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UOWx program experiences rapid growth giving students the competitive edge
UOWx, a co-curricular framework recognising the commitments students make outside of their degree, has experienced enormous growth (almost nine fold) in student engagement since its inception four years ago.
At launch in 2015, 866 students enrolled to commence their co-curricular involvement, complementing their academic studies. The following year, numbers more than tripled to 2,882. In 2017, students entering the program quickly grew to 5,383, while last year, 7,503 students commenced the UOWx program.
In response to the growing student participation rates, the program has significantly expanded its recognition of co-curricular activities over the years, starting with 34 in 2015 and growing to 236 in 2018.
The program’s success was further demonstrated after 1,050 UOWx records were issued in 2018 - a 34 per cent increase on 2017. Last year also saw 44 students graduate with the UOWx Award, more than double that of the previous year’s cohort.
The consistently growing participation rate demonstrates the high-calibre of students transitioning into the workforce from UOW, and their recognition of the program’s value.
UOWx Coordinator, Amy Thompson, attributes the initiative’s success to both UOW staff and students recognising these programs and supporting holistic student preparation for the competitive and ever-changing workforce.
“The program has contributed directly to helping the University achieve its goal of developing graduates who are 21st century learners.
“It provides a framework to encourage, recognise and record the students’ co-curricular learning experiences for future employers,” Amy says.
The success of the program hinges on the program coordinators across the University who are responsible for delivering the activities recognised by UOWx resulting in valuable experience offered to students.
The UOWx team’s achievements were recognised at the 2018 Vice-Chancellor’s Awards after they received the Team Award for Outstanding Service for Professional Services staff. Further acknowledgement of their efforts came in the form of a 2019 OCTAL nomination and highly- commended for student engagement by the Association of Tertiary Education Management (ATEM).
Amy says the team was delighted to be recognised for their commitment, dedication and ongoing support.
“The success of UOWx does not come down to any one individual, but the result of staff across UOW working incredibly closely to enhance the student experience,” she says.
Amy highlights the program’s success is also based on constant refinement to ensure it best serves students, activity coordinators, local community organisations and industry.
After two years of operation, in 2017 UOWx completed a 360 review which resulted in refinements to the program and changes being made to the UOWx record to meet the need of employers.
“During the review, we benchmarked against international and domestic institutions and found that we are uniquely positioned across the sector as the only program of its kind that encompasses not only employability but also personal development and active citizenship,” Amy shares.
This holistic approach has allowed students to develop transferrable skills and experience for the future, before they enter a competitive globalised workforce, positioning them as standout graduates.
The program consists of the UOWx Record - a transcript of a student’s co-curricular involvement through their time at the University. At graduation, students receive this record alongside their official graduation documents.
Students are also eligible to receive the newly-developed Learning Stream Award, recognising seven different learning streams encompassing skills employers have identified they are looking for in graduates. These include; leadership, mentoring and wellbeing, UOW service, community engagement and service learning, global and cultural awareness, innovation and creativity, collaboration and communication and self-awareness, motivation and employability.
The highest level award that can be achieved is the UOWx Award recognising significant co-curricular involvement. On top of completing their co-curricular activities, students must complete the UOWx Award Program. This program is designed to be completed over six or 12 months in the last year of a student’s degree and is designed to be a transformational learning experience whilst also connecting students to industry.
“Employers that attend the UOWx Award recognition event are gaining access to the University’s extraordinary graduates and building an awareness of the UOWx documents which is a differentiating factor endorsed by the University,” Amy says.
Students participating in co-curricular activities are given the opportunity to do an activity or gain work experience in an area not necessarily related to their degree.
Amy says this interdisciplinary approach has allowed students to find a sense of belonging and connection within UOW’s community but also giving back to the wider community, through endorsed relationships with local organisations.
“It’s incredibly rewarding witnessing students thrive from such experiences, for example engineering students can get involved in the digital media ambassador activity, where they have the opportunity to expand their skill set,” she says.
The program has been further developed to remain relevant throughout the student lifecycle, whether it’s supporting first-year students transitioning to University or providing final-year students with real world experiences they can use in the job application process. The overarching aim of the program is instilling within students the desire for life-long learning.
Amy indicates UOWx has helped elevate the participant’s long-term career prospects, with students receiving competitive internships by leveraging off the program’s established partnerships.
The program is offered at all domestic campuses, and has fostered strong relationships with local employers in each study location. The team is currently leading an Inter-University Co-Curricular Recognition Network, which focuses on best practice to embed co-curricular recognition programs in Australia and New Zealand, to build industry partnerships beyond local communities.
This year, the UOWx team will continue to focus on its priorities which include;
- embedding UOWx within employers in collaboration with Alumni and Careers as part of UOW’s Strategic Plan
- enhancing the framework resources of UOWx and engagement with staff and students across the institution to develop the student capacity for leadership and innovation, and
- contextualising UOWx for diverse student cohorts to increase participation by enhancing the partnership between UOWx, Woolyungah and other units across the institution.
UOWx Student Testimonials
Being involved in co-curricular activities has been the highlight of my university experience. Having the opportunity to combine hands-on experience with formal learning, assists in creating exceptional graduates that really stand out from their peers.
– Cassandra Green, Bachelor of Commerce
Through the UOWx activities I worked with other students, staff members and members of the community and realised that I love working with people. I felt more confident in my own abilities as a result of my involvement. UOWx is a great opportunity for all students because it provides them with the opportunity to become immersed in real life experiences. It gives an individual the opportunity to apply everything they already know, and learn even more about themselves and the world.
– Georgia Zentrich, Bachelor of Psychology Honours