The Gap Year Guide has been released to equip rural and regional students taking a year (or more) off between high school and further studies. The project has come from a healthy coordination of resources by the Country Education Foundation of Australia with three leading Australian universities – the University of Sydney, University of Canberra and University of Wollongong.
A 2017 report from the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (NCSEHE)/ NSW Department of Education shows over 40% of regional students with an ATAR over 75 aren’t going to university straight after high school. We also know the longer a student takes off after high school, the less likely to take up tertiary education. In fact, as few as 5-6% of students who take a gap year transition to university.
Throughout 2019 this leading research team investigated the main misconceptions held by regional students and their families about the gap year to develop The Gap Year Guide, non-branded digital resources, focused on how to best use a gap year to benefit their studies, stemming from the main website https://astar.tv/gapyear.
Seasonally-released resources on differing topics relating to making the most of the time before university for study preparation will come in the form of podcast releases and emails. CEF is doing our bit to ensure all rural and regional school-leavers who are taking a Gap year have the right resources to get organised for the further study they have signed up for. We feel our involvement and support in such a project is crucial to ensuring students and parents have better access to ‘real’ information about university life.
CEF Acting CEO Juliet Petersen said the most concerning factor of the initial research was while intention to study sat at 80%, students are seemingly not informed enough about the realities of tertiary education. These truths include course and career offerings, financial support opportunities and requirements of university support and study pathways. She says such confusion makes students less likely to go straight to university.
CEF Acting CEO Juliet Petersen talking about the Gap Year Guide with Kia Handley from ABC Radio
“Real ways universities can support students outside main cities and their communities are by providing more access. We already provide tours in association with some universities as part of coordinated outreach partnerships. The benefit of these partnership programs to high school students considering further study is amazing. They come away with a clearer picture of what life on campus would be like and what would be required of them as a tertiary student,” said Mrs Petersen.
“We know finances continue to be a significant factor in holding students back. CEF offers non-cash grants and scholarships to help with expenses related to tertiary education, training and apprenticeships via their local community. Of equal or greater impact for students is the boost to confidence that comes from knowing their community believes in their potential.”
“The uncertainty of what students want to do and how they get there is a very real barrier in rural and regional communities. Because of where they live, they haven’t had the exposure to jobs held in metropolitan areas. CEF’s aspirational influencers program addresses this by connecting our alumni with schools in regional areas to discuss their experiences and pathways.”
The Gap Year Guide and its associated resources are a great start by these three universities. Mrs Petersen looks forward to taking the conversation further to improve young country Australia’s access to education and continuing to address the education participation gap that exists between country students and their city peers.