From the Director's Desk - 2014 Overview

Newstep and Open Foundation
Open Foundation 40th Anniversary
Staff Appointment
UoN Prep Bridging Courses
Newstep Review

From the Director's Desk – An Overview of 2014

For the ELFS Centre, 2014 was again a year of challenges, opportunities, and numerous achievements and celebrations.

I would like to thank all the staff in the centre especially the Deputy Director, the Executive Officer, the Associate Professor Research and the Convenors of our programs for all their hard work during 2014.


2014 has been a mixed year for ELICOS. Numbers in early intakes of the year were down on 2013 numbers but the last 3 intakes of the year were well up on last year, so our overall numbers will be similar to those of 2013.  Because of our ability to offer innovative student experience programs, we have been successful in attracting both short term and long term Japanese study abroad students from five new university partners in 2014.

More than 10 ELICOS staff attended and presented at the two major ELICOS Conferences during 2014.

Our Sydney Centre numbers has mirrored that of Callaghan with early intakes having low numbers and the last three intakes being significantly better. Virtually all the students enrolled in ELICOS programs in Sydney go onto to postgraduate study at UoN Sydney. I would like to take the opportunity to thank Barbara Mansfield, the Head teacher and Keeley McCauley the Deputy Head Teacher for all their hard work in 2014.

Every two years English Australia (the peak body for ELT in Australia) and the Australian Government fund a biennial barometer for international students undertaking English language training in Australia and it is benchmarked against centres in three other English speaking countries. In 2013 more than 16,000 students in four countries were surveyed on the qualities of 123 English language colleges, of these more than 10,600 were Australian English language college students, and 5,504 English language students in Canada, New Zealand and the USA.  This is the Centre's third barometer and there has been a marked improvement in the outcomes for the Centre. There are four segments to the Barometer.  In the learning segment, the Language Centre scores ranged from 6 – 18 (49 language centres in Australia participated in the survey) which is an excellent outcome.  Other areas of improvement were opportunities to use English outside the classroom which demonstrated a marked improvement from 2011 where it was ranked 44th to 8th in 2013.

A new Quality Assurance Framework for ELICOS centres has been introduced by the National ELT Accreditation Scheme (NEAS).  The Language Centre was one of the first 10 centres to undergo a complete audit and has received NEAS Quality Endorsement with strong commendations regarding high levels of teacher and student satisfaction, good professional development, attractive campus environment, a strong student engagement program, discreet flagging of students at risk, and a strong perception that the Centre responds to student feedback.

I would like to thank the ELICOS Convenor, Helen Fitzgerald, the Deputy Head-teacher, Janielle Wilson, and An-Chi Baxter and the professional staff and teachers who have done an excellent job in ensuring that the Language Centre has run in a smooth and efficient manner during 2014.

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  • Homestay had another successful year in 2014.
  • There are 170 families registered with the Callaghan program.
  • There are 6 families registered in Ourimbah (accommodating 2 students).
  • Homestay accommodated 400 students with 10% of students continuing with their placement into 2015.Students come from 22 different cultures and the top 4 source countries are:
    220 from Japan
    110 from China
    15 from Vietnam
    11 from Thailand
  • Homestay accommodated 24 students and 2 teachers from the East China University of Science & Technology hosted by UON Global and the Confucius Institute.
  • Homestay accommodated 220 Japanese study groups comprising of short and long term stays.
  • Homestay received 17 underage students for 2014 turning 18 in 2015.
    Homestay held the annual Thank you Dinner in June and the Christmas Party will be held in November for homestay families and their students to attend.

I would like to thank Fatima Shipton and her assistant Nicole for all their hard work during 2014.

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Newstep and Open Foundation

2014 saw an increase in numbers enrolled in our Open Foundation program and a continued increase in Newstep students at Callaghan, but a decline in Newstep numbers at Ourimbah.  The Convenors (Beverley Wilson, Anna Bennett and Dave Powter) as well as the teaching and support staff are to be commended for their efforts to ensure our enabling students had a good learning experience.

