Increasing regional student participation in higher education through innovative university outreach

Laurie Poretti


Despite Australian government funding through the Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program (HEPPP), people in regional and remote areas across the country remain underrepresented in higher education. Drawing on an innovative outreach model developed by the University of Canberra, this paper investigates how principles of effective outreach can be tailored specifically to regional and remote contexts to overcome the barriers of distance, cost, academic achievement and motivation (Gale et al., 2010) which often limit higher education participation. Principles that underpin this outreach model are highlighted, including the harnessing of technology, the use of blended delivery modes, and the adaptation of more traditional, urban-centred outreach approaches, such as face-to-face interaction with university student role models and outreach officers, to engage regional cohorts. The findings from a trial of the outreach model delivered to 36 regional schools in 2017, reveal the potential for universities to increase regional student aspiration for higher education by moving away from the dominant model of school and cohort-based outreach to a more flexible approach that responds to the wider communities being engaged with. This paper addresses a number of issues influencing education in regional Australia and suggests strategies for collectively developing increased higher education participation rates and making a genuine, long-term difference for regional communities and their equity of access within the future of Australian higher education.


widening participation; regional communities; higher education; university outreach; access; aspiration

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Banner image: Kira Jovanovski (2020), movement score 01 (detail): oil stick and acrylic on paper. Photograph by Kira Jovanovski. Cover image: Kira Jovanovski (2020), grunt_iteration 02 in the boughs and stamped: installation in University Gallery. Photograph by Jedidiah Cranfield. (c) the artist.





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