Widening Participation Unit

Widening Participation Unit

 LEAP - Rural Students University Experience. Photo by Country Education Foundation Australia.

About us

Access and Participation

Widening Participation is the term used around the world to describe initiatives aiming to attract more students from backgrounds traditionally underrepresented in higher education into university.

2018 WPU Strategic Framework Cover ImageIn 2008, the Review of Australian Higher Education (the Bradley Review, 2.5MB PDF) concluded that Australia was "falling behind other countries in performance and investment in higher education", and that "the nation will need more well-qualified people if it is to anticipate and meet the demands of a rapidly moving global economy".

In Australia, groups traditionally disadvantaged in terms of access to higher education include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people, people with disabilities, people living in rural and remote areas, people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds including refugees, people from low socio-economic status backgrounds, women in non-traditional areas of study, and people who do not enter university directly after completing school (mature-age students).

Widening Participation is inherent in Macquarie University's core value of inclusiveness, defined as being "about making the system fairer and providing access to everyone, no matter what their background, who has potential to benefit from higher education". Social Inclusion is also one of our key strategic directions, as "we at Macquarie are enhancing our commitment to local students whose circumstances limit their access to tertiary study through a range of equity based scholarships and university access pathways".

Widening Participation has been embraced through our LEAP (Learning, Education Aspiration, Participation) programs. We are excited to announce that the Executive Group has endorsed the Widening Participation Strategic Framework 2018 - 2023.

We have accomplished much in the Widening Participation space in 2019 and are proud to share our 2019 Highlights.

Macquarie University prides itself on being a vibrant, diverse and innovative university, committed to social inclusion and equity to employment and education.



The Federal Government's Higher Education Participation and Partnership Program (HEPPP) aims to ensure that Australians from low Socio-Economic-Status (SES) backgrounds who have the ability to study at university have the opportunity to do so. The Federal Government provides funding to assist universities to undertake activities and implement strategies that improve access to undergraduate courses for people from low SES backgrounds, as well as improving the retention and completion rates of those students.

HEPPP funding guidelines can be found at : https://www.education.gov.au/higher-education-participation-and-partnerships-programme-heppp


Macquarie University has developed an Access & Participation Plan for improving outcomes for people from a low SES background that has been provided to the Federal Government to detail how HEPPP will be implemented at MQ. The key strategies are:

  • LEAP UP: Strengthen the capacity of students from low socio economic backgrounds to participate in higher education
  • LEAP IN: Increase opportunities for students from  low socio economic backgrounds to study at Macquarie University
  • LEAP THROUGH: Enhance support for students from low socio economic backgrounds, from enrolment through to graduation
  • LEAP ON: Improve graduate outcomes, employment and professional opportunities for students from  low socio economic backgrounds


The Pro Vice-Chancellor Programs and Pathways has allocated $200,000 of Higher Education Partnerships and Pathways Program (HEPPP) funding to be available for the 2019 LEAP Partnership Engagement Grant Scheme (PEGS).

LEAP PEGS was first introduced in 2018 by the Pro-Vice Chancellor Programs and Pathways as part of the Widening Participation Unit’s Strategic Framework 2018 – 2020.

The LEAP PEGS program aims to encourage greater collaborative partnerships across the University community to help achieve a professional and learning environment that reflects the University’s “commitment to inclusiveness” (Our University: A Framing of Futures, Macquarie University 2013, p15) by engaging and providing opportunity to students from underrepresented and disadvantaged low-Socio Economic Status (SES) backgrounds.

The following projects were successful in the 2019 LEAP Partnership Engagement Grant Scheme (PEGS):

2019 Successful LEAP PEGS Applications

MQ Outreach Trailer  Outreach activities delivered by the WP Pathways team to regional and remote communities and schools, including LEAP Roadshow which includes the participation of The Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, will be supported by LEAP PEGS through the provision of resources necessary to effectively transport LEAP Roadshow equipment. The idea for this resource was proposed by the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences.
Dunmore Lang College – Short Stay Program An outreach initiative to be delivered as part of LEAP inROADS to support and engage participating high school students from regional and remote backgrounds to experience on-campus accommodation as pre-university experience. LEAP inROADS aims to create positive engagement experiences that strengthen the connection between students and the University and provide opportunity for students to pursue higher education study.
Global Leadership Program (GLP) Enrichment Experiences An initiative that empowers students from low-SES backgrounds to access bursary funds to participate in a wide range of enriching activities and opportunities offered via the GLP program.
Regional Engagements  A deep level outreach initiative engaging low-SES Year 11 & 12 students residing in the Central West region of NSW. Future Students ambassadors and undergraduate recruitment coordinators will attend career market days in the region and thereafter consolidate their engagement with schools and students through direct interactions involving school-based presentations and 1:1 consultations to raise awareness around higher education.
Junior Science Academy – 2 Day Program for students and their parents An outreach holiday workshop program engaging low-SES primary school children and their parents/carers in age-appropriate interactive science-based workshops. Through the workshop children and their parents/carers will build familiarity with university as a welcoming learning environment. The program will also showcase science at Macquarie University in a fun and engaging way through the Junior Science Academy.
LEAP into FBE  An outreach initiative to engage, equip and empower students from low-SES and ATSI and humanitarian visa backgrounds students with finance, business and economics principles. Term-long, tailored and interactive workshops complimenting the Commerce, Economics and Business Studies syllabi will be delivered by FBE academic mentors to high schools identified by WPU, to engage students from Years 7-12. The project aims to empower students in their current learning journeys, educate their families through the students and create a thirst in the students to aspire to higher education. In this way,  the students and their families will be able to participate in higher education and society at-large to their fullest potential.

