The youngest students ever to take part in UNSW’s ASPIRE program have travelled from remote central NSW to experience university for the first time.

ASPIRE is a social inclusion initiative that actively promotes university to primary and high school students from low socio-economic backgrounds. It has assisted several thousand students since its inception in 2007.

Year 2-4 students from Tullibigeal Central School and Year 4-6 children from Ungarie Central School in the state's central west took part in a day of campus activities designed to address the additional barriers regional students face when considering higher education.

Around one in five regional students apply to attend university. Access to educational institutions, the cost of relocating, and moving away from family and community are the main barriers to regional students considering higher education.

UNSW’s Director of Student Equity, Ann Jardine, said the early years of primary school are a crucial time for children to be educated about future education possibilities.

“Research has shown that choices about attending university are often made by the time students reach Year 7. Giving students a stronger sense of education and career opportunities by the time they enter the senior years of school is extremely important,” she said.

The assistant principal of Tullibigeal Central, Jacqui Dillon, said the children from the 46-student school had been encouraged by ASPIRE to consider education options outside of their community.

“It’s important to plant the seed at this age because in a few years they will be making decisions about their future. This has opened their eyes to other possibilities,” said Dillon.

Nine year-old Tayah Glasgow, from the farming district of Tullibigeal, didn’t know what university was until she visited UNSW.

“Nobody in my family has been to university, but I think this is nice, it’s friendly,” said Glasgow, who would like to study veterinary science.

ASPIRE received a $4.6 million funding boost from the federal government under its Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program last year.

The funding has allowed the program to increase its participation in 25 regional NSW schools as well as 30 Sydney primary and secondary schools. 

This week ASPIRE will host 50 Year 8 regional students who will travel from Lightning Ridge and Condobolin in Central West NSW to attend the first Beyond the Gate program. The students will experience university with ASPIRE’s metropolitan school students and sample city life in Sydney.

Media contact: Fran Strachan | 9385 8732 | 0429 416 070