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Ok, the author is jumping to a conclusion on limited data, but the long-term fact remains – University (and this the professions) are increasingly open to a wider range of people in the community. Merit and effort rather than accidents of birth.

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University doors now open to more of population

April 24, 2012 

Paving the way ... UWS student Kate French, on the Campbelltown campus, is the first in her family to go to university.Paving the way … UWS student Kate French, on the Campbelltown campus, is the first in her family to go to university. Photo: Tamara Dean

KATE FRENCH, the first in her family to go to university, jokes that she and her family live in ”different dimensions”.

Her mother works part time at a supermarket, her father works in earth moving and her brother is a cabinet maker turned welder. Kate, who scored 94.75 in her HSC and won a scholarship to the University of Western Sydney, is in her first year of a double degree in business and commerce, and law.

This year, record numbers of students from low socio-economic status (SES) backgrounds are flocking to Australian universities, many of them the first in their families to take up tertiary education.

Figures provided to the Herald show the number of university places offered to students from low SES backgrounds have leapt by 18.9 per cent since 2009, with 40,203 students from low SES backgrounds offered places this year.

The government, which defines low SES backgrounds by students’ postcodes, is claiming victory in its goal to attract more low SES students to universities.

In 2009, then-education minister Julia Gillard said the government would aim to have low SES students represent 20 per cent of enrolments by 2020.

The number of students from low socio-economic status backgrounds offered university places is now just shy of the 20 per cent target, with 40,203 students from low SES backgrounds enrolled in universities, of the total 202,346.

The Tertiary Education Minister, Chris Evans, said uncapping university places had benefited disadvantaged students.

”Access barriers to university in the form of limits on student places meant many talented young people missed out on the opportunity to realise their full potential,” he said.

”With the cap now removed, young people from rural and regional Australia, from migrant backgrounds, indigenous people and those from low socio-economic suburbs, are now taking up the opportunity to get a university qualification.”

Australian Catholic University increased its low SES enrolments by 63.5 per cent since 2009 across campuses in NSW, Victoria, the ACT and Queensland.

”It’s much more fundamental than [numbers],” the vice-chancellor, Greg Craven, said. ”We see ourselves as a social justice institution.”

”One of the reasons we wanted to grow was to bring university education to low SES students. We have a raft of things we try to do to attract low SES students and, once they’re in, to cater for them.

”Because all parties understand there are as many clever students from a low SES background as there are on the lower north shore.”

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/national/education/university-doors-now-open-to-more-of-population-20120423-1xhgl.html#ixzz1suaCXC4l

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