Making Connections (ATSI Students)

An initiative focused on building student/academic confidence through a 1:1 mentoring relationship with an academic in their home faculty, with the goal of providing guidance to master the complexities of university life and develop the tacit knowledge and network skills required to succeed in academic and future endeavours. This program is aimed at engaging students from ATSI backgrounds and is based on the successful LEAP PEGS initiative piloted in 2018, designed by Academics 4 Refugees (A4R) MQ Node, the Learning Skills Unity (LSU; MQ Library) and LEAP program.
Making Connections (Refugee Students)  An initiative focused on further developing the successful LEAP PEGS Academics 4 Refugees piloted in 2018 that delivered 1:1 academic mentoring for students from refugee and or asylum seeker backgrounds. Making Connections (Refugee Students) builds on the program by expanding the network of cohorts, formalising the evaluation outcomes via publishable research, developing action and initiatives around the feedback; incorporating lessons from the pilot into best practices and adding a Professional Staff branch to the program to identify key additional support for process-based questions.

MTHS Football United Engagement Program

An outreach initiative supporting a partner high school through the provision of funds to purchase inventory resources to engage newly settled students from refugee and or asylum seeker backgrounds in activities that build confidence, a sense of belonging and connection to their new communities.
Science Festival at the Australian Museum An outreach initiative designed and delivered by The Australian Museum during national Science Festival in partnership with LEAP to engage primary and high school students from low-SES schools. The program offers students the opportunity to participate in high quality STEAM focused education activities and presentations designed to stimulate interest in science and highlight the significance of applied STEAM within the Australian community.
Careers and Employment Services - Suit LibraryAn initiative aimed at supporting low-SES students to successfully secure an internship placement that adds work and life experience to their academic studies. The Suit Library will be administered by MQ’s Career and Employment Services and offers low-SES students the opportunity to loan business attire suitable for interviews and internship opportunities being sought.
Walanga Muru : Wuyabiba Bush Hub ProgramAn initiative aimed at engaging low-SES students of ATSI backgrounds during transition and continuation of their higher education journey at university to support academic learning, retention and progression. This initiative follows from the successful outreach program developed in 2018 by Dr Emilie Ens (Faculty of Science), MUIC and communities of south east Arnhem Land (Ngukuee and Numbulwar), which focused on engaging students to access higher education opportunities at Macquarie University through a two-way, on-Country, Pre-University Skills course.

The following projects received funding in 2018 from HEPPP:

2018 HEPPP Funded Projects

Academics for Refugees Mentoring
(LEAP PEGS 2018) 
Linking students from refugee or asylum seeker backgrounds, with an academic from their field of study. The program aims to build rapport between the student (mentee) and the academic (mentor), while supporting the student to develop the tacit knowledge required to succeed in their studies.
Equity Scholars Development Program Career development workshops offered to low-SES students in second year studies, to promote their employability readiness.
Equity Scholarships and Bridging Grants Offering low-SES students the opportunity to access accommodation and financial scholarships. Most of the accommodation scholarship recipients are of regional and remote backgrounds, residing at Dunmore Lang College.
FBE PACE Internships
(LEAP PEGS 2018) 
Offering low-SES students studying FBE the opportunity to participate in paid PACE internships.
Fundraising Refugee Scholarship Developing engaging and empowering initiatives that raise cultural awareness of the challenges faced by students from refugee and asylum seeker backgrounds, while supporting those students who experience financial hardship, with the opportunity to access financial assistance.
Future Students School Visits
(LEAP PEGS 2018) 
Outreach engagement with students in regional and remote areas.

(LEAP PEGS 2018)

Enabling students from low-SES backgrounds to participate in the component of experiential opportunities offered as part of the University’s Global Leadership Program.
Bawarra Foundation Indigenous Transitions and Outreach Program
(LEAP PEGS 2018) 
An outreach and transition program that engages low-SES ATSI students in High School, to participate in activities that inform them of pathway opportunities into higher education. For its transition phase, the program provides students with continued engagement and a culturally safe place on campus.

