A program designed to support first-year regional and culturally and linguistically diverse students entering university has received funding through the state government’s Collaboration & Innovation Fund. 

The Start@Uni program, a collaboration between UNSW and the University of Sydney, is one of four projects to receive a share in the $1.75 million NSW government Collaboration and Innovation Fund. The fund supports university projects, programs and initiatives that address priority goals of the NSW Higher Education Strategy.

Mary Teague, Director of Access Equity & Inclusion at UNSW, said Start@Uni has a joint academic achievement and equity focus. The core aim of the program is to effectively support students from equity cohorts, including students from regional and remote areas and culturally and linguistically diverse and migrant or refugee students, to develop key academic capabilities required for success at university. It will also encourage effective transition and inclusive teaching and learning experiences as students start at university.

The two primary outputs for Start@Uni are a digital resource to develop the capacity of equity students to prepare for and transition to university; and resources for teachers and tutors of first-year students to support the transition and academic success of students once at university. 

Both toolkits will include targeted resources to support students from regional and remote areas who are transitioning to a metropolitan university, with the launch ready for the 2024 cohort.

“The purpose of the project is to streamline our support for students who are moving from regional areas to metropolitan universities, so they better understand the academic expectations of university and are prepared for success at university,” Ms Teague said. “A key part of the program is embedding students as partners, those who can use their own experiences of moving for university to support other students.”

The project contributes to the NSW Department of Education’s strategic ‘Attainment and Independence’ goal to increase the proportion of school leavers participating in higher education, training or work with a focus on academic expectations and early preparation for university. The project also aligns with several of the NSW Higher Education Strategy 2021-2025 Priority Areas, including developing and broadening post-school options to foster lifelong learning and ensuring the widening participation in quality higher education.

UNSW Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Attila Brungs said expanding access and improving retention for equity cohort students is a priority for the University.

“UNSW Sydney is delighted to receive funding for its Start@Uni initiative, in partnership with the University of Sydney. The transition to university can be challenging for some students, especially for those who may be the first in their family to attend university or students that have the added pressures of relocating from a regional or remote area. Start@Uni is a holistic approach to support students, not just to start at university but to achieve their dreams and ensure student success throughout their academic career.”

Minister for Skills and Training Alister Henskens said the Fund enhances collaboration with universities and supports projects that encourage and support young people to pursue tertiary education. 

“These grants will help break down barriers that prevent people who want to study at our world class universities and will drive innovative new projects in collaboration with the university sector,” Mr Henskens said.

“Projects funded through this round of the program include workshops to encourage high school students to explore technology entrepreneurships and toolkits to help regional and culturally and linguistically diverse students bridge the skills gap between school and university.”