The Australian Vice-Chancellors' Committee (AVCC) has today released the AVCC Response on Indigenous Higher Education Advisory Council (IHEAC) Conference Report at the Second Annual IHEAC Conference in Perth, Western Australia.
The IHEAC Conference Report and associated strategic plan were released in July 2006 as Improving Indigenous Outcomes and Enhancing Indigenous Culture and Knowledge in Australian Higher Education.
AVCC President Professor Gerard Sutton said that Indigenous higher education is a priority issue for Vice- Chancellors.
"The AVCC Response aims to work with the Government and Indigenous Communities to achieve better education outcomes for people from an Indigenous background," Professor Sutton said.
"Over the past three years, the number of Indigenous students enrolled in higher education has dropped from 8, 871 (2002) to 8,370 (2005)1.
"This represents a significant decline, and it is pleasing to see IHEAC and the higher education sector working together to address the issue," he said.
Professor Sutton said that the starting premise of the AVCC Response was the AVCC Vision for higher education 2020 defining principle relating to Indigenous higher education:
Australia's universities will meet the needs of Australia's Indigenous peoples though education, research and community service comparable to the support provided to all Australians.
"The Vision 2020 principle is supported by the AVCC Committee on higher education on Indigenous Higher Education's four strategic themes, which are largely consistent with the IHEAC priority areas," Professor Sutton said.
The following four themes, identified by the AVCC Committee in 2005, relate to opportunities and access to higher education for people from an Indigenous background:
(i) barriers between different levels of schooling and higher education;
(ii) support for Indigenous students in higher education;
(iii) postgraduate coursework and research students; and
(iv) improved Indigenous education as a Government priority.
Professor Sutton said that the establishment of IHEAC and the initial support shown to IHEAC by Minister Julie Bishop are welcome.
"The AVCC is committed to working with IHEAC and the Government to achieve better education outcomes for Indigenous students," Professor Sutton said.
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1. DEST Student Statistics, 1994-2005
AVCC Response on Indigenous Higher Education Advisory Council Conference Report - Recommendations
The AVCC response on the IHEAC Conference Report addresses each of the seven priority areas identified by IHEAC and makes a number of recommendations for future consultative work:
IHEAC Priority 1: Encourage universities to work with schools and TAFE colleges and other registered training organisations to build pathways and raise levels of aspiration and confidence of Indigenous students
AVCC Recommendation 1:The AVCC supports IHEAC Priority 1, welcomes the Minister's commitment of funding towards this priority and recommends that:
- pathway scholarships be developed to provide financial assistance to Indigenous students from secondary school (as early as Year 9, but at least from Year 12) to the completion of a higher education award
- appropriate programs be developed to assist universities to work in cooperation with schools and vocational and technical education providers
- all levels of Government work together with the Indigenous community and other stakeholders in implementing the MCEETYA recommendations on Indigenous education
- programs be developed to provide advice to students, parents and teachers in secondary school to assist
with appropriate subject choices that lead towards tertiary study.
IHEAC Priority 2: Develop a concerted strategy to improve the level of Indigenous undergraduate enrolment
AVCC Recommendation 2:
The AVCC supports the targets set as a step in the direction of achieving the AVCC's Vision for 2020 but cautions that the implementation of such targets must take account of the sector's diversity.
AVCC Recommendation 3:The AVCC further recommends a focus on pathways to higher education leading to an increase in the numbers of Indigenous people studying at university.
IHEAC Priority 3: Improve the level of Indigenous postgraduate enrolment, enhance Indigenous research and increase the number of Indigenous researchers
AVCC Recommendation 4:
The AVCC supports the targets set as a step in the direction of achieving the AVCC's Vision for 2020. The AVCC will look at strategies to bring about the achievement of these targets such as:
- earnings replacement scholarships for Indigenous people in current employment who are considering taking up postgraduate scholarships
- adequate supervision arrangements for Indigenous students, including appropriate cultural support
- allowing credit for recognised prior learning.
IHEAC Priority 4: Improve the rates of success, retention and completion for Indigenous students
AVCC Recommendation 5:
The AVCC supports IHEAC Priority 4 and recommends that:
- the study of first year experiences of Indigenous university students be completed by the end of 2007
- the setting of retention and completion targets should be postponed until after the findings of the study of first year experiences are available. In any event, the AVCC through its Committee on Indigenous Higher Education will begin looking at this issue in the second half of 2007
- a longitudinal data analysis or a longitudinal study of Indigenous students be conducted with a view to identifying the number of Indigenous students who leave university and return at a later date
- a Carrick Institute Priority Project be commenced across a number of institutions as soon as possible.
IHEAC Priority 5: Enhance the prominence and status of Indigenous culture, knowledge and studies on campus
AVCC Recommendation 6:
- supports a review of the Indigenous Education and Support Centres with a view to strengthening the role of these centres in improving Indigenous education outcomes
- would like to discuss the issues of the review of undergraduate curricula and Indigenous Studies with IHEAC in more detail
- supports further discussion between the AVCC and IHEAC on the appointment to Elders to specific roles, while affirming that the appointment of persons to specific roles within universities is a matter for each individual university.
IHEAC Priority 6: Increase the number of Indigenous people working in Australian universities
AVCC Recommendation 7:
acknowledges that the current employment rates of Indigenous staff across Australian universities are not acceptable;
supports the principle of increasing the number of Indigenous staff in universities. In order to take account of the diversity of institutions and the difficulty in attracting staff, no employment targets as such should be set; and
recommends that DEST provide new funding for the employment of Indigenous employment officers.
IHEAC Priority 7: Improve the participation of Indigenous people in university governance and management
AVCC Recommendation 8:
- supports the idea of a National Summit
- will encourage universities to include Indigenous people in their recommendations of potential council members when asked
- will conduct a survey of the Indigenous status of senior university management to be completed in 2006 with the results to be referred to the AVCC Committee on Indigenous Higher Education for analysis.
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