November 19, 2014 Nick Preston

Schools Network Access Program (SNAP)

The Schools Network Access Program (SNAP) is an access scheme developed in 2001 to enhance the access of students from designated Victorian secondary schools to Technical and Further Education (TAFE) and University programs at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT). SNAP is based on an evaluation by the secondary school of students’ potential and capacity to succeed and a student statement supported by a range of outreach activities, folio preparation scholarships and capability building at the school level. The main target group are students from low socio-economic background. The scheme has shown good outcomes: in 2014, 1,415 students from over 100 SNAP partner schools started their programs at RMIT through the SNAP priority access scheme and SNAP students are represented across 98% of RMIT programs.

Objectives of the Intervention

Not a specific mention of objectives, but there are stated in the next section.

The Schools Network Access Program (SNAP) recognises that a student’s Equivalent National Tertiary Entrance Rank (ENTER) reflects a degree of educational and socio-economic privilege, and for some students this can result in an ENTER that does not reflect their ability and capacity for future academic success.

Bearing in mind the link between educational and socio-economic privilege and a student’s Equivalent National Tertiary Entrance Rank (ENTER) RMIT developed SNAP to address:

  • Low levels of participation of secondary schools in designated Victorian secondary schools
  • Self-replicating cycles of low aspiration
  • Inequities reproduced by mass tertiary entrance models
  • Lack of a systemic intervention by RMIT

Origins and rationale of this initiative

SNAP is embedded in RMIT’s Equity and Social Inclusion Plan 2011-2015, which outlines RMIT’s ongoing commitment to providing a fair and equitable workplace and learning environments that support all staff and students, which are inclusive of gender, age, culture, sexuality, ethnicity and disability. RMIT seeks to develop inclusive practices in their approach to learning, teaching and assessment practices, and institutional behaviours, so that staff and students can make the most of access and opportunities. In this regard RMIT aims to ensure that educational disadvantage is not a barrier to access and opportunity by developing and maintaining systemic approaches to engagement, access, transition and success that ensure difference and diversity are represented in RMITs student body.

Target groups intended as beneficiaries of this initiative

The main target group are students from low socio-economic background, since it is acknowledged that educational and socio-economic privilege influences the results achieved in the Equivalent National Tertiary Entrance Rank (ENTER), which may not reflect the true capacity of the individual to succeed in further and higher education.

Political and socio-economic factors that you believe have been important enablers for your initiative

In 2009 the Federal Government implemented recommendations of the Bradley Review of Australian Higher Education, with the aim of Australia maintaining its position as one of the most educated and skilled workforce in the world.

Two key targets are now shaping equity policies and programs in higher education:

  • Australian Graduate Profile; by 2025, 40% of 25 to 34-year-olds will hold a Bachelor Degree.
  • Low SES (socio-economic status) Participation in Higher Education; by 2020, 20% of higher education enrolments at undergraduate level will comprise people from low SES backgrounds.

Every university has established individual equity group participation targets through their Commonwealth Compact Agreements. Commonwealth funding from the Higher Educational Participation and Partnerships Program (HEPPP) has been provided to assist universities in meeting national and institutional equity goals.

Besides that, RMIT’s Equity and Social Inclusion Plan 2011-2015 identifies the following key internal and external drivers, which influenced its efforts with regard to increasing equity and social inclusion:

  1. Federal participation and attainment targets and specific institutional targets set in the Compact Agreement for low SES and Non-English Speaking Background (NESB) cohorts as indicated above
  2. Commonwealth and Victorian Government targets for tertiary participation and attainment in response to skill and labour market participation needs
  3. Student demand driven and contestable funding systems in the new tertiary space
  4. The expansion of transnational education and globally mobile staff and student populations
  5. Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program opportunities to widen and deepen systemic engagement opportunities for disadvantaged cohorts
  6. The National Indigenous Higher Education Workforce Strategy, which shapes and influences RMIT’s approach to deliver real outcomes
  7. The Wurreker Strategy (State Government) and Indigenous Education Program (Federal Government), drivers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participation
  8. Universities Australia’s Strategy for Women 2011–14 (in which RMIT is a key partner), which supports the recruitment and employment of women across the University
  9. The Australian Technology Network Women’s Executive Development Programs, offering opportunities to strengthen the involvement of senior women at the University.

Overall Programme design and the methods and tools used to reach the goals

SNAP students are provisionally selected prior to the release of results of the Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) - the certificate awarded to students upon successful completion of secondary education. This provisional selection is based on a matrix of capabilities assessment, comprising:

  • An applicant statement articulating understanding, commitment and motivation for the program/s applied for.
  • A comprehensive school assessment of an applicant’s potential for academic success post VCE in specific subject areas.
  • A comprehensive school assessment of the applicant’s potential for academic success in the specific programs applied for.
  • An assessment of the applicant’s commitment, capacity for independent work, determination and persistence.
  • A qualitative comment on the applicant, in relation to the specific programs and discipline areas applied for and program suitability for successful outcomes for the applicant.

It is essential that SNAP students meet pre-requisites and additional requirements. Interviews, folio presentations, information forms and the like are an essential part of selection processes that assess the capacity to succeed. Pre-requisites such as maths are also essential to support an applicant’s preparedness for University and Technical and Further Education (TAFE) learning styles, delivery and content. Students are not offered a SNAP place if they do not meet the set pre-requisites and/ or additional requirements. SNAP students can apply for up to 3 undergraduate and/or Technical and Further Education programs.

Describe if the project ensured its sustainability

The sustainability of the project is ensured mainly through a close cooperation and partnership with over 100 secondary schools, which are clustered in the north west, south east of metropolitan Melbourne, and in East Gippsland. RMIT’s history, presence and reputation in this region; its existing relationships and schools outreach developed and the willingness of both RMIT and these schools to trial a capabilities approach to selection have ensured a sustainable collaboration between secondary and tertiary education aimed at improving the transition of students from low socio-economic strata. The key elements of this partnership between the SNAP schools and RMIT are the following:

  • Shared values
  • Stakeholder commitment and resourcing
  • Relationship building
  • Clear outcomes for participants
  • Communication
  • Senior management support
  • Teaching and learning in the institution
  • The fact that SNAP is not a deficit model

Moreover, RMIT’s longitudinal research undertaken on admissions to tertiary education based on entrance scores, such as the Tertiary Entrance Rank (TER) and subsequent educational success has provided and ensured a conceptual background on the basis of which the project is designed.

Resources used in the initiative

No specific data is available on the costs associated with administering SNAP. However, in addition to providing priority access to students from SNAP partner schools, RMIT provides a number of scholarships to students from low SES backgrounds, including those entering RMIT through SNAP. These include Commonwealth Scholarships and Institutional Scholarships. These amounted in 2009 to $ 3,215,294 for Commonwealth Scholarships and $ 3,758,169 for Institutional Equity Scholarships.

More information is available here

Did the intervention reach its objectives?

When SNAP was piloted in 2001 seven schools participated in the programme and 17 students gained access to further and higher education through the scheme. This number increased in 2009 to 71 schools and 377 student enrolments. In 2014, 1,415 students from over 100 SNAP partner schools started their programs at RMIT through the SNAP priority access scheme. It is also good to note that SNAP students are represented across 98% of RMIT programs.

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