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Our Students: accessing & succeeding

UOW has a proud history of working closely with its communities to drive increased participation and attainment among underrepresented groups in higher education. Our strategic aim as an institution is to increase the proportion of domestic undergraduate students from low socioeconomic backgrounds to 21% by 2020, through providing targeted outreach and pathways programs to the community, and seamless transition activities and support to UOW students.

The University of Wollongong is a regional based institution with a very diverse cohort of students.

The University has a proud history of working closely with its communities to drive increased participation and attainment among under-represented groups in higher education. Our Outreach programs work with students from Year 1, all the way through to Year 12, from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. These students have higher aspirations but face many barriers, which means taking their step into higher education harder the students from their cohort at school.

They can be the first in their family to attend University, moving out of home from rural or remote areas, be of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent or face significant social and financial disadvantages. Our aim is to ensure that individuals, regardless of their background, have the opportunity to access higher education, through building their confidence, their ability to navigate their protocol options and help deliver a seamless transition into University.

I went to Warrawong High School which is a low socio-economic school. So I've experienced firsthand what it's like to face some of those barriers that you get at a low socioeconomic school. These are the sorts of barriers that make you think you're never going to make it to Uni at all, but it's these kids that realize that we have to work that little bit harder to be able to get to where we want to go and that's a sort of mindset and skillset that really helps you to succeed at Uni.

There's an enormous amount of research that shows that there are people with significant capability who are not being able to access and participate in higher education and the University of Wollongong is absolutely committed to widening participation and to opening access and participation to those groups of people. A strong commitment of the University is to increase our equity students to twenty one percent of the student population, now that's significantly above the national average which is at sixteen percent. So critical to our success are the partnerships that we have with the community and with the schools, and the way in which we then develop appropriate entry pathways for students, so that they can be successful in higher education.

The University of Wollongong also has transition programs that really enable these students to reach their full potential and to be successful in their higher education studies. There's no question that these students are academically capable of succeeding at University.

On average 87% of the Year 12 students who complete our Outreach programs receive an early admission offer to University of Wollongong each year. This may be why we've seen a 47 percent increase in students going onto University from our region since the Outreach program started. Students who continue on to University of Wollongong are generally retained at a higher rate than other students, with many excelling in their university studies. We have had countless students go on to dean scholars degrees taking internships across the globe and starting careers in binnovative and research driven fields.

I always knew that I wanted to go to university but I never knew enough about it. I didn't have any family that I could go to and speak about what it was like or what would be required of me. I was always a really good student at school I picked up content really easily, I didn't require much effort to do assignments, I got everything done when I needed but I never really understood how that was going to relate to University. Everyone always spoke to me about how University was like really big and bad and scary and so I was quite nervous about what that would be into for the future because I still wanted to go to university. I was lucky enough to get off for the position in the Summer Master Classes and that was everything I probably needed to understand University.

I'm torn in two minds about what I wanted to do after University, I don't know whether I want to be an academic and study more at university or maybe do some work the Productivity Commission or the Reserve Bank or something along those lines. If you want something and you had the desire to go and get something you'll be able to get there, you'll be able to find some way to get to where you want to go in the future, I think that's really cool.

UOW is committed to providing a supportive and accessible environment for all equity students. For more information about Outreach programs and our students visit uow.edu.au/in2uni or contact the Outreach and Pathways team.

Sarah Smith

Outreach and Widening Participation Manager

Sarah Smith

Email: sarah_smith@uow.edu.au

Phone: 4221 3348

I’ve been working at UOW for the past 10 years focussing on Outreach programs. I love living in the Illawarra and working in our community. Our amazing team works from Wollongong, Batemans Bay, Bega, Shoalhaven, Southern Highlands and South West Sydney. I feel fortunate to work alongside my team and with students through their educational journey.

James Terry

Widening Participation Team Leader

Email: james_terry@uow.edu.au

Phone: 4221 3453

I’ve been with the team here at UOW since early 2018, where I lead up widening participation programs at the UOW Wollongong Campus focusing on enabling student post-school decision-making as they navigate their journey through Year 11 and 12 and into their post-school pathways. Programs such as Year 11 & Year 12 Future Me, Year 12 Summer Master Class and other wonderful program initiatives our team deliver are so pivotal in providing students with confidence and awareness to enable their aspirations being achieved and becoming a reality!  Being a first in family student myself to attend university, I get such a buzz seeing students striving towards their higher education goals and achieving these, often with many barriers being overcome with determination, resilience and hard work!

Alexa Brisbin

Widening Participation Coordinator

Email: alexa_brisbin@uow.edu.au

Phone: 4239 4181

I’m new to the Widening Participation team as I recently transitioned from my career as a primary teacher to join the Outreach and Pathways team at UOW. I oversee the Year 11 programs, including the in-school workshops and our online mentoring initiative. Both programs aim to educate students on their post-school options and give them opportunities to connect with UOW mentors. It is inspiring watching students take ownership of their future and overcome obstacles to pursue their goals. I'm proud to play a small role in helping students navigate their potential pathways and I hope our initiatives make that journey a little less daunting.

Gemma Coleman

Widening Participation Coordinator

Email: gemma_coleman@uow.edu.au

Phone: 4221 8171

I joined the UOW Outreach team in 2022, after working in Widening Participation in the UK for a number of years. I look after initiatives focussed on supporting Year 11 and 12 students make informed decisions about their choices post-school, and help organise programs such as Summer Master Classes which give engaged students a chance to take part in HE before they even sit their HSC. My favourite parts of this role are both the "a-ha!" moments when a student I’m working with realises there’s a pathway perfect for them, and also that I can play a part in the systems, structures and processes that allow access pathways to UOW for many of our program participants.

Lily Sheridan

Outreach Coordinator

Email: lily_sheridan@uow.edu.au

Phone: 4221 5502

In my role I work with students from Year 1-10, to help build awareness, aspirations & attainment of students from traditionally under-represented backgrounds in higher education. I have been working in this team for several years, first as a student casual and now as a full –time employee. I love how I get to engage with kids from a variety of backgrounds and have some great conversations.

Lani Madigan

STEM Outreach Coordinator

Email: lani_madigan@uow.edu.au

Phone: 4221 4079

I work across all year groups to design and deliver engaging Outreach programs that excites students about their learning and possible career pathways with a focus on STEM disciplines. Safe to say, I love anything to do with Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths and of course, creativity! I also work within the Learning Labs team to help foster a love of life-long learning amongst even our youngest students. Just like STEM, my role is broad and varied, combined with lots of fun ... and sometimes mess!

Jade Andrews

Outreach and Employability Coordinator

Email: jade_andrews@uow.edu.au

Phone: 4252 8613

Since 2017 I have been working at the University of Wollongong, Batemans Bay campus. My role allows me to work at the interface of career development and widening participation, meaning I support both school and university students to achieve their career and educational aspirations, particularly those who like myself are considering equity students, facing various barriers to higher education.

Maree Phelps

Parent and Teacher Engagement Coordinator - Shoalhaven campus

Email: maree_phelps@uow.edu.au

Phone: 4239 4215

I am new to this role and I am enjoying developing relationships with staff and communities at Shoalhaven primary and high schools. My job focuses on co-designing student, teacher and parent outreach programs to maximise outcomes for students.

Amelia (Millie) Love

Outreach Coordinator at UOW Bega campus

Email: amelia_love@uow.edu.au

Phone: 6494 7035

I love providing local students with the information and tools to confidently navigate post school opportunities to reach their goals, something I wish I had as a regional student!

Karen Laverty

Outreach and Widening Participation Coordinator - South Western Sydney Liverpool campus

Email: karen_laverty@uow.edu.au

Phone: 4239 4215

I have been with the team for five years. I work with 17 schools from the South Western Sydney region to assist students in finding their future pathways and goals. We have a great team of experienced and knowledgeable In2uni mentors that are a part of our SWS team.


Erin Acton

Southern Highlands campus

Email: erin_acton@uow.edu.au

Phone: 4869 2381

I have worked at the Southern Highlands campus for eight years and look after the Southern Highlands and Goulburn areas.

Outreach & Widening Participation Programs

Learning Labs

Batemans Bay



South Western Sydney

Southern Highlands

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