How high schools are partnering with universities to take the ‘mystery’ out of uni

Part of the inaugural year 9 class, Lucy Schaefer says what she has already learned about the opportunities university offers has given her new ideas about her future.

“It doesn’t seem so scary anymore knowing you can do something you’re passionate about and basically make a career out of anything you think you’re talented in,” she said.

“We have been given more responsibility for ourselves; we’re allowed to control what we’re going to learn.”

“When we say goodbye at the end of the year, everyone’s going to be upset, I already know.”

Campus head Stella Batsanis said she was proud to be opening up a window to a new world so rarely seen by 15-year-olds.

“It’s a wonderful entry point for them,” she said.

“It has at times been a bit uncomfortable for students because they’ve come from a very traditional approach to learning to this so we want them to drive the learning,” she said.

“It’s not that rote learning, regurgitation. We’re trying to push away from that and give students the chance to develop 21st century skills which are critical.”

She said the benefits would be seen well before students actually reached university.

“Some of the skills they’re developing now will also really set them up for taking on years 10, 11 and 12,” she said.

“We’re trying to develop independent thinkers, young people who are problem-solvers.”

For La Trobe vice-chancellor John Dewar partnering with a secondary school was a simple decision.

“An integral part of our mission is to increase access to a university education so we are delighted to be able to play a role to provide an early introduction to uni-based learning.”

He said the university would also reap many benefits from working on research and training projects with the school.

While the Ivanhoe Grammar university campus is the first of its kind in the country, other Melbourne students are gaining higher learning experience in different ways.

Since 2017 select students in their final years at Templestowe College have had the opportunity to enrol and begin studying modules at Swinburne University.

Principal Peter Ellis said the program came about as an alternative to relentless VCE preparation and ATAR-driven study.

“They’re not just being pummelled preparing for exams, they actually go through and they’ve enjoyed their learning,” he said.

“It takes away a lot of that mystery around what university’s about and makes that transition a lot smoother.”

“They spend time on campus, they’re used to it, Swinburne provides support.

“They love it and their self-esteem as a learner is much higher.”

Another new initiative making university study accessible earlier is South Yarra’s new Centre for Higher Education Studies.

The $27.5 million academy next to Melbourne High School will open its doors in 2021 and allow high-achieving state school students to study uni subjects and VCE extension programs.

Students will remain enrolled at their existing schools but will visit the co-ed facility for extra courses that can count as credits towards a degree.

Anna is a breaking and general news reporter at The Age.

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