Back in the early 1980s, Professor Lawrence Pratchett’s English parents were unimpressed. The bright boy whom they’d hoped would be the first in the family to go to university scraped a single grade E in his final A-level exams.
Now the Dean of Business, Government and Law at the University of Canberra and their pro-vice-chancellor for students, he cheerfully admits that flat out laziness rather than existential angst was the reason. But it does put him in an ideal position to advocate for UC’s Uplift package, which is designed to allow many entry pathways to university for those who haven’t arrived straight from school or those that need a little help to get into uni.
Professor Pratchett is now a successful and accomplished academic (to the surprise of his parents), but it took a diploma, then admission to a polytechnic (similar to a College of Advanced Education) before his career began to flourish.
It’s much easier these days, and that’s the point of Uplift, which is designed to support students with pathway options no matter their situation. The program has also been designed to meet the particular challenges of the times, from school leavers who have had their year 12 studies interrupted, to those who have lost their jobs, or been forced to adapt to changed working conditions.
The UC response is to ensure that all the right pathways are in place for people to access tertiary studies.
There are multiple Uplift entry options for school leavers, older students, professionals and people who never thought for a moment they might be going to university.
“It’s nonsense that what happens at school sets the template for the rest of your life,” Professor Pratchett says, pointing out that less than half the students at UC enter straight from school.
“We take students from all backgrounds. We’re interested in adding value, opening their minds, introducing them to new ideas and ways of thinking. We focus on the positive attributes that people bring.”
UC prides itself on the highest employment levels for graduates among all the Canberra universities and Professor Pratchett says that with a large cohort of non-traditional student entries, it’s been vital to ensure that students are supported to develop learning practices.
“Even if you are a school leaver university works differently. If you’ve been out for several years and have other pressures, you need a different approach to learning. We tend to focus on not assuming you have established study practices but supporting you to develop them in a way that’s the best fit for you.”
UC has an experience-based learning approach that means students with different backgrounds have much more chance to bring their own experience to the classroom. The University’s data says that students are equally successful from almost all backgrounds although those juggling multiple other life commitments might need a more flexible approach, whether that’s extensions for assessments, deferrals or alternative pathways through studies
The University has also just implemented My UC, a digital interface that enables a two-way personalised view of the student’s progress that makes it much easier to track things like how a student’s grade point average is evolving and more so where they are in their studies.
A series of webinars and open online events that give potential students the chance to understand what’s possible begin this week.
Early round offers for 2021 start in August, and Year 12 students can be guaranteed a place if they have the support of their school. Alternative entryways for school leavers include the School Recommendation Scheme (SRS). For non-school leavers, using your year 12 results, no matter how long ago they were, entry through prior study including VET qualifications, entry through professional experience and postgraduate study are all entry options.
Professor Pratchett has personal responsibility for admission criteria and says UC’s approach is proactive and positive because the benefits can be so substantial.
“Education serves two functions. It helps you to get a job or improve prospects or promotion. But there’s also a social and intellectual reason for university education. It expands your horizons and enables you to see the world in new ways,” he says.
“It’s a social opportunity to meet and connect with others who have similar interests. They’re all good solid reasons why we want people to come to university.
“Our policy is that we admit any student whom we think can be successful in our course. We’re not seeking to set barriers but open university education to everyone.
“Come and have a look – you’ll be surprised by how many ways there are to study at UC and what the opportunities are.”
For more information, visit the UC website.