A new partnership between University and State Government hopes to inspire young students to think big about their future education
By Peter Cochrane
Sometimes inspiration can be found in the unlikeliest of situations. Caitlin Scaife was playing with her sister when the latter suffered a seizure. Home alone, the then Huonville High School student called emergency and in her words, "flipped out" during the 10 minutes she spent waiting for an ambulance to arrive.
"They finally arrived, they were calm, they were amazing – they really inspired me," she recalled at the launch of Bigger Things, a new partnership between the University of Tasmania and the State Government aimed at building student aspiration for tertiary education.
"I didn't realise it at the time but this is where I was heading," Caitlin said, pointing to the logo on her School of Medicine fleecy jacket as she addressed directly the current Huonville High School student body.
"My first point is, find something that inspires you. After that day my goal was to become a paramedic.
"I went on to Year 11 [at Elizabeth College] – not a great year for me, I almost failed – but I knuckled down in Year 12 and got an amazing ATAR score."
"They were calm, they were amazing – they really inspired me."
Caitlin's second message to the assembled students was that "nothing worth having in life ever comes easy". "It was really hard getting through college – it took a lot of effort, a lot of study – but here I am today, completing a fast-track Bachelor of Paramedic Practice degree."
It is hoped the Bigger Things project will inspire hundreds of others like Caitlin.
The project – which involves Hobart College, Huonville High School and its feeder primary schools – will be rolled out over the next five years.
It includes more support to access scholarships and bursaries, student mentoring and additional on-campus experiences.
Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Rathjen said at the launch the formal University-Government partnership was a milestone, and he hopes the program would be the basis for future shared endeavours.
Bigger Things was launched in a clear showing of community strength, with those in attendance including Premier Will Hodgman, Education and Training Minister Jeremy Rockliff, University Chancellor Michael Field AC, and Professor Rathjen, along with students and their parents, and business and regional leaders.
Bigger Things is partly based on trials conducted in the north, which included former students returning to primary and secondary schools, working with Grade 5 to 8 students and talking about their progression through the education system.
"From those trials, teachers have reported an increasing awareness and interest in university," the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Students and Education), Professor David Sadler, explained.
"Through Bigger Things, we will be doing an extensive evaluation which will include students, teachers, parents and employers to monitor the performance of the program and guide us into the future."
Professor Rathjen said Tasmania needed to drive better outcomes because of the changing nature of the global workforce and economy.
"People preparing for work and those already within the workforce need to seek the highest possible qualifications and skill levels," he said.
"This project encourages students to think big about what they aspire to be, and consider the boundless possibilities provided through a degree from the University of Tasmania."