UC beating ANU on Indigenous places
By CHARLOTTE KING
A WIDER range of courses and an established pathways program has seen a dramatic difference emerge between indigenous enrolment numbers at Canberra’s two largest universities.
Dr Wendy Brady, director of the Ngunnawal Indigenous Higher Education Centre at the University of Canberra, says UC has doubled its number of indigenous enrolments since 2007.
Dr Brady contributed the increase to the implementation of a Reconciliation Action Plan last year, better marketing, and the fact that indigenous students are enrolling in a wider variety of courses.
“Indigenous students used to only go into things like health and education, but now we’ve got students in the faculty of Art and Design, in IT, in Law, in Business and Government, [and in] the sciences,” Dr Brady said.
The Australian National University, on the other hand, has seen virtually no increase in indigenous student enrolments over the past four years, despite also having a Reconciliation Action Plan in place.
The Recruitment and Community Engagement Officer at the ANU’s Tjabal Indigenous Higher Education Centre, Larry Brandy, believes it has become “hard” for indigenous students to come to ANU, especially because more traditional courses such as education and nursing are not offered.
“We do have what’s called an indigenous admissions scheme, for those indigenous students who don’t meet the ATAR,” Mr Brandy said. “[But] we don’t have a bridging program like the University of Canberra [has].”
However, neither university is close to reaching the federal government’s aim of achieving parity between indigenous and non-indigenous students in access to higher education.
The 2006 census placed the number of indigenous people in Australia at 2.3% of the population, and the number in Canberra at 1.2% of the local population. UC, with around 120 students, and ANU, with around 70 students, sit at only 0.9% and 0.4% respectively.
Dr Brady said she hoped the federal government’s review into indigenous higher education access, announced this month (14 April 2011) by Tertiary Education Minister Senator Chris Evans would properly address the disparities and increase these figures.
“Some of those [issues] have to do with students with disabilities, and others have to do with students who are coming into university for the first time of any family member,” Dr Brady said.
Senator Evans said in a media release that the review would have positive outcomes for indigenous employment, and help to close the gap between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians within a decade.
“For too long, Indigenous Australians have been under-represented in our universities both as students and staff,” Senator Evans said. “The review will consider new strategies to address current inequalities based on the best available evidence.”
The review will report its findings to the government within twelve months, working with experts from a variety of universities and taking submissions from higher education centres.