Student engagement

UON is committed to supporting talented people from all walks of life to access, and succeed in, higher education. In 2015, we built on our outstanding reputation for excellence and equity with a strong focus on outreach to communities that have traditionally experienced educational disadvantage.

Our commitment to widening participation is reflected in our innovative approaches to learning and teaching, incorporating inclusive curriculum and responsive support structures to assist diverse groups of students to achieve their learning aspirations.

2015 key figures

2015 Key figures - Student engagement

2015 highlights

  • UON ranked 10th in Australia for good teaching, equal second for generic skills and sixth for overall satisfaction in the Australian Graduate Survey 2015.
  • More than 90 per cent of UON programs included Work Integrated Learning (WIL) and placement arrangements for students to apply their learnings in professional environments.
  • Over 16,000 WIL experiences were undertaken by undergraduate students in 2015 including Speech Pathology in Vietnam, Finance and Business placements in China, ‘Rock Initiative’ with aspiring musicians in local high schools, Living Arts collaboration in Cambodia, and Zen Calligraphy in San Francisco.
  • A flipped classroom approach was introduced to all first year students in the Faculty of Business and Law to place active learning at the centre of student experience.
  • Investment in refurbished learning and teaching spaces incorporating world class resources such as 360 degree panoramas, high resolution photo and drone imagery for virtual field trips, lab simulations and 3D printed teaching aids to help UON students engage in the classroom.

Strategic performance

The Education Plan objectives outlined in the NeW Directions Strategic Plan were:

We are national leaders in supporting students with diverse backgrounds to achieve success. We do this through innovative program design, engagement with industry and professional stakeholders and by breaking down the barriers between the classroom and the communities we operate in.

Our outstanding reputation for equity was further strengthened in 2015 as we continued our focus on outreach to communities that have traditionally experienced educational disadvantage.

Indigenous education

The Wollotuka Institute stands proudly at the centre of UON’s commitment to Indigenous education and research, ensuring that cultural integrity is at the forefront of our endeavours.

UON continues to attract the highest number of Indigenous students across Australia with a 2.9 per cent participation rate in 2014 compared with 1.5 per cent across the sector. In 2015, UON’s Indigenous participation rate increased to 3.2 per cent.

Enabling programs

In 2015, 18 per cent of domestic, commencing undergraduate enrolments were students who had completed an enabling program at UON. UON’s Open Foundation program is the oldest and largest continuously operating enabling program in Australia along with our successful NewStep and Yapug programs.

Centre of Excellence for Equity in Higher Education

UON’s Centre of Excellence for Equity in Higher Education (CEEHE) conducts interdisciplinary collaborative research that informs equity practice with colleagues across Australia and the world.

In March 2015, Professor Penny Jane Burke, a leading international scholar in the field of access and equity in higher education, was appointed Co-Director of CEEHE and Global Innovation Chair of Equity. Professor Burke joined our first Global Innovation Chair in Equity, Professor Geoff Whitty, to build a strong research partnership to improve the evidence base for successful programs in the area of student equity and success.

AIM High

UON is amongst the most active in the sector in school outreach work. Our AIM High program strives to increase aspiration for higher education among low socio-economic status schools and communities by offering a suite of tertiary education experiences to primary and high school students. The program uses innovative approaches to demonstrate the links between students’ lived experiences, classroom learning, and career and study options. In  2015, AIM High worked with 10,038 young people in partnership with 62 schools across the Hunter, Central Coast and mid North Coast and was as far reaching as Brisbane Waters Secondary College to Upper Lansdowne Public School.

Children's University

In 2015, UON launched the Children’s University Newcastle which is a program that encourages children aged between 7-14 years, and their families, to access a variety of extra-curricular learning opportunities.

A number of learning destinations across the Hunter, Newcastle and Central Coast regions support the initiative including museums, libraries and art galleries. Each participating student receives a passport that is stamped to validate their learning. When a threshold number of hours has been reached, students are invited to a formal  graduation ceremony to celebrate their achievements in a process that aims to develop confidence and aspiration.

My Big Tomorrow

My Big Tomorrow is an online resource targeted at high school students that aims to demonstrate the importance of developing sound literacy and numeracy skills for future careers. Students from local high schools helped shape the resource and worked to produce profiles on over 90 different career choices. The resource allows students to search for careers based on their hobbies and interests. My Big Tomorrow was funded by the Commonwealth Government’s HEPP National Priorities Pool.