Our enabling students continued to benefit from having greatly enhanced student support in 2014, including greater counseling support onsite.  We are fortunate to have staff of the calibre of Deanna McCall and Christine Campbell to provide this invaluable support on both our campuses.  The extra maths and learning skills support has added to the great work of Annette Morante and Catherine Chinneroy Doyle from Learning Development in the Centre for Teaching and Learning.  A significant number of students from a Language Background other than English (LBOTE) have now completed our enabling programs with the important assistance of Evonne Irwin and Sally Baker our LBOTE teachers. Our Online Open Foundation program continues to grow from strength to strength with significant increases in student engagement and the enhancement of the Week Zero orientation program.  Special thanks to Scott Sciffer, Liz Goode and the excellent teaching and support staff who have encouraged this engagement

A number of enabling staff will be attending and 8 staff will be presenting papers at the FABENZ Conference 2014, Bay of Plenty Institute of Technology, Tauranga, New Zealand, from 3-5 December.

There were 1309 domestic enabling students who received undergraduate offers via UAC in 2014: 1159 students were offered an undergraduate place at UoN (88.5%) and 150 prior-enabling students received offers to other Universities (11.5%). In the 2014 academic year 3,467 students commenced our enabling programs.

The success of the enabling programs in 2014 has been achieved through the leadership of Associate Professor Jo May, Dr David Powter, Beverley Wilson, Dr Anna Bennett, Di Rigney and Jenny Williams.
Special thanks also to Lynette Dennis, Professional Team Leader in Foundation Studies for providing exemplary professional services supporting these programs.

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Through the leadership of Associate Professor Mahsood Shah and the strong support of our Research Manager Helen Cameron there has been an exponential growth in our Research outcome over the last 2 years; Centre publications rose from 16 in 2012 to 35 in 2013 and 2014 is tracking to be on par with 2013. Other activities have included:

  • 10 applications for external grants directly related to enabling education;
  • Regular research seminars as part of capacity building;
  • One to one discussions with academics and interested support staff to assess staff interest, generate research ideas, identify possible outputs; and monitor progress;
  • Collaboration and engagement of peers in Faculties within UoN;
  • Engagement of enabling education peers from other universities in grant applications;
  • Engagement of international scholars in contributing chapters in two forthcoming books led by the ELFS Centre; and
  • Development of the research page on the ELFS Centre website.

In 2014, the centre also introduced three research awards. The awards aim to recognise staff contribution to ELFSC research outcomes. Two of the awards were presented this year and they went to:

Higher Degree Research - Rosalie Bunn
Best Publication Award - Ibtihal Samarayi

In July, the first issue of International Studies in Widening Participation was published.  The journal was established through the collaborative efforts of the English Language and Foundation Studies Centre and the Centre of Excellence for Equity in Higher Education.  Associate Professor Mahsood Shah leads an editorial board comprised of leading international scholars in the field of widening participation, including the University of Newcastle's Global Innovation Chair of Equity in Higher Education, Professor Geoff Whitty.  International Studies in Widening Participation aims to publish scholarly work on equity, access and excellence in widening student participation in tertiary education globally.

Thanks are extended to Associate Professor Mahsood Shah and Helen Cameron for all their hard work in 2014.

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Open Foundation 40th Anniversary Celebrations

2014 marks the 40th Anniversary of our Open Foundation program and we had 4 major events to celebrate this important event.

To start the 40th Anniversary events we hosted a symposium entitled Towards a Smarter Central Coast at our Central Coast Campus with special guest ABC personality, Scott Levi, (a former OF student) and 2 other Open Foundation students Ginny Gallegos and Frank Van de Mortel.  It was great opportunity for the local Central Coast community learn how 40 years of Open Foundation has changed lives

The inaugural Brian Smith lecture, honouring Brian's work in establishing Open Foundation, was launched by the Vice Chancellor, Professor Caroline Mc Millen and we were very fortunate to have Professor Sally Kift,  Deputy Vice0Chancellor (Academic) at James Cook University as the inaugural speaker.  Her lecture entitled "Enabling equitable access, participation and success: Leveraging the lessons of 40 years" was inspiring and has set the right tone for future lectures.

We also hosted an art Exhibition entitled "Transformations" during which the art of 9 of our former students who have studied Visual Art in the Open Foundation program were exhibited. These stunning pieces of work were displayed both at our Callaghan and Ourimbah campuses.

All events were well attended and I want to personally thank the whole ELFS team and some former ELFS staff for their amazing commitment to ensure these events went off smoothly.

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Staff Appointments

We were fortunate upon the retirement of Di Rigney to recruit Jenny Williams as our Executive Officer. Jenny has held a number senior roles across the University, and brings a wealth of experience to the role.

While our Quality Assurance, Teaching and Learning Officer (QATL), Sally Curzi has been on maternity leave we were very fortunate to welcome Elizabeth Bridges who came to us from the Faculty of Education and Arts where she was acting QATL.

