succeed at university. The new Equity Fellows will extend these efforts by working on specific projects to tackle some of the biggest challenges in higher education.

Associate Professor Bell’s project, Addressing placement inequities through participatory action research, will focus on compulsory work-based placements. The research aims to find solutions to combat placement poverty and ensure an equitable experience for all students, regardless of their background.

Ms Keenan’s project, Roadmap to success: Decoding the regional university study hubs, will explore the effectiveness of regional university centres and identify the key factors influencing access, participation, retention and success for students in regional, rural and remote areas.

Dr Stephenson’s project, Centring equity in data and AI governance: Informing policy to empower practice, will produce a digital governance framework to support the protection of highly-sensitive student data in view of the rapid adoption of artificial intelligence by the Australian Government and higher education sector.

As the outcome of the Australian Universities Accord is anticipated soon, Professor Ian Li, NCSEHE’s Director of Research and Policy, emphasised the need for the sector to prove what works for students experiencing disadvantage.

“Successive policy efforts have invested heavily in tackling higher education disadvantage. Unfortunately, the issues are complex, constantly evolving, and new challenges have emerged over time,” Professor Li said.

“The projects our 2024 Equity Fellows are undertaking address some of the biggest challenges faced by universities today—student poverty and work placement, AI and data, and program evaluation. Their research will provide universities with proof of what matters when it comes to helping students access university, succeed when they get there, and go on to enjoy meaningful and impactful careers.”

NCSEHE Executive Director Professor Shamit Saggar said the 2024 Equity Fellowship projects would accelerate learning and change.

“Higher education is set to undergo substantial change in Australia, and it is the goal of the National Centre through funding programs like the Equity Fellowship Program to support the sector in becoming much more inclusive of talent, regardless of background,” Professor Saggar said.

“I congratulate our latest cohort of Equity Fellows on the attainment of their fellowships and look forward to the contributions their research will make to improve outcomes for equity students.”

Media Contact:
Miriam Fisher, NCSEHE Communications and Stakeholder Engagement Manager
Tel: (08) 9266 4327 / 0478 266 357 Email: