University enabling programs while still at school: supporting the transition of low-SES students from high school to university

  • Lynette VernonEmail author
  • Stuart J. Watson
  • William Moore
  • Sarah Seddon


University participation rates are significantly lower in low socioeconomic status (SES) areas in Australia. Specifically, rates differ between-schools and within-schools, where inequalities in opportunities to access university pathway programs exist. The aim of this study was to test whether academic encouragement supported students’ school satisfaction and increased their desire for, expectation of and belief in the possibility of university study and whether differences were evident depending on pathway of study: the ATAR pathway versus a Year 12 access enabling pathway program called TLC110. A sample of 257 high school students (58% female) from 18 high schools, within a low-SES area of outer metropolitan Perth, Western Australia, were surveyed. Teacher encouragement was found to be positively associated with school satisfaction and, in turn, supported university desire, expectation and belief for ATAR students but not for TLC110 students. Qualitative data were collected (n = 9) to contextualise the inclusivity of TLC110 for high school students from low-SES backgrounds to support aspirations for university.


Aspirations University enabling programs Widening participation High school students Transition to university 



We would like to thank the high school principals, their staff and the students who participated in Murdoch’s Aspirations and Pathways for University (MAP4U) study. We are grateful to everyone in the MAP4U team, with special thanks to Yolanda Andrews, Antoinette Geagea, Helen Stone, Jonathan Sae-Koew and Tiffany Foster for their contributions to data collection. We also acknowledge the TLC110 facilitators and tutors in particular Tommy Goggin and Peter Geerlings. Special thanks to Professor Andrew Taggart for his foresight to champion the TLC110 program. Also to Murdoch University’s School of Psychology and Exercise Science, with special thanks to Dr Suzanne Dziurawiec for supporting the research students. We also acknowledge the support of the Australian Government Australian Postgraduate Award (APA) Scholarship.


We acknowledge the funding of this research by the Australian Government through a Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education (DIISRTE) Project Grant (2012-2016), administered by Murdoch University and entitled Murdoch’s Aspirations and Pathways for University (MAP4U) Project.


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Copyright information

© The Australian Association for Research in Education, Inc. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Murdoch UniversityMurdochAustralia
  2. 2.National Centre for Student Equity in Higher EducationCurtin UniversityBentleyAustralia

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