My Big Tomorrow won the NEWi Award for Best Education Solution, the Australian Web Award for the Education Category and the International UX Award Silver Prize for the Most Inspirational User Experience for Educational  Advancement.

Summer Schools - Girls' Choices and LIVE IT!

Our Summer Schools offer a five day residential university experience for students in Year 9 from equity target groups across New South Wales. Students participate in a program of activities, lectures, workshops and industry visits which are designed to inspire them to build upon their potential and to expose them to a wide range of study and career options.

Careers and student development

UON has introduced an integrated approach to careers advice, embedded career development learning, work integrated learning and the provision of industry scholarships with its Careers and Student Development team. Throughout 2015 the team hosted a range of events focused on connecting students with business and industry, and introduced a series of workshops to assist students completing an English Language Intensive Course for Overseas Students (ELICOS) to find part-time work in Australia.

Industry connections

Our strong connections with industry ensure our graduates are well positioned for graduate programs and other professional and technical opportunities. Our connections range from global mining giants such as BHP Billiton, to service providers like Hunter Water and NSW Health, to a range of other State and Federal Government departments.

Engaging with our students

An enhanced student experience with increased opportunities for student engagement remained central to education activities in 2015.

2015 saw the full implementation of our revitalised Student Central unit, with a new service delivery model across campuses and an increase in the quality and richness of communication with students. A suite of successful events were held in 2015 including Autonomy Day, Stress Less Week, Create 2308 and Create 2444, all significantly increasing engagement with our students.

In addition, UON students involved in clubs, societies and organisations were provided access to a new program to assist them develop governance and leadership skills. ‘Generation Governance’ is an online governance course providing tips and tools for running a successful student organisation.

Graduate identity

In 2015, significant focus was given to the UON Graduate Identity, student experience and employment strategy. UON has identified three strategies to prepare graduates for the future: academically distinct yet career-ready; locally engaged and globally aware; and entrepreneurial with social responsibility.

New directions in learning

2015 marked the beginning of a significant change in the way education is delivered at UON. Flipped classes deliver content before class rather than in class and provide a more engaged form of learning. When students meet in class, they engage with the previously delivered content through discussion, analysis and collaborative work to deliver a deeper learning experience.

Course redesign is at the heart of transforming teaching from traditional to flipped modes. The Course and Program Engagement Renewal (CAPER) program offers a collaborative, team-based, holistic and comprehensive redesign of courses. The focus of the initiative is greater alignment of learning outcomes and assessment tools, and engaged activities in a blended mode of learning. In its inaugural year, 12 courses were improved through the CAPER program with a focus on student success.

We are committed to excellence and equity and have established the Centre of Excellence for Equity in Higher Education (CEEHE) as a national and international hub for equity-focused research, practice and partnerships. In the first year of operations, the CEEHE has built on our established reputation as a national leader in equity and access. We welcomed international scholar Professor Geoff Whitty as Director of the CEEHE, hosted a series of workshops exploring four key research themes, rolled out our CEEHE Research Grant Funding Scheme and cemented our links with the European Access Network.

Research funding

UON’s CEEHE was successful in securing eight Higher Education Participation and Partnership (HEPP) National Priority Pool project grants totalling over $1.3m in 2015. The successful projects showcase the diverse nature and high standard of the work of CEEHE and highlight UON’s position as a national leader in equity research and practice. Projects that secured funding covered a range of topics, including:

  • Guiding Futures: The Role of Teachers in the Formation of Students’ Aspirations for Higher Education
  • Indigenous Enabling: What Works?
  • Building Statistical Literacy for Success in Higher Education
  • Enhancing University Retention and Success for First-in-family, Low SES Students through a Flipped Classroom Learning Model.

Looking forward

As UON transitions to the NeW Futures Strategic Plan 2016-2025 the focus in 2016 is:

  • ‘Your pathway to a UON Degree’ which will provide greater opportunities for students from a range of educational and social backgrounds to fulfil their education aspirations.
  • ‘Access to success’ initiative which aims to ensure the educational journey is rewarding and ultimately leads to a quality outcome.
  • ‘UON Entrepreneur’ is aimed at ensuring that our graduates are equipped to participate in the innovation agenda and create employment opportunities of the future.
  • Updating our curriculum and learning experiences and providing contemporary education to future proof our graduates with ‘UON Next Generation Degree’.