Access to higher education, without the appropriate targeted support is unfair

Enabling education has provided many students, particularly those from diverse and disadvantaged backgrounds, the transformative opportunity to access higher education. They go on to achieve success as active citizens and engage in meaningful employment. Students frequently comment that enabling education provides them with the confidence and attitudes for more fulfilling lives.

Many of the approaches to teaching and learning in enabling programmes demonstrate a philosophy of care through structured external support, embedded curriculum support, and flexible assessments. These strategies have been proven to be effective for preparing students for the challenges of mainstream higher education.

Unfortunately, many mainstream higher education programmes, due to scale and historical practices, tend to be very inflexible in their approaches and unable to accommodate diversity in the same way as enabling programmes are designed to do. Arguably, enabling programs exist in the first place precisely for this reason.

Even before the pandemic, increasing numbers of students from various diverse and non-traditional backgrounds have been accessing higher education studies. Encouragingly, though due unfortunately to the pandemic’s labour market disruption, many more students from diverse backgrounds are considering higher education studies. But simply providing access to higher education, without the appropriate targeted support, is in fact unfair. Institutions must also demonstrate empathy and cultivate a caring and supportive curriculum for all students.

The “new-normal” higher education must embrace the philosophy of care that is inherent in enabling programmes. This will include amending institutional policies and procedures to enable educators the flexibility to deliver equitably for the diversity of student learning needs and providing appropriate professional development to enhance educator capability for inclusive practice.

Many of these caring, empathetic, and compassionate attitudes are also likely to rub off onto our students. And isn’t that a good thing for the “new-normal”?


Dr Pranit Anand, Learning & Teaching Unit, Chancellery, QUT  [email protected] @pranit_a


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