2017 ELFSC Board Report


  • In a field of strong nominations, the Foundation Studies “Transition In” Team was jointly awarded the 2017 Academic Division Award for Professional Staff Excellence (Team). Led by Jenny Williams, the team consists of Holly Dillon, Sharon Boyd, Chris Dowman, Leah Hill, Maureen Jones, Lynda Lomax, Chelsea Trimble and Alexandra Fowler. This has been an extremely successful activity for the Centre, and more importantly well regarded by students who in feedback in the 2017 Commencing Students Survey gave it a massive “thumbs up”.
  • Congratulations also to Fatima Shipton and the Homestay family network, winners of the 2017 Academic Division Award for International Engagement.  This program is a highly regarded program by students and partner institutions because of its strong community engagement philosophy and the strong partnership with the Newcastle community.
  • Congratulations to Tim Hyde and Jess Burden who were shortlisted for the annual Australian Financial Review Higher Education Awards in the - Equity and Opportunity Category for the Just in Time Communication Strategy they developed. There were over 100 applications for the 10 award categories so it was a great achievement to be shortlisted.
  • Four nominations were received for the inaugural ELFSC Health and Safety Award, Congratulations to Chris Dowman and Mel Archer at Ourimbah, who are the 2017 ELFSC H&S Award winners.  Chris and Mel identified the need for a quick reference card for staff when dealing with emergencies and student referrals. The outcome was a wallet-sized, two sided card, which details key contacts for emergency and other services at Callaghan and Ourimbah. The Selection Panel also agreed to recognise and acknowledge Jenny Vazquez with a “Highly Commended” accolade for her commitment to the Health and Safety needs of our staff and students
  • Congratulations to Ryan O’Neill whose latest book Their Brilliant Careers was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin award, Australia’s most significant literary prize.
  • The ELFSC Award for Excellence in Teaching and Learning in enabling programs was awarded to Heath Bonnefin. Heath was awarded the prize ‘For development of an efficacious pedagogy for Legal Studies which inspired students and improved course satisfaction’.  The ELFSC Award for Excellence in Teaching and Learning for International Programs will be awarded in the coming weeks.

Our Recognition of Attainment Ceremonies

The Callaghan Recognition of Attainment Ceremony (ROAC) for students who completed Open Foundation, Yapug or Newstep in 2016 was held on 20 April at the University Great Hall. The Chancellor presented students with their certificates. Our three student speakers were Laura Patterson (Newstep), Bryce Adamson (Yapug) and May Fussell (Open Foundation).  Each spoke of the challenges and rewards in their journey through their respective enabling program. The ceremony was shared with graduates of NIC and the Faculty of Science.

The Ourimbah Recognition of Attainment Ceremony (ROAC) was held at the Ourimbah campus on Thursday 6 July 2017 for our Open Foundation and Newstep students. Both the Occasional Speaker Rhea Barnett and Student Speakers; Jessica Ayling and Shelly James gave inspirational speeches. Rhea who undertook her Open Foundation course at Ourimbah spoke highly of the opportunity Open Foundation provided her that included later in her career an opportunity to twice visit the Antarctic.

Asylum Seeker Program

At the beginning of 2017 the ELFS Centre with the support of CEEHE, and the Office of the DVC(A), offered free enabling tuition to 18 asylum seeker students who were keen to gain entry to undergraduate programs at UON but because of their visa status would have to pay full international student fees. These students are doing extremely well in their studies and in a recent meeting with the DVC(A), 10 of these students praised the amazing support they received specifically from Simone and Liza, and generally from academic and professional staff in the Centre. UON has generously offered at least 10 tuition free places at undergraduate level for students who successfully complete their enabling program.  We are rightly proud of this program.


During the course of 2017, we have had a number of staff leaving or retiring and a number of new staff joining us.

Peter Quinn retired from ELFSC and the University on 11 January. Peter commenced teaching in the Newstep program in 2009, taking tutorials in the English and Directed Study courses. We also bade Alan Moore a fond farewell on 7 February.  Alan commenced teaching as a sessional staff member at ELFSC in the EPGEOS courses in 2005 while still working as Conjoint Lecturer in Earth Sciences.

After 25 years, teaching on our enabling program, Rosalie Bunn retired from UON.  Rosalie was dedicated and well regarded lecturer in Social Enquiry who was one of the historians of our programs and when we were looking for past students who had done well after enabling, Rosalie was the “go to “ person as she had a wealth of knowledge of our students and their journeys.

We appointed 2 new academic staff in 2017. Dr Vanessa Bowden, has taken on the Social Enquiry teaching and coordination role at Ourimbah campus, Vanessa has been working for the University of Newcastle as a sessional staff member since 2009 as a tutor and lecturer in Sociology. Dr Carol Carter, who is teaching on the Foundations in Education course, joined us from Melbourne where she worked the last five years as a lecturer in Education at Holmesglen Institute. Prior to that, Carol worked in a number of universities in South Africa.


