Pathways to success: Access with support is opportunity

Elizabeth Smith

    Research output: Other contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


    Despite significant policy and funding reform with a clear widening participation agenda (Bradley 2009), regional students, many who are from low socio economic status (LSES) backgrounds, continue to be under represented in higher education compared to their metropolitan peers (approximately one third lower than the state average and nearly 40% lower than for metropolitan areas). Part of the challenge for regional and remote school leavers is the continued use of the Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank (ATAR) as the primary means of gaining entry to university, despite research to indicate this rank aligns more closely with postcode than academic potential (Teese 2016).
    Educational disadvantage is the result of a complex interplay of social, cultural and geographical issues that can result in students lacking the awareness, aspiration, support and preparation to successfully participate in university study. The cumulative effect of this disadvantage can result in students either not gaining an ATAR or achieving a rank deemed too low for university entry. Despite being acknowledged as an imperfect predictor of academic success, the continued privileging of the ATAR as the main determinant of entry to university for school leavers effectively denies access to a significant group of students well positioned not only to succeed at university but to go on to contribute to a more highly skilled and trained Australian workforce.
    This paper reports on an innovative pathway program developed by Charles Sturt University (CSU) that has effectively increased access to university for under-represented groups and has prepared these students to succeed in their subsequent degrees. The CSU Pathway Program is a unique, one-year Diploma course offered in partnership with TAFE in two states across four sites. As Tinto (2008) states “access with support is not opportunity”. The CSU Pathway recognises this and in addition to providing potential university access, strives to provides a uniquely supported and scaffolded program that will seamlessly and successfully transition students to university study.
    Since the inception of the CSU Pathway Program in 2010, more than 540 students have enrolled in the program with 264 students commencing university degrees as a result of their successful completion. The program has outstanding retention rates, with equally favourable performance of students once they begin their undergraduate degrees. As the program matures, students are beginning to graduate from their degrees (17 in total to date) with the first PhD student commencing her studies this year.
    The design of the program will be described in this paper together with the program’s alignment with Transition Pedagogy (Kift, 2009), proposals to include exit points in program of study (Harvey & Szalkowicz 2016) and the findings of the recent Government funded report into the efficacy of Enabling and Sub Bachelor Pathways for Disadvantaged Students (Pitman, Trinidad, Devlin, Harvey, Brett & McKay, 2016). Program statistics and student tracking data will also be presented along with student vignettes as a means of understanding the student experience of the program.
    Original languageEnglish
    Number of pages2
    Publication statusPublished - 2017
    Event3rd FABENZ Biennial Conference - Unitec Institute of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand
    Duration: 01 Dec 201602 Dec 2016


    Conference3rd FABENZ Biennial Conference
    Abbreviated titleAccessibility, Flexibility, Equity
    Country/TerritoryNew Zealand
    Internet address


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