The Australian Centre for Student Equity and Success acknowledges Indigenous peoples as the Traditional Owners of the lands on which our campuses are situated. With a history spanning 60,000 years as the original educators, Indigenous peoples hold a unique place in Australia. We recognise the importance of their knowledge and culture, and reflect the principles of participation, equity, and cultural respect in our work. We pay our respects to Elders past, present, and future, and consider it an honour to learn from our Indigenous colleagues, partners, and friends.

You are reading: The Critical Interventions Framework Part 3: Programs and approaches that enable equity in higher education

Executive Summary

The Critical Interventions Framework Part 3 (CIF 3) focuses on evaluative studies which provide details of the impacts of specific interventions on equity groups in relation to access to and success in higher education. The CIF 3 provides three major tools:

Whilst the sector and this review is based on initiatives designed for those from identified equity groups, we highlight that such equity categories are complex and contested. Therefore, we focus on the concepts of both equity and inclusion to emphasise the importance of continuously striving for a higher education system that clearly includes and values all peoples. In the Equity Initiatives Impact Studies Guide, the following approaches and principles were found to be important:

  • Funding and structures for First Nations students: designed by, with and for First Nations students, staff and communities.
  • Comprehensive and inclusive outreach: to engage with diverse groups and excite people about further study.
  • Fee-free, open access enabling and bridging programs for ensuring access to, preparation for and later success in undergraduate programs.
  • Mentors and peers: particularly those featuring students and industry professionals from similar backgrounds/locations, which serve as role models and play a crucial role in influencing participation and completion.
  • Interventions which challenge and change limiting stereotypes about the capabilities of students from disadvantaged backgrounds (including those which are subtle or inadvertent but still result in significant barriers), can transform views and experiences of education from that based on a limited student deficit model, to a productive strength-based, developmental understanding of learning.
  • Partnerships and collaborative relationships with schools and communities: which not only increase interest in university but may also serve to improve high school retention and completion rates, which also lead to greater rates of access to higher education.
  • Availability and promotion of scholarships, bursaries, grants and other forms of financial support: which encourage students to apply to university, progress through their studies and while doing placements.
  • Accessible and affordable housing/accommodation is essential for students.
  • Equitable employability strategies: with focussed and widely inclusive student consultation, are necessary.

Overall, the literature points to the importance of approaches being embedded in an overarching equity-focused, inclusive higher education system, with policies and principles that guide institutions on how to prioritise and embed equity. Every unit of study and all pedagogies, curricula, supports and services across universities, need to be informed about and focused on equity and inclusion. Too often, it has been the other way around, with students simply having to conform and change in order to survive in rigid and limiting educational systems or not participate. As the literature gathered strongly suggests, embedding inclusivity into all aspects of higher education will increase the opportunities and achievements available for students from all backgrounds and, therefore, provide better outcomes for more people, including through research that informs innovation.

Full Report and Other Resources

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