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$6m chance for all students

by Jon Brooks and Katrina Kalleske

Map of Adelaide and surrounding areasRoyce Kurmelovs will be breaking new ground when he commences his first year of a Bachelor of Law/Journalism. The 18 year old from Salisbury East High School achieved a TER of 90.2 to get into his dream course at UniSA and he will be the first person in his family to attend a university.

And now close to $6 million in Commonwealth funding will be used to ensure that Kurmelovs is no longer the exception among high school students in Adelaide’s northern suburbs.

UniSA will use the funding to support two innovative projects to improve educational and employment opportunities for university graduates and the people of Adelaide’s north.

"According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, a child from Elizabeth has half the chance of finishing high school as a child from the eastern suburbs and students from Elizabeth are seven times less likely to go to university than those from the east," UniSA Pro Vice Chancellor: Strategy and Planning Professor Hilary Winchester said.

"Education is not a privilege, it’s a right, and UniSA is committed to ensuring equal access to education, no matter what a person’s social circumstances."

The first project, the $3.9 million Closing the gap: Developing an Inclusion Framework, is a multifaceted strategy to improve the employment and education prospects of northern Adelaide high school students.

Under the program, UniSA will work with schools to raise educational aspirations, tertiary participation and social inclusion. UniSA staff and students will work directly with school students, their teachers and families from Year 6 up, by providing ongoing projects that are relevant to contemporary career and employment opportunities.

Royce Kurmelovs commented that his experience at his high school was that those students who wanted to get into university, worked hard and achieved their goal. However he said that there were a lot of students who "couldn’t be bothered".

"A lot of students dropped out because it was too hard, and then there were those who were at school just to socialise, not to do the work," Kurmelovs said. "I had the ambition to go to uni, so I worked hard for it."

University will be one of the options presented to students during the Closing the Gap project.

"This program isn’t about pushing students into university - because we know that university isn’t the only path to success - it’s about engaging with local students from a young age to help them to imagine and achieve their full potential," Prof Winchester said.

"By identifying a young student’s talents, whether that might be IT or cooking, we can encourage them to foster those talents and maybe even put them on a path to a long and fulfilling career."

The second project, the $1.9 million Student Employability Skills & Community Service, is designed to support student employability by developing and delivering community service projects for UniSA students to gain additional experience.

The project, conducted in collaboration with Universities Australia and more than 30 leading Australian corporations, is a major step towards smoothing the transition from study to the workforce.

"University study needs to be relevant to industry, and students need not only a well-rounded academic program, but also practical experience to give them the edge in a competitive workforce," UniSA Deputy Vice Chancellor Academic, Professor Peter Lee said.

"UniSA has developed a keen understanding that modern education must be as much about developing a capacity to apply skills and knowledge as it is about theoretical learning.

"Our own plan at UniSA is to introduce an additional focus on experiential learning as part of all of our degree programs. In an age where people engage in lifelong learning and change jobs and careers many times across their lifetime – it is vital that graduates are equipped with skills and attributes that equip them for life.

"This new program will deliver that edge and we welcome the funding commitment by the Commonwealth."