During 2017, 70 short UONPREP courses were offered across Callaghan, Ourimbah and Port Macquarie during the February and July university breaks. The total number of student registrations for these UONPREP classes was 2946 with increasing numbers of students enrolling in the online courses. The most popular courses are the Essay writing courses and the Mathematics and Science courses.


PREP Status















No Prep















No Prep















No Prep







Success refers to load (EFTSL) passed as a percentage of load (EFTSL) attempted.

* Lower success rate for UONPREP students compared to non-UONPREP students

Table 1. Success rate of students from different ATAR bands who have attended a UONPREP course for the period 2011-2016.

The success of the program is in part because the UONPREP course offerings continue to change in response to the feedback from the student surveys and in consultation with faculty, changes in faculty subjects and requirements over time. This regular feedback maintains UONPREP as a vital first step for transitioning students.

This cycle of review and the flexible adaptation of courses continues to ensure that the UONPREP program delivers focused courses that successfully prepare students from a range of diverse backgrounds for their undergraduate study. The retention and success data presented at this and previous Board meetings indicates that the UONPREP courses are highly successful and valuable in terms of retention and success rates for the students.

Enabling Programs

It has been a challenging year for our enabling programs. Many of us in the enabling sector were caught off guard when the Federal Government proposed radical changes to enabling education;

  1. Introduction of a fee for students undertaking enabling education to be introduced on January 1 2018 (since the early 90’s enabling education has been free to enabling students)
  2. All enabling provision would be put out to tender for implementation on January 1 2019

As the largest enabling provider in the country, the implementation of these proposed changes have the potential to be detrimental to our programs on 2 fronts; the fees would deter many potential students from enrolling in enabling courses as enabling students are often debt averse, and with the introduction of a tendering process could lead to us losing a considerable portion of our enabling load.

UON and the National Association of Enabling Educators of Australia (NAEEA) took the fight to the Government on these important issues. Our staff and students were truly amazing, facilitating a visit by Tanya Plibersek the Deputy Leader the Opposition where staff, led by the DVC (A), and our students advocated strongly for our programs.  The University also hosted three key Government officials who also met with staff and students and were impressed with the way we deliver and support enabling students.

It does seem like the Government does not have the support in the Senate to have their “reforms” passed so we are now awaiting the Government’s next moves.

Another aspect of the proposed Government changes was the proposed introduction of diplomas.  We had anticipated this and a week after the May Budget we had three diplomas for approval for the May PCAC meeting.  We now have three ELFS diplomas; a Diploma in Business, a Diploma in Engineering, a Diploma in Studies of Culture and Society; and a diploma to be jointly offered with the Faculty of Science. We also may be involved in the teaching of some courses on the three advanced diplomas that FEDUA plan to offer.  This has involved a lot of work by the Deputy Director, A/Professor Michelle Picard, the EO, Jenny Williams, and our QATL, Elizabeth Bridges.

In 2017, ELFS staff have been teaching three modified Newstep courses into FHEAM’s new Associate Degree of Integrated Care in Ageing from FHEAM.

2017 has been a great year for teaching in our enabling programs. Recent data from SSP shows that in semester 1, 2017, ELFSC had the highest percentage of courses in the SFCs rated from 4 to 5 at UON (93.3%). The remaining courses were rated from 3 to 4 with no courses rated under 3. This is an impressive result and an improvement from our already impressive score of 88.3% of courses rated from 4 to 5 in 2016. The positive feedback from our students is a testament to the work of our lecturers, tutors and teachers in our Programs as well as to the support of our Professional Staff. Our cyclical course renewal is an ongoing process (we are now in our second year) to ensure our courses are delivering what they are supposed to deliver to our various cohorts. It has provided excellent opportunities to have meaningful engagement with our colleagues from the faculties and again my thanks to the Deputy Director, the QATL, Convenors and Deputy Convenors as well as the Course Co-ordinators for making this happen.

