This month marked the end of the OLT Fellowship with the submission of the final report and evaluation. What a journey! Over the last 18 months I have had the pleasure of meeting a diverse range of stakeholders from across Australia and also, visited cities and towns in nearly all states. I also became closely acquainted with a range of airport lounges and I am now an expert at locating quality accommodation at a budget price! The Fellowship report does not include those sorts of details but does provide insights into the mechanics of the Fellowship and of course, the key outputs.
Overall, this Fellowship seemed to ‘strike a chord’ across the HE landscape, both within Australia and also overseas. By its end, over 500 hundred participants had attended sessions that sought to explore approaches to engaging first-in-family students and their family members in the higher education sector. A total of 239 evaluations were completed and overwhelmingly participants indicated that this work would inform their professional conduct regardless of context which ranged from university libraries, outreach areas and equity support through to broader academic and professional roles across institutions.
During this Fellowship I have personally been repeatedly struck by individual’s commitment to student success and the genuine desire to ensure all students are offered the opportunity to succeed in their studies. Such commitment was foundational to the development of the national principles for supporting first-in-family students and their families, as well as an array of online resources. It was really this collaborative input that enabled such rich materials to emerge.
While the Fellowship journey has ended I am embarking on a new venture, an ARC Discovery project, exploring higher education participation patterns amongst first in family students. The project seeks to develop a capabilities informed persistence framework targeted at this student cohort. This research will focus on students who are nearing the end of their studies in order to explore the strengths and capabilities that they drew upon during this university journey. One of the project outputs will be the development of the first Capabilities Best Practice Matrix – an online tool that can be used by practitioners to design capabilities-informed approaches to assist persistence at university.
I am currently seeking students to participate in the study from across Australia – a number of institutions have already agreed to be involved and have kindly distributed a survey to their first-in-family students. The research has UOW ethics approval and if anyone would like to hear more about the study or perhaps be involved, please contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.