Can Community Action Open Up Universities?

The partnership between The University of Western Sydney and the ALNF’s Refugee Action Program has been highlighted in the University World News article, ‘Can Community Action Open Up Universities?’ by Ard Jongsma. Below is an extract from the article:

The University of Western Sydney works in a traditionally challenging part of the city with a lot of people from a low socio-economic status background.

The education department of the University of Western Sydney has a mandatory program of community service for students.

Eric Brace of the Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation works with the department on one of the 20 activities that students can choose from: the Refugee Action Support Program.

His project sends university students out to help the city’s primary and secondary school pupils with a refugee background to improve their basic literacy and numeracy skills, eventually increasing their chances of getting into higher education.

“The students give, but they receive a lot too,” says Eric Brace. “In fact, some students almost feel guilty about feeling that they learn more from tutoring refugee children than the children themselves do. And they obviously take their experiences back with them to the university.”

Because of the success of the project in Sydney in 2007 and 2008 it was replicated at Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga in 2009 and later in Albury-Wodonga, between Sydney and Melbourne.

Does this kind of work help the refugee pupils to access higher education later on?

“The university recently completed a study on tertiary pathways for students with a refugee background that I was involved in, so, yes, I know that on a small scale, university civic engagement activities do affect enrolment.”


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