by VICTORIA FIELDING
Enabling programs are more than just a pathway into a university degree. These programs provide essential academic skills to future undergraduate students so that they graduate with more confidence, academic acumen and with a greater understanding of how to be successful at university. Enabling programs create opportunities and career ambition for thousands of university students who otherwise would likely not have attended university.
Despite the value of enabling education to universities, too many university teachers view these students as less qualified for university than their peers who gained entry through more traditional pathways, such as a Year 12 ATAR. This is possibly due to lack of awareness about what enabling courses consist of and their relevance to undergraduate learning. Formalising enabling program qualifications in the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF), as anticipated in the recent AQF Review, would help to improve institutional knowledge and understanding of the value of these courses.
As an educator who teaches in both enabling and undergraduate courses at university, I know from experience that graduates from enabling programmes are just as qualified, prepared and confident in their undergraduate study as their peers, sometimes even more so. The enabling students have learned academic skills such as research, academic integrity, formal communication, independent learning, organisation and study habits which are invaluable to their undergraduate study. These students hit the ground running in their first year of a bachelor’s degree.
I have also seen that most enabling students have a laser-like focus on their future career goals. Many enabling students choose to attend university later in life in search of a career that fulfils their passion to make a difference in their community. Their commitment to their studies and their drive to fulfil their potential make them a pleasure to teach.
Rather than viewing this student cohort as less qualified for university than their peers, I argue that academics should be delighted to admit as many of these students into their degrees as they can. Universities should value the contribution enabling programs make to their institution’s success and the value of these programs to the wider community.
University of South Australia – teaches at UniSA College and in Communication and Media discipline.