Adelaidean - News from the University of Adelaide The University of Adelaide Australia
Spring 2013 Issue
Current issue (PDF) | Archive | Editorial Contact

Opening the doors to university for all students

Major new funding to unlock higher education for all smart young students - no matter what their background or where they live - is of special significance to Warren Bebbington.

The University of Adelaide Vice-Chancellor and President has carved a brilliant academic career and become one of the nation's most accomplished teachers.

But a rural background and lack of family involvement in higher education meant his early path to university was never going to be straightforward.

"My father was a farmer who left school when he was 14 and he quite liked the idea of his children going to university - but he had no idea how to bring that about," Professor Bebbington said.

"I ended up being the first in my family at university and I know what it's like to feel not welcome in a great tertiary institution."

It's an experience that has left Professor Bebbington determined to help disadvantaged students overcome their barriers.

His personal goal has been given a significant boost with a $9.245 million grant for a Journey to Higher Education nitiative under the Federal Government's Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program (HEPPP).

The University of Adelaide has taken a lead role in partnership with Flinders University and University of South Australia to support the retention of Indigenous and other disadvantaged students throughout their entire student life from early primary right through to senior secondary.

The grant will fund partnership activities with schools, families and communities, and use the strengths of each university's outreach to engage and assist students under three key themes: Aspire, Support and Achieve.

Professor Bebbington said the founders of the University of Adelaide wanted every student of ability to be welcome and Journey to Higher Education would help make this a reality.

"What this grant does magnificently is bring all three universities together with the whole of the state school system so that we can look at all the areas of disadvantage and ensure that students from all backgrounds realise their potential," he said.

"Just throwing open the gate to university doesn't solve the problem of disadvantage because the people are not prepared and don't know how to survive.

"The great thing about this grant is that it's very substantial and can address the problem at its roots."

An office is being established in the University's Office of Future Students to coordinate the project and place resources where they are needed via the universities and schools.

Programs will include mentoring, leadership training and
additional tuition to address skills and knowledge gaps.

"Together we will work to put tutors and mentors into schools to talk to children who might never have thought of coming to university," Professor Bebbington said.

"We need to teach people about the culture of how to study, the skills they need to prepare for university and support them while they are there. This is an intervention which will achieve just that."

Jessica Smith is a 20-year-old student on the move.

She's studying a double degree at the University of Adelaide yet still manages to find time as a Student Outreach Ambassador to mentor and support school students on their journey to higher education.

It's her way of helping young people achieve their potential and paying back the confidence shown in her when she was finishing school.

For despite being dux of Mark Oliphant College in Munno Para West, the school is in a lower socio-economic area where students are less likely to consider university or gain entry to a subject of their choice.

"Then my principal called me in and told me that University of Adelaide had a program for their law degree where the dux from certain schools could have a place in law," says Jessica.

Under the Adelaide Law School Achievement Program students achieving the top Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) rank in their school can be eligible for law.

"Before then I'd never considered going to Adelaide so it opened up more options," says Jessica.

The eldest of five children, Jessica has since given more thought to her career choices and switched to a double degree in international studies and the arts.

"Eventually I'd like to move into humanitarian or aid work, maybe in Africa or Asia and use my skills where people need help."

It's a role for which Jessica is obviously suited.

As a Student Outreach Ambassador with the University's Office for Future Students, she goes out to schools about twice a week to advise students on going to university and about her own experiences. She also gets involved in campus tours for visiting students.

Bookmark and Share

Media Contact:

Media Office
External Relations
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 0814

For more news on the research and educational achievements of the University & our alumni read the University's bi-annual magazine, Lumen.