Macquarie’s Widening Participation Unit making a difference all year round


During Refugee Week we examine the issues affecting refugees and celebrate their contribution to our community.

The theme this year is ‘Healing’ and Macquarie’s Widening Participation Unit (WPU) has organised a webinar panel discussion on Wednesday 22 June from 11.00am where a panel of students, academics, and community partners will discuss the transformative potential of education in the context of forced migration.

The WPU will also take part in a Community Expo Day organised by the City of Ryde where visitors can learn about education, employment, safety, health, and wellbeing to support refugees.

Macquarie supports students from refugee and asylum seeking (AS) backgrounds in a number of ways year-round, not just during Refugee Week which this year runs from 19 to 25 June. The programs below are all delivered by, or in collaboration with, the Widening Participation Unit and they are funded by the Commonwealth Government’s Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program (HEPPP).

“Education is the great equaliser – but only if there is equity in access to, and success in, education. The WPU’s initiatives demonstrate Macquarie’s commitment to diversity and recognise the importance of providing tailored support to ensure students from humanitarian backgrounds are both welcomed as part of the Macquarie community and supported to succeed,” says Associate Professor Taryn Jones, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Programs and Pathways).

LEAP UP Macquarie Mentoring is a partnership with the NSW Department of Education that has been running since 2011. The mentoring program for students in years 9-11 from refugee and AS backgrounds pairs them with a volunteer Macquarie student, who works with them (in schools) over 11 weeks. This program has engaged 1238 school students from 18 South-Western and Western Sydney schools.

Refugee Transition Program assists students from refugee and AS backgrounds with their transition to tertiary education and empowers them to confidently navigate university life in Australia.

Asylum Seeker Fee Waiver Sponsorship supports undergraduate study for students who are holders of a temporary or bridging visa and are seeking asylum in Australia. It is designed to support people seeking asylum who are otherwise unable to access Commonwealth Supported Places or government loan schemes to support their study at university.

Making Connections Academic Mentoring links academic mentors with students from refugee backgrounds. The initiative was developed by the Academics for Refugees group at Macquarie University, in collaboration with the Widening Participation Unit and the Library’s Learning Skills Unit. Current students from refugee and AS backgrounds are paired with volunteer academics from within the same faculty. Mentoring also provides students opportunities to build their professional networks and seek guidance on post-university options.

“Being part of the team who set up Making Connections provided me with a concrete way to make a positive impact for students from refugee backgrounds. The students and mentors alike report that being part of Making Connections is a really positive experience,” says Professor Anina Rich, School of Psychological Sciences.

“It has been wonderful to connect with amazing colleagues across the University who care deeply and appreciate the opportunities for the mutual learning our program offers,” continues Anina.

The WPU also oversees two other academic programs, Waranara (students from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds), and Creating Communities (rural, regional, and remote backgrounds).

If you are interested in finding out more about the Widening Participation Unit (WPU) or mentoring for any of their programs, please contact





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