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Widening Participation as a Key Policy Response in Australia

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National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education presentation for FACE Conference in Glasgow, 2017.

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Widening Participation as a Key Policy Response in Australia

  1. 1. CRICOS Provider Code 00301J WIDENING PARTICIPATION AS A KEY POLICY RESPONSE IN AUSTRALIA Ian Cunninghame 29/06/2017
  2. 2. CRICOS Provider Code 00301J
  3. 3. CRICOS Provider Code 00301J Australian Higher Education A brief introduction to reforms • 39 Institutions, over 180 (187) campuses; majority public institutions • 1975: Whitlam’s abolition of tuition fees • 1988: Dawkins’ introduction of HECS & Income-contingent loans • 2010-2012: Gillard’s introduction of ‘demand-driven system’ > Lasting effect on relevance of tertiary entrance ranking (now ATAR)
  4. 4. CRICOS Provider Code 00301J Widening Participation as a Key Policy Response • Examine the relationship between widening participation and social mobility discourse • Grounded theory project • Provide a responsive, inclusive direction for widening participation in higher education
  5. 5. CRICOS Provider Code 00301J This Session Is the widening participation agenda responsive to the issues of equity students? • Widening participation has taken key role in Australia and internationally • Despite improvements, barriers to participation still exist • Individual accountability for access is questionable • Treatment of individuals as passive and to be directed, rather than active, responsive participants
  6. 6. CRICOS Provider Code 00301J The Intellectuals Do we need to redefine intellectualism in higher education? • Common criticisms of widening participation focus on who university should be for • Expansion of forms and areas of knowledge engaged at university • Blurring of distinction between vocational education and higher education > Decline of TAFE, rise of private training, incorporation of training at university • Antonio Gramsci and The Intellectuals (1971)
  7. 7. CRICOS Provider Code 00301J Aspirations How can we limit the prevalence of deficit discourse? • Aspiration as defined from within universities • “Every word you lot use starts with ‘dis-’” • Assumptions on the role, relevance, desire to engage with higher education • Position of policy seen to direct students toward making the ‘right choices’ regarding their education, particularly in early years
  8. 8. CRICOS Provider Code 00301J Defining Success Is there a problem with assuming ‘dropout=failure’? • ‘Success’ in Australian policy terms is graduation from a full course > Occasionally measured as ratio of units passed to units studied > Implication that non-completion could not be an optimal outcome • Focus shifting to retention and re-engagement to achieve success • Accreditation of partial completions
  9. 9. CRICOS Provider Code 00301J Widening Participation Is the widening participation agenda responsive to the issues of equity students? • Equality of opportunity inherently judges individual choice • Government facilitates various individual endeavours over others > Often based on efficiency and economic growth • Government therefore determines value of choices based on social desirability
  10. 10. CRICOS Provider Code 00301J Focus Questions Widening Participation How can we redefine intellectualism in higher education? How can we limit the prevalence of deficit discourse? What can be done to reverse the assumption that ‘dropout=failure’? Is the widening participation agenda responsive to the issues of equity students?
  11. 11. ncsehe@curtin.edu.au Email: I.Cunninghame@curtin.edu.au Twitter: @NCSEHE Website: ncsehe.edu.au/contact/

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