The Centre also welcomed Alexandra Fowler to the Foundation Studies team at Callaghan, following the resignation of Lucy Maguire.

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Yapug numbers have continued to grow, with 78 students commencing in 2014, including a significant number of students enrolling mid-year.

Strategies have been developed to reduce the amount of attrition in the course through the provision of extra support.  We have greatly appreciated the leadership of Catherine Phoenix who was the Yapug Coordinator for 2014.

I am pleased to report that former YAPUG student Kathleen Jackson (Yapug, 2008), who subsequently graduated with a Bachelor of Arts with a major in Aboriginal Studies and with a major in History, was awarded a Charlie Perkins Scholarship and the 2013 Roberta Sykes Harvard Club Scholarship.  Kathleen has commenced her PhD at Harvard University in African and American Studies.

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UoN Prep Bridging Courses

In February, the Summer UoN Prep Bridging program offered 66 individual short Prep courses to undergraduate and enabling students across four weeks.  Both day and night classes were offered at Callaghan and Ourimbah and four courses were offered at Port Macquarie.

A significant number of students registered for courses with total course registrations at 2517:  1719 undergraduate, 524 enabling and 274 registrations for the online course - Academic Survival Skills Online.

The total enrolment in Winter UoN PREP Courses was 429 students. The courses were held from 1 to 25 July with 338 students attending 23 courses across Callaghan, Ourimbah and Port Macquarie campuses.

The Centre has developed a fully-online bridging course to teach the preparatory academic skills required for tertiary study.  The course is modelled on the on-campus UoN Prep course, Academic Survival Skills and consists of 9 self-paced modules covering topics such as: critical thinking, time management, active learning, reading strategies, note-taking, summarizing, research, academic writing style, essay writing, using sources, referencing, revision techniques and exam preparation. Over the last few months the course has been further enhanced and there are long-term plans to offer it as a MOOC.

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The Uni4You project is being introduced in 2014/15 to Raymond Terrace, Karuah, Cessnock and the North Lakes (Central Coast) areas of New South Wales.  The project is designed to address educational disadvantage in these communities by engaging adults (over the age of 20) in a suite of activities that encourage their engagement and enrolment in Open Foundation through the University of Newcastle.

Uni4You offers a program of activities to potential students to prepare for Open Foundation study.  Activities include Information Sessions, Career Counselling and Preparing for Study Sessions.  Potential students are then encouraged to engage in the Open Foundation program at University, either via online study or on campus. The program represents an important opportunity for adults to be provided with assistance in making decisions regarding studying at University.  Coordinators are available to discuss the program with students individually.

The project is collaboration between a number of centres at The University of Newcastle – The Family Action Centre (FAC), the Equity and Diversity Unit and the English Language and Foundation Studies Centre (ELFSC).  An external partner is The Smith Family who funded the initial pilot year through their Communities for Children (Raymond Terrace) program funding for 2014/2015.

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Over the last 12 months a number of experienced staff retired from the Centre; Christine Miller, the Deputy Head Teacher of the ELICOS Program, retired in February after 20 years with the University.  Her leadership role and input into course development, assessment writing, student counselling, teacher mentoring and professional development as well as her coordination of off-shore programs have been invaluable.

In May our Executive Officer, Di Rigney, retired after more than 30 years of great service to the University. Di taught into our programs, but most importantly she had served for the last 10 years as the Centre's Executive Officer.  We were fortunate to have Di in this role during a time of major change to the Centre and as a member of the Centre Executive Di has played a pivotal role in the strategic direction of the Centre.

Helene Clarke, Lecturer in Linguistics will be retiring on 12 December.  Helene has been with the University for 12 years and specifically with ELFSC for 8 years.  Helene's former role was Online Academic Coordinator.

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Newstep Review

In July an external review was conducted for our Newstep Program chaired by Professor Alison Dean. There were a significant number of commendations some of which were:

  • Staff involved in the program, both academic and professional, have a strong focus on equity and access for students. It was very clear to the Panel that staff have a shared vision and enabling philosophy.
  • Student responses to the program were extremely positive, with word of mouth recommendations, positive community support of the program, and a program that allows students to feel motivated, and embrace a new approach to their studies.
  • There is strong student support in the program, evidenced by staff that has total ownership of and belief in the program, a focus on building self-efficacy and confidence for students, and embedding access to wider resources.
  • There is high quality teaching and learning and strong curriculum in the program, with work undertaken with mapping graduate attributes and outcomes, consideration of AQF pathways, teaching and learning planning documents, and staff recognition via the implementation of excellence in teaching awards.
  • The Panel believes that staff has implemented strong support structures and good initiatives for student success, utilising HEPPP funding for additional support staff, and newly appointed Discipline Coordinator roles to further support the program.

