As part of the NSW Government’s Collaboration and Innovation Fund, UNSW Sydney, UTS and Macquarie University have received funding of $500k for their newly formed partnership, the NSW Equity Consortium: Imagined Futures project.

The alliance of inner Sydney universities seeks to build student and school capacities for accessing tertiary education and improving post-school learning outcomes. The project targets whole cohort year-groups between Years 7 and 9 at selected Greater Western Sydney high schools where students are under-represented in higher education.

The five-year partnership is led by UNSW’s Mary Teague, Director of Access and Equity (Students) within the Division of Equity Diversity & Inclusion (EDI). Ms Teague said the project supports UNSW’s strategic aim of increasing the low-socioeconomic status (SES) access rate to 13%. 

“This consortium embodies a best practice approach to student equity that has never been undertaken in this way in Australia before. By working in partnership with MQ and UTS we are able to undertake a connected program which is designed for whole cohorts,” said Ms Teague.

“The University role models will help foster school students’ value of and appreciation for education, by showing them firsthand how academic attainment opens a range of future possibilities. We aim to reach around 20,000 school students by the end of this year, with a multi modal delivery.

“It is also important for us to prioritise partnerships with schools in Greater Western Sydney, given the changes to equity funding by the Commonwealth, the introduction of the Graduate Job Ready package and the release of the state government’s Higher Education Strategy.”

Dr Sally Baker from UNSW’s School of Education is leading the Research team for the project.

“This is a once-in-a-career opportunity that allows for the application of theoretical concepts in practice, while working to develop the best possible outcomes for students, teachers and universities by integrating a creative and collaborative research and evaluation strategy,” Dr Baker said.

Dr Dennis Alonzo is also part of the research team and has developed a data analyser tool that allows teachers to track student literacy development. Dr Baker and Dr Alonzo are supported by UNSW researchers, Dr Peta Hay (School of Education) and Dr Geraldine Townend (Gifted Education Research and Resource Information Centre).

“The NSW Equity Consortium finds the nexus between action research and Assessment for Learning (AfL) practices in order to support equity cohort students in achieving better learning outcomes,” Dr Alonzo said.

The student cohorts at the six selected high schools are highly diverse. The in-school program runs for six weeks, for around 1100 students per year group.

Ms Ngov, an teacher for students with English as an additional language or dialect at Cabramatta High School said, “The Equity Project is a fantastic program which brought personal and social issues to light, whilst indirectly achieving literacy outcomes. Students enjoyed the atmosphere the university students brought to the classroom, and they looked forward to it.”

Students at Cabramatta High School also favoured the project, noting “it was an engaging and fun way to learn” and it helped them begin to “plan [their] academic future with confidence”.  

The overall aim of the outreach program is to develop student interest and confidence in future study while also helping students gain requisite literacy strategies prior to NAPLAN. Students will understand the importance of literacy as crucial to not only their immediate classroom context, but beyond.

The project will minimise replication and maximise resource usage by sharing a single program design, evaluation framework and longitudinal research plan, allowing the program to have greater impact than through a siloed approach. This collaborative and innovative methodology will also maximise additional opportunities for the programs to be utilised by several areas across the NSW Department of Education.

To learn more about Access and Equity (Students), please visit