UNSW's commitment to making higher education more accessible for students from low-socioeconomic backgrounds has received a significant funding boost from the Federal Government.

The ASPIRE program, a social inclusion initiative which actively promotes university to high school students, has received an extra $840,000 under the government's Diversity Fund.

This brings total Commonwealth funding for the project to $1.2 million over three years. The program is also supported through a grant from the Citi Foundation.

The funding will allow the program to expand into local primary schools, selected feeder schools to the current 10 ASPIRE-partnered high schools, which will provide early intervention in raising students' aspirations.

"Working with primary school students is vital to engaging parents, who are a crucial component in supporting any shift in aspirations for young children," says ASPIRE Project Manager, Fiona Nicholson.

The funding will also provide resources to support improved academic outcomes through the introduction of extended workshops and on-campus residencies for students.

More than 70 UNSW undergraduate students are trained ASPIRE Ambassadors, supervising in-school workshops on higher education, study skills, time management, budgeting and confidence building.

Professor Joan Cooper, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Students) says ASPIRE supports one of the University's strategic objectives, to be the destination of choice for students with the highest potential irrespective of background.

"UNSW is committed to boosting student enrolments from low-socioeconomic backgrounds and attracting a whole new generation of high-potential students to the University," Professor Cooper says.

"This is a long-term problem that's probably going to take a number of years to turn around, which is why we are looking to primary schools as well."

The Deputy Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, praised UNSW's ASPIRE program at the 2008 Annual Higher Education Summit, describing it as an "innovative model" with the potential to promote social equality in higher education.

Outcomes from ASPIRE's first 18 months have been positive with 98 percent of students involved reporting increased awareness of higher education and more than 85 percent of students reporting a positive shift in attitude towards attending university.

Media contact: Fran Strachan | 9385 8732 | fran.strachan@unsw.edu.au