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Southern Cross University among the nation’s best for student equity and access

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22 November 2023

New rankings have highlighted the position of Southern Cross University as a national leader in the provision of higher education that is equitable and accessible for a diverse community of students.

For the first time, the Australian Financial Review (AFR) has published its own university rankings, placing Southern Cross University 6th from 40 institutions for equity and access. Southern Cross also ranked strongly for student career outcomes (13th) and research (21st). 

The AFR rankings attempt to provide a different perspective to that of existing global systems, which focus more exclusively on university research and reputation. 

The new system was devised by eminent higher education experts Professor Stephen Parker and Professor Tim Brown. 

“By including equity as one of the five pillars, we are giving regional and outer urban universities an opportunity to show their strengths in attracting, supporting and graduating certain kinds of disadvantaged students,” they said. 

“This counteracts some of the advantages that older, metropolitan universities may have. No ranking can adjust for all the different situations that universities are in, but our broader approach gives all types of universities an opportunity to shine.” 

In recent years, Southern Cross University has fundamentally redesigned its approach to teaching and evaluation, introducing new levels of student support with evidence-based outcomes. 

The University pioneered a unique approach called the Southern Cross Model which supports success across the student population and crucially empowers students who face the barrier of disadvantage. 

Pro Vice-Chancellor (Academic Quality) Professor Thomas Roche said: “Student success, or pass rates, as measured by the completion rate of subjects, is now close to 90% – an increase of 23% on success rates prior to the Model being introduced. Also, across the institution, Grade Point Averages – or GPAs – are up. More of our students are succeeding and getting better grades. 

“We are particularly proud that not only is this helping the majority of our students succeed, but it is helping those who are often underrepresented in our universities and are at most disadvantage. 

“Under the Southern Cross Model, students from government-defined equity groups, such as low socio-economic status students, those first-in-family to study and students registered with a disability, have all seen significant increases in their success rates. 

“We are also incredibly proud of the fact that Indigenous students have never been more successful in their studies at the University than now through the Southern Cross Model.” 

AFR Managing Editor Cosima Marriner said: “Access and equity, which is omitted from international rankings, is important in the Australian context. Not only does it inform the mission of many of our regional and outer suburban universities, but the federal Labor government has clearly articulated that this is a priority and will be a focus of the upcoming Australian Universities Accord. 

“The aim of the Financial Review’s Best Universities Ranking is to provide a balanced scorecard that recognises that some universities start from a different position than others – and run a very different race – which is just as worthy and important as that of some of our oldest and wealthiest universities.” 

Professor Parker is former national lead partner for education with KPMG and former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Canberra. Professor Brown was director of the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute and has a long and distinguished career as a professor of statistics. He is also a former Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Research at La Trobe University. 

The architects of the Southern Cross Model are Pro Vice-Chancellor (Academic Quality) Professor Thomas Roche and Pro Vice-Chancellor (Academic Innovation) Professor Erica Wilson. Tune in to a discussion on its development and ongoing evolution on the SCU Buzz podcast.

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