Our origins go back to 2009, when the Sydney Widening Participation in Higher Education Forum was formed between six universities: the University of Sydney, University of New South Wales, Macquarie University, Australian Catholic University, Western Sydney University and the University of Technology Sydney. Their objective was to address the Australian Government's stated commitment to reach the target for participation in higher education set in the 2008 Report on Australian Higher Education (Bradley Report) to:
- 25-34 year old Australian residents who possess a university qualification from 29% in 2006 to 40% in 2025; and
- Students from low socio economic backgrounds participating in higher education from 15% to 20% by the year 2020.
Five universities in the Sydney basin then joined forces to address this challenge:
- Australian Catholic University,
- Macquarie University,
- University of Sydney,
- University of Technology Sydney,
- Western Sydney University.
A workshop was held in February 2010 to discuss needs and priorities in widening participation recognising that while the Sydney Basin accounts for at least 23% of 20-34 year olds and 21% of the population nationally, only 15.9% of current university students from low socioeconomic communities come from this region.
That workshop led to our first project, to develop resources for parents, and laid the foundations for Bridges to Higher Education.
In 2011 the Commonwealth Government awarded Bridges to Higher Education $21.2 million in funding to June 2015 through the Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program (HEPPP).
The Bridges Partner Universities recognised that individual universities working alone could not provide the breadth and depth of programs that research shows is required to assist both schools and communities.