Our 2017 enabling numbers were 6 EFTSL’s down on last year but both of these numbers are well above our capped places. Although our EFTSL’s are slightly down, our actual total numbers are up, 3,426 (2017) V 3,270.  The 2017 growth has been in our Open Foundation Online, which is pleasing, but also a challenge as offering enabling online can be quite challenging and students require requisite support.  As in 2016, our Newstep numbers declined, mainly because other universities and ours made offers to students who normally would have enrolled in Newstep.  Yapug had similar numbers to 2016, one of the challenges this year has been that the for a significant part of this year the program operated without an Indigenous Student Enabling Advisor which placed a lot of extra work on the Yapug Convenor.  We were pleased a few months ago when Hannah Pipe took on this important role, so we are looking forward to enhanced outcomes for students and staff. Our Centre works very closely with the Family Action Centre’s UNI4You program. In 2017 the Yapug program and the Family Action Centre (FAC) began offering targeted student education pathways in the Girrakool Education & Training Unit at the Frank Baxter Juvenile Justice Centre, Kariong.  Our Open Foundation Online program are  also working closely with UNI4You to support students in the Muswellbrook area to undertake an enabling program, and the support will be offered out of  the recently opened  Tertiary Education Centre.

In 2016, the Centre utilised HEPP funding to introduce a pilot Just in Time Communication Strategy for our staff and students in our Intensive Open Foundation Program in Semester 2.  Based on the success and learnings from that pilot we extended the strategy to all our enabling programs in 2017. It was based on the premise that significant amounts of information are “front ended” in the early weeks of the course and when they really need this information, it is presumed that they already are familiar with the information but the reality is often different. E.g. first assignment, exams etc. The outcomes have been very pleasing and proof of the success of the strategy in reaching and engaging with students, is that when the VC requested the Centre to conduct a short quick survey of our current enabling students, within 6 days we had more than 600 responses to the survey and what was even more impressive that we received these responses during the Spring semester break

Over the years, the Centre has greatly enhanced the support that is provided to our enabling students and this is due to our Student Support Staff who are both professional staff (some of whom are located in units outside the Centre) and our academic and teaching staff. This group has 3-4 meetings a year, and this year the group was ably chaired by Holly Dillon.

A big thank you to, the Deputy Director Michelle Picard, the Convenors; Beverley Wilson, Michelle Mansfield, Joyleen Christensen, Emma Hamilton and Sharlene Leroy-Dyer the Deputy Convenors, Paul Chojenta, Emma Hamilton and Kristen Allen.  Jenny Williams has provided great leadership to our professional staff ably assisted by Elizabeth Bridges and Lynette Dennis.  Our research profile has been greatly enhanced by the work of our Research Leader Anna Bennett, and Jo Hanley our Research Manager.

Current Research Grants and Projects

Amongst ELFSC ongoing academic staff (n=19), there are two externally funded research projects currently being undertaken, including:

$200,721              “Improving the ‘beaten track’: investigating alternative pathways to increase higher education participation for mature-aged low socio-economic status students in regional and remote Australia” - Dr Bronwyn Relf, Dr Emma Hamilton (in collaboration with partners from UTAS and ECU). This project is funded by the Department of Education as part of the HEPPP National Priority Pool Grant.

$3,962                    “German as a Heritage Language in Newcastle and the Hunter Valley” - Dr Jaime Hunt (in collaboration with Dr Sasha Davis, HASS, UON). This project is funded by the Australian Linguistics Society.

There is also one current project which is supported by funding internal to UON:

$15,000                 “Pedagogies which rebuild scientific curiosity and understanding to improve science outcomes for students in Higher Education” - Catherine Burgess, Dr Heath Jones, Dr Jennifer Irwin, Dr Murray Sciffer. This project is funded by the Centre of Excellence for Equity in Higher Education (CEEHE) through its Excellence in Teaching for Equity in Higher Education (ETEHE) scheme.

TOTAL: $219,683

During 2015 and 2016, ELFSC academics were recipients of significantly more funding (see Figure 1) than previous years, due to the introduction of HEPPP NPPs, the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (NCSEHE) scheme, and a successful OLT project about enabling curriculum.

Figure 1: ELFSC Research income trends 2012 to 2016

A number of changes in funding bodies and schemes have impacted on research income for 2017, including the demise of the OLT, revised HEPPP funding arrangements and significant changes and reductions to the NCSEHE funding scheme. There was a very limited number of calls for projects in 2017, as well as an imposition of prescribed projects through the HEPPP NPP and NCSEHE schemes.

The above listed current grants and projects represent good collaborations (both internal and external to UON) and will serve the researchers well in terms of building their capacity for attracting further monies down the track when funding becomes more certain (as wider higher education policy and funding directions are determined).

A number of grant applications were submitted by ELFSC staff in 2017 but were unsuccessful. Dr Bennett and Dr Hanley are working with staff to find ways to redevelop proposals and initiate new directions. A number of research active staff have retired over the course of 2016 and 2017, which also has implications for 2017 outputs. We expect newly appointed staff to increase outputs in the near future.

