November 19, 2014 Nick Preston

UQ Young Achievers Program (UQYAP)

Developed in 2009, the UQ Young Achievers Program supports the tertiary study and career aspirations of motivated secondary school students from low-income families who might not otherwise have access to university. Key activities include mentoring; on-campus experiences; information on university study options, pathways and application processes; opportunities for personal growth; and financial assistance. Since 2009, more than 480 Young Achievers have been supported by the programme, which shows a high level of success in facilitating participation in higher education of students from low-socio-economic backgrounds.

Developed in 2009, the UQ Young Achievers Program supports the tertiary study and career aspirations of motivated secondary school students from low-income families who might not otherwise have access to university. Key activities include mentoring; on-campus experiences; information on university study options, pathways and application processes; opportunities for personal growth; and financial assistance. Since 2009, more than 480 Young Achievers have been supported by the programme, which shows a high level of success in facilitating participation in higher education of students from low-socio-economic backgrounds.

Objectives of the Intervention

The UQ Young Achievers Program supports the tertiary study and career aspirations of motivated secondary school students from low-income families who might not otherwise have access to university. The program is focused on nurturing and developing the educational ambitions of students in secondary education, namely Year 11 and 12, through mentoring; on-campus experiences; information on university study options, pathways and application processes; opportunities for personal growth; and financial assistance in the form of bursaries and scholarships. Through these activities the project aims to:

  • raise awareness and interest in tertiary education within educationally disadvantaged communities
  • increase the number of students from low-income families enrolling in and graduating from university, and
  • develop civic-minded student role models willing to assist in raising the tertiary aspirations of others.

Origins and rationale of this initiative

The University established the UQ Young Achievers Program in 2009 with the aim of building the tertiary aspirations of disadvantaged year 11 and year 12 students and deliver on the key targets established by the Australian Federal Government based on the Bradley Review of Australian Higher Education (see section 5 below).

Target groups intended as beneficiaries of this initiative

The UQ Young Achievers Program is addressed at students, who are experiencing financial hardship; are from geographically remote areas; are from an indigenous background; have the potential to transition to and succeed at university on completion of Year 12; would be the first in their family to enrol in higher education; have a supportive family environment; and have a school attendance rate of at least 85%. The student's leadership potential and/or demonstrated school and community involvement may also be taken into consideration in the selection process. Thus, the programme addresses students from low socio-economic backgrounds as well as addresses underrepresentation based on ethnicity.

The programme is implemented in collaboration with State secondary schools in Ipswich, Logan, the Lockyer Valley, Toowoomba and the Darling Downs, Wide Bay and Far North regions of Queensland. However, the programme focuses on the direct selection and support of students from these schools. The Program plans to take in up to 100 new participants each year.

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

Would be nice to tease out what made the intervention particularly successful (aside from it having political backing) but good section.
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.

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

The programme is designed to involve participants for up to six years; most intensively for the first two years of the Program while participants finish Years 11 & 12 and then another four years support while participants undertake university study. During the course of the programme students will benefit from the following activities and support:

Bursary
Students in Year 11 and Year 12 are granted a study bursary of $1,000 per year. Besides that, students benefit from scholarship support of $6,000 per year for up to four years, if they are enrolling in a program at the University of Queensland after completing Year 12.

Welcome Event
Students selected as Young Achievers and their families are invited to a welcome event in October/November. These events are held in Brisbane, Ipswich, Toowoomba and at UQYAP schools in regional Queensland and give students the opportunity to meet other Young Achievers and receive more information about the programme. They also receive a certificate to acknowledge their selection for the Program.

Residential Camps
On-campus experiences are an important means of building educational aspirations, establishing mentoring relationships and delivering activities that foster social, academic and personal growth. For this reason the UQYAP organises residential camps for Young Achievers in Year 11 and Year 12. These camps are held at a university residential college on UQ’s St Lucia campus (Brisbane) and supervised by UQ Staff and Student Mentors. During residential camps, UQ Young Achievers gain confidence, make new friends, learn about university life and have fun.

