Indigenous Higher Education Review (IHER)

Building on the work of the Indigenous Higher Education Review (IHER) 2012

The Review of Higher Education Access and Outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People (IHER) (2012), commissioned in 2011 by the Australian Government following a recommendation by the 2008 Bradley Review of Higher Education, is the first review to address the full scope of provision of Indigenous higher education, aiming to examine ". . .how improving higher education outcomes among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people will contribute to nation building and reduce Indigenous disadvantage" (p. ix). The IHER found that, although Indigenous Support Program (ISP) funding has been successful in providing an incentive for universities to enrol Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, there have not been the same incentives concerning retention and completion (Behrendt et al., 2012, p. 75). The IHER also found that there are inconsistencies, and great variability among universities as to how they account for, report on, and deliver Indigenous Support Program (ISP) funding.

The IHER made 35 recommendations to the Federal Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research in relation to the following six main themes:

  1. Achieving parity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and staff members in the higher education sector.
  2. Unlocking capacity and empowering choices (for example the role of schools and university-school outreach; other pathways; enabling programs; and access to information).
  3. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander student success (provision of support through to completion by Indigenous Education Units and the faculties; and building professional pathways and responding to community need).
  4. Provision of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-specific support to universities (the ITAS; support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students from regional and remote areas; financial support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students); Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Knowledges and support (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives; higher degrees by research and research training; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander research capability).
  5. Supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff members.
  6. Issues of university culture and governance.

What has been done since the recommendations of IHER?

At the time of publication the Federal Government's response to the recommendations of the IHER included $ 18.1 million of Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program (HEPPP) allocated to nine priority projects of national significance which can be viewed online at (http://www.education.gov.au/nationally-significant-projects-addressing-behrendt-review). Priority projects taking place from 2013 to 2017 include;

  • Performance Framework (Curtin University)
  • Indigenous Academic Enrichment Program (University of Melbourne)
  • Indigenous Engineers: Partners for Pathways (University of Melbourne)
  • National Center for Cultural Competency (University of Sydney)
  • Aurora Academic Enrichment Camps (Canberra University)
  • Breadwinners Project (University of Sydney)
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Higher Education Social Marketing Strategy (Queensland University of Technology)
  • Higher Education Portal (Queensland University of Technology)
  • Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience (AIME) (Curtin University, University of South Australia and University of Wollongong)
  • (Nationally Significant projects addressing the Behrendt Review, http://www.education.gov.au/nationally-significant-projects-addressing-behrendt-review).

Other significant projects supporting Indigenous, remote and low SES communities to transition to higher education, were funded under the HEPPP Competitive Grants round for projects occurring between 2013 and 2015 (Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program (HEPPP) Competitive Grants projects funded: http://www.innovation.gov.au/highereducation/Equity/HigherEducationParticipationAndPartnershipsProgram/Pages/default.aspx#4.1).

The current project, addressing the transition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students into higher education (SI11-2138), builds on the work of the IHER (2012), particularly focusing on enablers and constraints to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander student transitions and models of successful transition. This project was guided by appropriate recommendations of the IHER (2012) that related to transitions to higher education and examined current and new models being employed to successfully transition Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students into higher education. Key elements of the different models were assessed with respect to target catchments for respective universities so that key drivers of change could be identified for the consideration of IEUs, university administrators and policy makers.