ELFSC academics are also supported by internal seed funding intended to provide them with opportunities to conduct new research and develop scholarly outputs with a view to using the outcomes to attract larger external funding. The ELFSC-supported NRC (New Research Concept) and NSER (New Staff Early-Stage Researcher) small grant schemes have resulted in 5 five projects being funded this year (with a combined value of $9k). These are outlined in the ELFSC research report. Building track record through various forms of research professional development, along with targeted conference attendance, helps to develop potential for ARC and other competitive funding proposals of various forms, particularly in terms of attracting collaborations with colleagues from different areas and institutions.

ELICOS Programs

Overall, there was a drop in ELICOS enrolments on both campuses in 2017.  Our numbers in Sydney have dropped more than 20% mainly due to a decline in Chinese students enrolling in our postgrad business programs, as well as a decline in our Indian and Mongolian markets.  Callaghan had a lesser decline of about 7%, because the decline in Chinese postgrad numbers has been offset by a growth in undergraduate Chinese students and the numbers of our short-term and long-term Japanese students.

Staff have attended and presented at Conferences hosted by the National ELT Accreditation Scheme, English Australia, University English Centres of Australia as well as CamTESOL. The Callaghan ELICOS Student Experience Program (SEP) continues to grow from strength to strength on the Callaghan Campus led by Anne Burnett. She has developed strong links with Student Central’s Volunteer programs, which provides a variety of meaningful student engagement for our Language Centre students as well as for Australian students. In Sydney Doris Ayala has adopted the SEP to suit a more international campus and has come up with some innovations which have greatly enhanced the student experience at UON Sydney these include the Wrap me in Love Project which is a knitting community group who sew blankets for people in need and are distributed in many parts of the world. Our UON Sydney students attend this weekly event at Potts Point where experienced knitters teach our students. Another important student engagement activity is the Tea at Three program whereby students from Fort Street High School visit the centre every Tuesday for afternoon tea with Intermediate students. Both groups benefit from the activity- the school students are able to complete their year 11 Volunteer program and the ELICOS students get to meet local Australians, practice their English and learn about Australian culture. The program has been extremely successful and feedback from both ELICOS and the school students shows the program is well worthwhile.

In September, there was a lot of media attention regarding the launching of the new ELICOS standards by the Minister of Education, with the media completely misrepresenting what had actually happened.  What the Department of Education had done was make a few minimal changes to the old ELICOS Standards, the most important of which was which was  that “EAP programs offered by ELICOS institutions in the case of ELICOS courses which are provided under a direct entry arrangement to a tertiary education course, formal measures must be in place to ensure that assessment outcomes are comparable to other criteria used for admission to the tertiary education course of study, or for admission to other similar courses of study”. These formal measures may include benchmarking with other EAP providers and the ELICOS Convenor Callaghan  had prior to the announcement of the new standards had discussions the University of Wollongong to benchmark with their ELICOS programs and specifically their EAP course.  So our ELICOS delivery was compliant with the old standards and will be compliant with the new ones.

This year, Global Experience Program delivered 5 study tours of 1-4 weeks duration to 29 students from China and 81 students from Japan in the periods January/February and July/August.  The program generated an income of $258,860 in total, or $97,882 and $160,978 respectively from each country. Appreciate the great work of AnChi Baxter in ensuring these programs as well as our important integrated programs deliver important outcomes for the Centre.

Like with our enabling programs our 4 ELICOS programs go through a cyclical review and this year our Intermediate course was reviewed and some exciting changes have been introduced.  Thanks again to the Convenors and Deputy Convenors in Callaghan and Sydney.

I would like to extend my gratitude to the ELICOS Convenor Ben Doran (Newcastle) who has settled in well to his new role and is doing great work on course renewal, ably assisted by our Deputy Convenor Janielle Wilson.  Also thanks to the professional staff led by AnChi Baxter. I would also like to thank the ELICOS Convenor, Sydney, Barbara Mansfield, and the Deputy Convenor; Keely McCauley for their great work in 2017 in what has been a challenging year in Sydney.


The Language Centre administers in excess of 2000 IELTS tests per years, which is much appreciated by our local community who would otherwise have to go to Sydney to undertake the test.  For a significant number of years IELTS had a monopoly on testing of both international students and potential migrants but over the last 2 years or so, the Federal Government has broken this monopoly.  As a result we have seen a continued to drop in our numbers taking IELTS. A big thank you to AnChi Baxter and Allison Delaney who ensure we deliver a safe and secure testing environment for this important test.


In 2017 Homestay had 170 families registered with their program and has accommodated 410 students, which consisted of:

20         under 18-year-old students

215        students - Japanese study groups/tours

48         students - Chinese study group

18         students - Korea study group

109        individual students that were not under 18 or part of a study group program

Homestay holds two annual functions: a Thank You Dinner, which was held in June, attended by the DVC (A), and our Christmas party, which will be held in December. A big thank you to Fatima and Annie for all the great work they do throughout the year