The Macquarie LEAP Roadshow team in front of Macquarie’s portable planetarium at the Broken Hill Trades Hall last week. Image credit: Barrier Daily Truth.
Forget ‘Santa Claus is coming to town’ – it was Macquarie U that was coming to town for the people of Broken Hill last week, with the University hosting a special roadshow encouraging more young people in regional Australia to consider tertiary education.
An initiative of Macquarie’s Widening Participation Unit’s LEAP (Learning, Education, Aspiration, Participation) Program, the roadshow saw 15 Macquarie staff travel 13 hours by train to host a series of community forums and ‘taster’ sessions for high school students in Broken Hill and neighbouring towns including Wilcannia and Menindee.
In a first for the program – and reflecting new research about student engagement – the team also took the roadshow to Year 5 and 6 students at Alma Primary School.
Students had plenty of hands-on learning opportunities, handling artefacts from Macquarie’s Museum of Ancient Cultures, running their own business for 15 minutes, and monitoring their heart rate. A virtual reality experience took them to the Macquarie Lighthouse and as far as the solar system, and the Macquarie University portable planetarium played host to many budding stargazers.
Macquarie was joined by TAFE and the Broken Hill Country University Centre at a special session for parents. As, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Programs and Pathways) Professor Sean Brawley notes, “these partners support our message that students need to be well-informed about all their post-secondary options”.
In Far West New South Wales just 8.3 per cent of people have a bachelor degree qualification or above, compared to 23.4 per cent in the state, according to the 2016 Census.
“We know that having contact with and visiting a university can influence a young person’s decision to pursue further education,” says Professor Brawley. “That’s not as simple for students in regional and rural areas, which is why these roadshows are designed to bring Macquarie to them.”
Broken Hill was the third regional roadshow that has been conducted by Widening Participation, with the University visiting the mid-North Coast in 2018, and the Riverina earlier this year. The roadshows are only possible because of the generous support from other units and faculties.
The challenges for remote and regional students are addressed during the roadshows, with scholarships and accomodation being important areas of focus. With a large indigenous population in Broken Hill, a student ambassador from Walanga Muru was also part of the roadshow team, sharing her experiences with local students.
One significant aspect that Professor Brawley is keen to highlight during the roadshows are the many pathways to university study.
“People are usually surprised when we tell them there are 12 pathways to study at Macquarie and only one of these is solely based on your ATAR score,” he says. “We have found that this important point can really change a conversation.”
Next year students from the Far West will travel to Macquarie for ‘Inroads’ – a chance to experience the campus and the possibilities of university life for themselves. Widening Participation Pathways Manager Bonnie Faulkner says work on this visit is already underway and she is confident the roadshow has whetted the appetite of many students who had previously not considered university as an option for their future.
For more information about LEAP, or to get involved, email firstname.lastname@example.org