Forty primary school children have experienced a day at university - including graduating in full academic dress - as part of the ASPIRE Program's first XPLORE UNSW! event.

The Year 5 and 6 children from Gardeners Road and La Perouse Public Schools were part of the event organized by the ASPIRE Program, UNSW's social inclusion initiative that promotes tertiary education to students from low socio-economic backgrounds.

Gardeners Road and La Perouse Public Schools are feeder schools to the 11 local high schools already involved in the ASPIRE Program.

ASPIRE's Project Manager, Fiona Nicholson said the final years of primary school are a crucial time to engage with students about tertiary education options.

"Research shows that children's attitudes to higher education, their abilities and their future are set even before Year 7," said Nicholson.

The children spent the day visiting the Engineering and Law faculties and exploring the campus before "graduating" in full academic gowns in the afternoon.

Pro Vice-Chancellor (Academic) Professor Richard Henry oversaw the ceremony and encouraged the students to consider a future involving tertiary education.

"You all have the ability to attend any university, if that's what you want," he said. "Ignore anyone who says you can't come to university, because you can."

ASPIRE will expand its primary school program to five metropolitan schools in 2010 as well as piloting the Rural ASPIRE Program in five schools in the Lachlan River region of NSW.

ASPIRE is funded by the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations and Citi Australia.

Media contact: Fran Strachan | 9385 8732 |