Open Day
Young Achievers and their families are also encouraged to attend the Open Days held annually by UQ in August. These events present a valuable opportunity to explore all that UQ has to offer, including study and accommodation options and student support services.

Guaranteed place at University of Queensland
Upon completion of Year 12 students meeting the entry requirements for a particular programme are offered a guaranteed place at the University of Queensland.

Through these various activities, Young Achievers benefit from:

  • Mentoring by current students;
  • Assistance with study and career planning;
  • Advice on university study options, pathways and application procedures;
  • Early familiarisation with university, campus and college life.

Describe if the project ensured its sustainability

UQ Student Mentors play a vital role in the delivery and success of the Young Achievers Program by generously volunteering their time to inspire, inform and encourage the Young Achievers to pursue their educational ambitions.

This team of current UQ students support the Young Achievers in a variety of ways by serving as:

  • friendly, helpful and accessible points of contact
  • positive role models, who inspire the students and support the development of their leadership, interpersonal and communication skills
  • a helpful source of information, motivation and support.

Having been Young Achievers themselves, these mentors can relate particularly well with the situation of the new Young Achievers and provide them with the support and encouragement they need to succeed in achieving their aspirations. In this way, UQYAP provides an extraordinary and fulfilling opportunity for mentors and students alike.

Resources used in the initiative

The programme was established in 2009 with financial support from university donors to assist with scholarships and bursaries. These scholarships are provided to UQ Young Achievers in recognition of the fact that there can be financial barriers to university study in particular for students from low socio-economic backgrounds. For this reason the University of Queensland established the UQ Young Achievers scholarship, which provides $1,000 a year for year 11 and year 12 students and $6,000 a year during the first four years of study at the University of Queensland.

Funding from the Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Project (HEPPP) covers all operational costs, including staffing, mentor training and development, residential camps, publications and programme tracking.

Based on information from the Queensland Government website on public procurement the cost for hosting the residential camps for Year 11 and Year 12 students is estimated at $ 170,000 per annum.

See:  https://secure.publicworks.qld.gov.au/etender/contract/view.do?id=15779&returnUrl=%252Fcontract%252Flist.do%253FshowSearch%253Dfalse%2526amp%253Baction%253Dcontract-search-submit%2526amp%253BissuingBusinessId%253D38689%2526amp%253BissuingBusinessIdForSort%253D38689%2526amp%253BawardDateFromString%253D

Did the intervention reach its objectives?

Research by Jansen and Cuthil (2013) (is there a link to the full report?), which investigates the impact of the UQYAP in a longitudinal study of Young Achievers participating in the programme, suggest that the programme has helped to:

  • increase recognition, self-awareness and self-esteem of the Young Achievers and their families in their own / their children’s abilities;
  • raise their awareness of the possibilities to attain higher education and what is required in order to achieve this goal;
  • provide relief to the families of Young Achievers that their children receive financial support, guidance and a guaranteed place at university, given that they at times feel at a loss to provide them with the guidance and support needed to realise their aspirations;
  • give Young Achievers the opportunity to meet like-minded peers with similar aspirations and circumstances and helps them to overcome the obstacles to participate in higher education together.

Overall, since 2009, more than 480 Young Achievers have been supported by the programme.

Data on the number of students who benefitted from the UQYAP and entered higher education indicates that 95% of the first cohort (who completed Year 12 in 2011) submitted a Queensland Tertiary Admissions Centre application; 86% of these students were admitted into higher education programmes either at the University of Queensland or elsewhere, suggesting that the programme has achieved a high level of success in facilitating participation in higher education of students from low-socio-economic backgrounds.

It is also good to note the continued support of previous beneficiaries to the programme. In 2013 nine former beneficiaries of the UQYAP, who were now enrolled in undergraduate programmes at the University of Queensland, were selected as mentors in the UQYAP to support students in Year 11, who were selected to become new Young Achievers. This confirms the continued commitment of these former beneficiaries to the programme and their support to its sustainability.

Cuthill M. & Jansen D. (2013) Initial results from a longitudinal impact study focusing on a higher education ‘widening participation’ program in Australia. Widening Participation and Lifelong Learning, 15, 7-21.

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