Louise Pollard, Manager of The University of Western Australia’s student outreach program Aspire UWA, is one of three Australians to be awarded an Equity Fellowship by the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (NCSEHE) at Curtin University.
The fellows will undertake high-impact leadership projects to improve access, participation and success in higher education of students from disadvantaged backgrounds, including working with the Australian Government Department of Education and Training.
Ms Pollard will explore the ways through which students from remote locations are supported, by policy and practice, to succeed at university.
The $215,000 fellowship grant will also be used to examine how universities support students from remote areas in Canada.
As manager of the award-winning Aspire UWA program since 2009, Louise Pollard has worked closely with schools and high school students in regional and remote Western Australia to increase higher education participation.
“Each time a remote student withdraws from university study and returns home, their withdrawal has a significant impact on their local community,” she said.
“It also has a negative effect on how people perceive the suitability of higher education for students from regional and remote Australia.” Ms Pollard said she was pleased that her fellowship budget would enable two junior fellows to travel with her to Canada on a study tour comparing strategies used with remote students in similar situations to those in Australia.
“Working together with the junior fellows will help us take what we learn and share that knowledge with a wider audience for the benefit of regional and remote students,” she said.
NCSEHE Director Professor Sue Trinidad commended Ms Pollard on her achievement for 2017, through which she has the opportunity to undertake a strategic, high-profile, sector-wide project.
“The Equity Fellows Programme selection process is very competitive, with the NCSEHE receiving a record number of nominations this year,” Professor Trinidad said. “I look forward to the contribution Ms Pollard’s research will make to higher education in Australia.”
Aspire UWA encourages students from low socio-economic, Indigenous and regional backgrounds to access the lifelong benefits of higher education. It has engaged more than 40,000 students, teachers and families in its activities since its inception in 2009.
In addition to her work with Aspire UWA, Ms Pollard has been an active member of the Equity Practitioners in Higher Education Australasia national committee and the NCSEHE’s advisory board, enabling her to advocate for equity practitioners.
Aspire UWA last year won The Australian Financial Review’s inaugural Higher Education Equity and Opportunity Award and the Office for Learning and Teaching Award for Programs that Enhance Learning (Widening Participation).
The program has three essential components: a core learning framework for Year 7-12 students delivered by Student Support Services; an outreach program delivered by the School of Indigenous Studies; and a pathway program delivered by the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences.
The Equity Fellows Programme is funded by the Australian Government Department of Education and Training.
The NCSEHE aims to inform public policy design and implementation and institutional practice to improve the higher education participation and success for marginalised and disadvantaged people.