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Benchmarking Australian Enabling Programs for a National Framework of Standards


Enabling education programs in Australia assist students, who would otherwise have been excluded from higher education, to transition into undergraduate study. These programs emerged independently in response to the needs of individual universities and the varying cohorts of students they serve. The exclusion of these programs from the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) has meant they remain unregulated, with no national framework for standards. The development of academic standards is a dynamic, consensus driven process, and benchmarking provides a method through which academics from across institutions can work in partnership to reach shared understandings and improve and align practices. This practice report outlines the results of the first comprehensive cross-institutional benchmarking project involving nine Australian universities and demonstrates there is shared understanding of the standards of enabling programs between institutions. These findings will contribute to the establishment of national standards for enabling programs in Australia.

Published: 2023-07-13
Pages:41 to 49
Section:Practice Reports
How to Cite
Davis, C., Cook, C., Syme, S., Dempster, S., Duffy, L., Hattam, S., Lambrinidis, G. ., Lawson, K., & Levy, S. (2023). Benchmarking Australian Enabling Programs for a National Framework of Standards. Student Success, 14(2), 41-49.

Author Biographies

University of Southern Queensland
Australia Australia

Ms Charmaine Davis, UniSQ College, University of Southern Queensland. Charmaine has worked in pathways for 25 years as a lecturer and program coordinator. As Secretary of the NAEEA (7 years) she works closely with counterparts across Australia and has a deep understanding of the sector. Charmaine co-led the project to benchmark Australian enabling education programs.

Australia Australia

Mr Chris Cook, School of Access Education, Central Queensland University. Chris is the Deputy Associate Dean (Learning and Teaching) and Head of Course (STEPS) in the School of Access Education at CQUniversity. He is responsible for overseeing the Skills for Tertiary Education Preparatory Studies (STEPS) course, which typically supports over 2000 university enabling students on campuses across Australia and online each year. Chris is passionate about ensuring that all students have the opportunity to develop the skills, knowledge and confidence to successfully participate in higher education.

Southern Cross University
Australia Australia

Associate Professor Suzi Syme, SCU College, Southern Cross University. Suzi is Associate Dean, Education and Academic Coordinator of Preparing for Success at Southern Cross University. Suzi co-led both the initial project to benchmark three enabling programs and the subsequent extended project. Her recent HERDSA co-publication compared data over six years of the success rates of enabling and non-enabling students in their first year of undergraduate studies. She is a member of the NAEEA Executive Committee.

University of Tasmania
Australia Australia

Dr Sarah Dempster, University of Tasmania. Sarah is the Discipline Lead of Pre-Degree Programs at the University of Tasmania. She has led the structural and curriculum re-design of both the University Preparation Program and the Diploma of University Studies to create a streamlined, outcomes-driven, and strengths-based approach to learning. Sarah has spent 17 years working across the secondary and tertiary sectors in Western Australia and Tasmania and many years as an educational consultant.

Edith Cowan University
Australia Australia

Ms Lisa Duffy, Edith Cowan University. Lisa’s qualifications include a Bachelor of Arts in Justice Studies, Graduate Certificate and Graduate Diploma of Criminology and Justice, and a Graduate Diploma in Secondary Education. Lisa has been a teaching-focused scholar in the higher education sector for 16 years, with the past 10 years dedicated to enabling education. Lisa has a keen interest in transitional and transformative education and has worked actively to design and deliver bridging courses for non-traditional and equity groups across institutions, whilst providing staff professional development to enhance students’ learning experiences in higher education. Lisa is experienced in leading and supporting small and large-scale projects and is currently pursuing her PhD exploring student identity development among incarcerated tertiary students.

University of South Australia
Australia Australia

Dr Sarah Hattam, UniSA Futures, University of South Australia. Dr Sarah Hattam (Senior Lecturer) has worked in higher education since 2005, completing her PhD (Sociology) in 2013. The experience of being an intergenerational beneficiary of widening participation policy underpins Sarah’s passion for equitable access to education and guides her approaches to working in enabling education. Sarah has published her research on widening participation initiatives in Higher Education in Q1 journals and has extensive experience in policy analysis.  Sarah has expertise in the areas of widening participation policy, enabling curriculum, retention and engagement strategies, alternative education pathways and secondary school retention. She has built a community of practice of the teaching team through professional development initiatives and action research projects in enabling pedagogy. Sarah also facilitates a women’s education program for women who have been recently homeless or experienced domestic violence. Sarah is a member of the executive committee of the National Association of Enabling Educators of Australia and member of the South Australian branch of HERDSA. She is nationally recognised for her leadership in professional development of enabling and inclusive pedagogies (AAUT 2019) and was awarded a Senior Fellowship with the Higher Education Academy in 2020.

Charles Darwin University
Australia Australia

Mr George Lambrinidis, Faculty of Arts & Society, Education & Enabling, Charles Darwin University. George is a Senior Lecturer at Charles Darwin University and has taught and coordinated within Enabling programs for over two decades. His research interests include increasing the participation of students online, benchmarking enabling programs and the role of self-efficacy in student success. George is an executive member of the National Association of Enabling Educators Australia (NAEEA) and coordinates two units within CDU pathway programs, Foundations for Success and DigiPrep.

Curtin University
Australia Australia

Ms Kathy Lawson, Curtin University. Kathy works at Curtin University in Equity and Inclusion and has overseen enormous growth in the university’s UniReady Enabling Program. The enabling program has expanded over the years and now includes new delivery models to suit the evolving educational environment. Her background is in language and communications teaching as well as curriculum development and teacher training. Her present work is in supporting students who enter university through non-traditional pathways and improving their student experience and overall outcomes.

Federation University Australia
Australia Australia

Dr Stuart Levy, Institution of Education, Arts and Community, Federation University. Stuart is a senior lecturer in the Institute of Education, Arts and Community at Federation University, the Discipline Leader: Pathways and Humanities, and a member of the NAEEA (National Association of Enabling Educators Australia) executive committee. His research interests include the efficacy of pathways to higher education; the transitions experienced by higher education students; and pathways that support students’ aspirations for further study.

Open Access Journal
ISSN 2205-0795