August Research Newsletter

Forum for Access to Continuing Education (FACE)

Rosalie Bunn recently represented the University of Newcastle at the FACE conference held at Queens University in Belfast, Northern Ireland from 29th June to 1st July. Among the keynote speakers were: the Deputy Secretary for the Department of the Economy, under which the Education portfolio sits, and the Vice Chancellor of the Open University Britain, Peter Horrocks who had also worked for the BBC. Both speakers were very concerned about the impact of Brexit on Higher Education in Great Britain. They felt an uncertain economy may result in consequences for post-school education and that “outsiders” and immigrants will be marginalised, which would be a deeply unhealthy outcome. Both stressed the need to upskill populations and combatting disparities rather than exacerbating them. In Britain there has been a decline in people studying part time and the circumstances of many students do not allow full time study. Peter Horrocks argued that efforts to widen participation need to be broader with student loans being an important initiative. Some universities are doing more than others on the widening participation agenda, others are actually narrowing participation. Professor John Storan (who some of us met at the NAEEA conference in Parramatta last year) and the FACE conference organiser, is part of an advisory group to ensure a whole of sector approach to these issues.

There were many interesting and stimulating papers presented which bore similarities to our experiences of enabling education here in Australia. Rosalie’s paper “Rewarding, enlightening, empowering, challenging: the importance of habitus and embodied cultural capital in restructuring student lives following the successful completion of a tertiary preparation program” focused on three equity groups in her research: Indigenous Australians, early school leavers and students with a disability. It reported the many inspiring outcomes for students who fit disadvantaged criteria and highlighted the important work that staff in equity programs undertake. Patricia Straaf from Malmo University in Sweden spoke about widening participation in the context of change where there are no fees, no caps on student numbers and students can move within the system. Students must complete their course in Sweden to qualify for funding. Anne-Marie Canning from Kings College London spoke about “nudge” theory, which sounded a bit like UONs “Just in time” approach.

The Welcome event was hosted by the Mayor of Belfast in their beautiful City Hall followed by a bus tour of Belfast which included a visit to Falls and Shankill Roads to view street art relating to “the troubles”. The conference dinner was held at Crumlin Road Gaol, former residence of political prisoners, where a host dressed as a guard threatened conference goers with his baton if they disobeyed orders.

Upcoming conferences


Transforming Education Research
Sunday 27 November to Thursday 1 December 2016. Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne, Victoria.


Unitec Institute of Technology, Mt Albert, Auckland, 1-2 December 2016
Details available on the Fabenz conference website ( ).


Universities Australia, National Convention Centre Canberra, 1 to 3 March 2017.