As its government funding draws to a close, a UNSW program that has helped thousands of disadvantaged students consider higher education has been celebrated for its success in transforming lives.
Vice-Chancellor Professor Fred Hilmer spoke at an event last night to thank the ASPIRE program’s partners.
“We are here to celebrate the achievements of ASPIRE, a program that has touched a significant number of lives,” he said.
Acknowledging the completion of ASPIRE’s $4.6 million federal government funding, Professor Hilmer said, “Like everything else in education at the moment funding is up in the air but I have no doubt that a program of this quality will continue.”
UNSW’s ASPIRE program actively promotes university study to primary and high school students from low socio-economic backgrounds, working with 57 local and regional partner schools across NSW.
Since 2007, enrolments to university from ASPIRE schools have increased, with 404 students enrolling in university in 2013.
Fifty-two ASPIRE students received offers to UNSW in 2013 compared with only 20 in 2010. Overall there has been a 28% increase in university offers to students from ASPIRE schools since 2010.
Since its inception in 2007, ASPIRE has assisted several thousand students through in-school workshops, on-campus “taster days” and residential programs for regional students.
Chancellor David Gonski honoured the ASPIRE program’s staff, partner schools and students, saying he had spent an evening with “true heroes”.
“I want to congratulate all of you, we will be trying to get the money to help ASPIRE continue. You inspire us and we absolutely aspire to be here,” the Chancellor said.
Ateeq-ur Rahman attended ASPIRE workshops in Years 11 and 12 at Holroyd High School after arriving from Pakistan in 2011 with no English language. Rahman is now studying a Bachelor of Mining Engineering at UNSW on a AAA academic achievement scholarship and is “giving back” to the program by volunteering as an ASPIRE Ambassador.
“I was offered a scholarship to study a Bachelor of Medical Science at the University of Sydney but I chose UNSW because I was familiar with the campus through attending ASPIRE workshops and I found the University very welcoming,” said Rahman, who credits the program with giving him the support he needed to confidently apply to universities.
Almost half of students at Holroyd High School have been in Australia for fewer than three years, two-thirds are refugees, more than 80% speak little or no English and some are living in community detention without parents.
The school’s principal of 18 years, Dorothy Hoddinott, says programs like ASPIRE provide the “consciousness-raising” that schools can’t afford to do themselves.
“We could never replicate what ASPIRE does for our students, you take away this program and there’s a whole lot of kids who will never make it to university and never experience the social mobility higher education leads to,” said Hoddinott.
“We, as a society, should not squander the potential that exists in low-socioeconomic schools.”
ASPIRE Director, Dr Ann Jardine, thanked the wider UNSW community for supporting the program describing higher education as “the great leveller and the great transformer”.
“The chance to get a university degree should not depend on personal circumstances,” she told the audience.
ASPIRE is also supported by the Citi Foundation.
The next ASPIRE event will be held on 21 August when Year 11 students from Sydney metro schools come on campus to "shadow" a UNSW student for the day.
Media contact: Fran Strachan, UNSW Media Office, 9385 9732, 0429 416 070