LEAP -School Engagement

LEAP ROADS is an outreach program engaging low-SES students from regional and remote areas of NSW to connect with a university taster. The students meet a team of university representatives and are offered information around pathways, study options, and the potential opportunities that high education can lead to. LEAP inROADS builds on LEAP ROADS by bringing the students on to campus to experience what life on campus offers.
LEAP - Rural Students University Experience An outreach program in collaboration with MQ residential colleges Dunmore Lang College and Robert Menzies. Students from regional schools are engaged to experience life on campus through a short stay that also exposes them to meet with faculty representatives and various student service teams. Students also meet and connect with other university students from regional areas.
LEAP UP- Refugee Mentoring An outreach program in collaboration with the NSW Department of Education and various High Schools in the greater Sydney region. MQ volunteer students participate in an 11 week mentoring program, mentoring students from refugee and asylum seeker backgrounds. The program seeks to engage and empower students with information on higher education opportunities, and how these can be accessed.
LEAP Through- Refugee Transition and Support A transition program aimed at engaging commencing students from humanitarian visa backgrounds with academic and social support to build their sense of empowerment and belonging. The Support Officers act as a central point of contact for the students, by meeting with them regularly to ensure they receive guidance, support and appropriate referrals to other support services (internal or external to the University) where needed.
LEAP-Robotics An outreach program engaging High School students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) activities using the medium of robotics technology to inspire them to pursue higher education studies in this field.
LEAP- LINKS Digital Literacy
(LEAP PEGS 2018) 
An outreach program engaging teachers and students from metropolitan high schools with digital literacy skills that empower student’s digital literacy preparedness for transition into higher education. The program focuses on achieving this by providing teachers with professional development in areas of digital literacy.
Low-SES Orientation Program Scoping
(LEAP PEGS 2018) 
Introduction of a dedicated Orientation Programs team to scope and develop orientation and transition programs that engage low –SES students.
Macquarie University Research Internship Program (MURI) Students are offered the opportunity to participate as research interns, within an academic field; guided and mentored by a research-active academic. Through the program, students develop research skills aimed at supporting their employability skills in the field of research.
LEAP-NISEP An outreach program delivered in collaboration between the Faculty of Science and Engineering and a number of High Schools across NSW metro and regional areas. The program aims to engage students from low-SES ATSI backgrounds in interactive science based activities.
Partnerships. Now. Always
(LEAP PEGS 2018) 
A student focused initiative that engages and empowers low SES students to shape, develop and deliver educational workshops around the prevention of sexual violence across the MQ community.
Promote Virtual Content 360 Outreach
(LEAP PEGS 2018) 
Develop and Promote Virtual Content (ProVC) 360 for engagement with MQ.
Robert Menzies College Short Stay Program Scoping
(LEAP PEGS 2018) 
Offering at-risk low-SES students the opportunity to access short term stay at the College, to alleviate acute circumstances, while offering students the benefit of living on-campus.
SBS/NITV Media Mentoring Program A mentoring program delivered in collaboration with The Ethnic Communities’ Council of Australia, SBS and NITV. Students participate in a 3 year scaffolded program that engages them to learn skills and knowledge specific to media studies, the industry and its profession; while also allowing them to build network associations necessary for career establishment and development.
Student Group Coaching This program is a targeted intervention for students from non-traditional background who are more likely to drop out or fail. These students will be paired with a more experienced peer – “coach” (post-graduate or final university year).
Swim Safe Warriors
(LEAP PEGS 2018) 
Engaging students with water-safety survival skills and knowledge by building their confidence to identify risks around aquatic environments.
Yugul Mangi Education Hub
(LEAP PEGS 2018) 
A partnership program with the Ngakurr Community to scope the feasibility and necessities of establishing a remote study campus, Yugul Mangi. The campus would create an opportunity for two-way university learning on-Country that facilitates and builds aspirations and outreach to Aboriginal peoples in remote low-SES communities with long histories of minimal accessibility to formal further education.

The LEAP Program

Macquarie University's LEAP (Learning, Education Aspiration,  Participation) Program comprises a variety of school and community  engagement initiatives that raise aspirations, create possibilities and  actively support students from disadvantaged backgrounds to successfully participate in higher education.

LEAP is funded by the Commonwealth  Government's Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program  (HEPPP).

LEAP is currently running the following projects:

Projects previously run by LEAP:

Contact us

Widening Participation Unit
Office of the Pro Vice-Chancellor (Programs & Pathways)

Building Y2A Level 2, 11 Hadenfeld Avenue
Macquarie University NSW 2109 Australia

Phone: +61 2 9850 1933
Email: wpu@mq.edu.au

Content owner: Widening Participation Unit Last updated: 02 Jun 2020 5:33pm

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