All divisions of the University are actively involved with improving equity and accessibility in higher education. Below is a snapshot of research in this field that has been carried out across numerous divisions, faculties and centres of the University of Newcastle.
aspirations longitudinal study
The Aspirations Longitudinal Study is a significant four-year research project that is the first of its kind to seek a comprehensive insight into the factors that shape the career and educational aspirations of students in the middle years of schooling.
The project has attracted more than $1m in funding from the Australian Research Council and the NSW Department of Education and Communities (DEC). The research team, led by Professor Jenny Gore, will track children from 85 state schools to investigate how their aspirations develop or change over time.
Choosing University: The impact of schools and schooling
This project received almost $70,000 in 2014 by the National Centre for Equity in Higher Education at Curtin University. Over the next year it will examine the impact schools have on a student's decision and aspirations about going to university.
Carried out by the Faculty of Education and Arts, the project will investigate subject selection, teachers and teaching as well as specific educational and career interventions. Interviews with current Year 11 students, their parents and teachers will be carried out along with interviews of former students from the same schools now at university. The case studies produced will be used to validate and form narratives of the impact of school, taking into account socio-economic status (SES), Aboriginality, rurality and gender.
This study draws from a 2012-2015 ARC Linkage study of students' educational and career aspirations from Year 3 to Year 12. The Choosing University study focuses on low SES and other marginalised students within the 2014 Aspirations Study Year 11 cohort of approximately 1200 students. At this point in schooling planning for the transition to tertiary education typically solidifies.
Inspiring Mathematics and Science in Teacher Education
The University of Newcastle has secured almost $300,000 in funding as part of a $2.2 million collaborative grant from the Office for Learning and Teaching (OLT) for research into teacher enrichment up until 2016.
Inspiring Mathematics and Science in Teacher Education (IMSTE) aims to develop new interdisciplinary methods to improve mathematics and science training at university for potential teachers. The project hopes to enhance the quality of teaching in these areas and consequently increase student understanding and aspirations around science and mathematics.
The project is being carried out in collaboration with University of Queensland (lead), James Cook University, the University of Sydney, the University of Wollongong, the University of Newcastle (UoN) and the University of Tasmania.
Identification and Development of Strategies for Increasing Engineering Enrolments
A study was carried out in 2011 by Faculty members from the University of Newcastle in collaboration with AmpControl and Engineers Australia to identify student perceptions about a career in engineering.
A range of students, teachers, career advisers and professionals were surveyed with the results showing a lack of understanding around what a career in engineering actually was. It also showed this was more prevalent in low SES families as there were no informed peers to properly inform students of their options.
A number of findings came from the project including the importance of enriching the primary school experience of maths and science as well as enthusing secondary school students to pursue a career in these areas.
These findings strengthened the importance of pre-established University projects including the Science and Engineering Challenge, the Science Maths and Real Technology (SMART) program and ExperimentFest. These resources aim to provide students starting from primary school through to high school with an informed understanding of what a career in engineering and science involves, information they wouldn't otherwise receive.