There were also 10 recommendations which will be considered at the November Board meeting.

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The English Language and Foundation Studies Centre was awarded a 2014 Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning from the Office of Learning and Teaching.

This was awarded to our Week Zero Team, led by Liz Goode, Joyleen Christensen, Angela Henderson, Evonne Irwin, Deanna McCall, Annette Morante and Amanda Valent.  The Week Zero team has been recognised for developing an outstanding and innovative online orientation, which has significantly enhanced the engagement and experience of students commencing an online enabling program.

The Week Zero online orientation has had a profound impact on the engagement and experience of students commencing an online enabling program for mature-aged students. The initiative has consistently increased some measures of engagement by close to 4000% and has engendered tangible feelings of confidence and preparedness among whole cohorts of diverse and educationally-disadvantaged students. The award was presented to the Week Zero team at a ceremony in Sydney on 16 September 2014.

In September the Language Centre received the  English Australia 'Award for Innovation' recognising the centre's innovative approach to English language training for our diverse cohort of international students.

The National Award for Innovation recognises organisations within the 'ELICOS (English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students) industry that support their staff in demonstrating original and creative problem solving initiatives in response to the challenges faced within the ELICOS sector.

The award recognises the range of Student Experience Programs (SEP) developed and introduced in response to international student feedback seeking greater and more meaningful interaction with Australian students and the local community.  Student Engagement Coordinator, Mrs. Robyn Gentemann played a key role with other staff in the Centre and around the University to ensure the success of the program.

Dr Joyleen Christensen was awarded of one of the two inaugural Centre of Excellence for Equity in Higher Education Travel Grants to the value of $5,000.  With the grant, Joyleen plans to visit various centres and institutions throughout the UK that have a particular interest in widening participation and/or peer support initiatives.

We had 3 successful Recognition of Attainment Ceremonies (ROAC) in 2014 at Callaghan and Ourimbah and for the first time this year a ROAC at Port Macquarie, I would like to especially thank our professional staff for their tireless work to ensure these events were very successful.

The Deputy Director, Jo May, is part of a successful OLT grant for the seed project entitled 'Breaking the barriers: supporting and engaging mature age first-in-family university learners and their families' for $47,000.  This project is in collaboration with Dr Sarah O'Shea at the University of Wollongong as a lead institution and Dr Cathy Stone, Open Universities Australia. In May Jo's book - Reel Schools: Schooling and the Nation in Australian Cinema was also launched.

The University's Centre of Excellence for Equity in Higher Education (CEEHE) has awarded  seed funding grant to the value of $47,336.00 for the project titled: "Overcoming limiting notions of academic capability: strategies to improve the participation and completion rates of students from non-traditional and low socio-economic backgrounds".  Dr Anna Bennett (Program Convenor, ELFSC) is the Chief Investigator, working with the Research Team of Dr Erica Southgate (School of Education), Associate Professor Seamus Fagan (Director, ELFSC) and Cathy Burgess (UoN Prep Bridging Coordinator ELFSC).

The Director and Professor James Albright from the School of Education (Chief Investigator) have also received seed funding ($47,336.00) from The Centre of Excellence for Equity in Higher Education (CEEHE). It is hoped more staff from ELFS will be involved in the project. The Project Title is "The Ripple Effect: how enabling education impacts on the individual, the family and the community".

Aimee Turner from our Ourimbah Campus has been awarded the Vice Chancellor's Award for Teaching Excellence and Contribution to Student Learning - Centre/Institute 2014.

Dr Jamie Hunt was awarded the ELFS Award (Enabling) for Excellence in Teaching and Learning for 2014.

Associate Professor Mahsood Shah, was awarded the 2014 Vice-Chancellor's Award for Research Excellence, Division Research Excellence Award.

Dr Kim Gray was invited as an academic researcher to be part of a forum, the International Forum on Intercountry Adoption & Global Surrogacy in August, at the International Institute of Social Studies in The Hague, Netherlands.  Kim's research on Intercountry Adoption was published in book form in Germany in 2009, 'Bananas, Bastards and Victims?:  Australian Intercountry Adoptees and Cultural Belonging'.

Associate Professor Seamus Fagan
English Language and Foundation Studies Centre

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