Recognising Social Inclusion Week: education transforms lives

Australians who come from a low socio-economic background, are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, or live in a regional area are less likely to pursue higher education. Statistics show that students from a low socio-economic background are three times less likely to continue on to higher education than their more affluent peers. In addition, the rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participation in higher education remains unchanged since 2001.

The University of Sydney’s Compass program works with schools and communities to increase the number and diversity of students who consider higher education and to increase the number of talented students from disadvantaged communities who come to study at the University.

“We know that smart, talented, skilled young people come from all backgrounds and that students from low socio-economic backgrounds who come to the University of Sydney do very well,” says Annette Cairnduff, Director, Social Inclusion at the University of Sydney.

Compass works with the whole school community – teachers, students and parents – to ensure students are prepared for university and ready to make informed decisions about their futures.

“We start early – in primary school – and work very closely with teachers. Our focus is academic and enriched learning, building confidence and motivation. Teachers, students and parents spend time with us in their schools and on-campus and keep in touch online,” says Ms Cairnduff.

Since the Compass program began in 2009 the University has reached almost 100,000 teachers, students and parents. In 2014, Compass engaged 23,000 teachers, students and parents through 224 schools, and had 999 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students register for the University’s online tutoring program.

Importantly, data shows the programs are working. Ninety percent of students say they feel better prepared for university as a result of Compass programs; 85 percent say they have developed better study skills and 91 percent of parents and carers say they have better capacity to support their child. In addition, the transition to higher education has increased to 45 percent in partner high schools and teachers and principals consistently report that the partnership has contributed to building school capacity, lifting expectations and shifting school culture.

The Compass Program's Year 3 discover uni day

The Compass Program’s Year 3 discover uni day

This year the University received 1262 applications for the Early Offer Year 12 (E12) scheme from students from either a disadvantaged school or family. E12 allows the University to consider more than just an ATAR alone and assess capacity, motivation and enthusiasm for a particular discipline.

“These are incredibly bright young people. Despite their circumstances, they achieve great results in their HSC, although, often not the results needed to get into the University,” says Ms Cairnduff. “However, when they get here they do exceptionally well. In fact, across every ATAR band our E12 students out perform their more affluent peers.”

22 – 30 November marks Social Inclusion Week which aims to ensure all Australians are included, valued and provided the opportunity to participate fully in society.

Supporting our students is one of the five priorities for the University’s INSPIRED Campaign. Find out how you can support social inclusion at the University of Sydney.