About us

We are a team of academic and professional staff committed to enhancing the teaching and support of students from low socioeconomic backgrounds in Australian higher education.

The work we have undertaken to this end has been funded by a Strategic Priority grant from the Australian Learning and Teaching Council (ALTC). The project that has led to the development of this website is led by Deakin University in partnership with Queensland University of Technology and Charles Sturt University. Universities from across Australia and beyond have contributed to this project and continue to do so. We gratefully acknowledge the contributions of all involved.

Professor Marcia Devlin, Deakin University (Project Director)

Email: marcia.devlin@deakin.edu.au

Until mid 2012, Marcia held the Chair of Higher Education Research at Deakin University and led the 230-member Higher Education Research Group (www.deakin.edu.au/herg). She is now a senior executive at Open Universities Australia (www.open.edu.au). Marcia's research interests and expertise span higher education policy, equity, quality, standards, leadership, interdisciplinarity, teaching enhancement and student engagement and learning. Marcia holds an ARC grant on the employment of international student graduates and recently led to completion an ALTC-funded grant on institutional leadership of teaching and learning. She is frequently invited to deliver national and international keynote addresses, workshops and seminars to provide advice on a range of topics related to teaching policy, practice and quality. The author and co-author of a large number of reports, articles and studies, she also writes regularly for a range of media including The Age, The Australian and Campus Review as well as for online fora.

Professor Sally Kift, Queensland University of Technology

Email: s.kift@qut.edu.au

Sally is a Professor of Law at QUT, where she has served as Law Faculty Assistant Dean, Teaching & Learning (2001-2006) and QUT's foundational Director, First Year Experience (2006-2007). In the latter role, she achieved significant enhancements to QUT's policy and institutional culture in the areas of first year student engagement and curriculum design. Sally received a National Teaching Award (AAUT) in 2003 and was awarded one of three inaugural Australian Learning and Teaching Council (ALTC) Senior Fellowships in 2006 for her project, Articulating a transition pedagogy to scaffold and enhance the first year learning experience in Australian higher education. In 2007, Sally led a project team that received an ALTC National Program Award for QUT Law Faculty's Assessment and Feedback practices. In 2009, she was appointed the joint ALTC Discipline Scholar in Law. She has published widely on legal education and student transition, and has received numerous national and international invitations to deliver keynote address, workshops, and seminars on issues relating to transition and the first year experience, curriculum design, teaching quality and improvement, student engagement, and legal education. She is frequently asked to sit on higher education review and appointment panels, and to evaluate teaching excellence and curriculum renewal across the disciplines.

Professor Karen Nelson, Queensland University of Technology

Email: kj.nelson@qut.edu.au

Professor Karen Nelson is the Director, Student Success and Retention at Queensland University of Technology.  From 2008-2010 she was the Director, First Year Experience and responsibility for the First Year Experience Program now sits within her broader portfolio, which includes other strategic initiatives such as strengthening real world learning, supporting EAL learners, QUT's peer programs strategy and monitoring student learning engagement.

Organisationally, she is located in the Learning and Teaching Unit within Chancellery. Karen's PhD is in organisational information and knowledge management and since commencing at QUT as the coordinator of a large first year information technology core unit, Karen has led several large-scale teaching and learning projects. Between 2007 and 2009 was the co-leader of the institution-wide "Transitions-In" commissioned project (TIP). She is currently the leader of two national ALTC research projects and a team member in a third project.

Karen's higher education research interests focus on student engagement in higher education, the first year experience, and institutional research and responses relating to these topics. She presents and consults nationally and internationally in these areas of interest. Karen also chairs the International First Year in Higher Education Conference (www.fyhe.com.au) organising committee and is the founding Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of the First Year in Higher Education https://www.fyhe.com.au/journal/index.php/intjfyhe and the Co-convenor of the FYHE virtual centre at http://fyhe.qut.edu.au. She has supervised eight students to completion of research degrees and is currently the principal supervisor of four PhD students whose research includes social and organisational impact of information systems and the use of IT in facilitating student learning engagement. Her publications are available at http://eprints.qut.edu.au/view/person/Nelson,_Karen.html

Ms Liz Smith , Charles Sturt University

Email: elsmith@csu.edu.au

Liz Smith is Director, Academic Support at Charles Sturt University. This portfolio has responsibility for learning and language support, careers, bridging and enabling and student transition projects including embedding the first year principles within the curriculum, aspiration building and student retention initiatives such as PASS and the Student Success Team. With more than 20 years experience in the education sector, Liz has had a variety of teaching experience to inform her practice including the K-6, special education, TAFE and University settings. As foundation Director of the CSU Transition Project, Liz has successfully developed initiatives that have supported the University's commitment to widening participation, including the CSU Pathway Program and the Student Transition and Retention (STAR) Program.

Liz has been nationally recognised for her work in supporting the first year experience and student learning. In 1999 Liz was awarded a CUTSD Grant for the evaluation of technology based projects as well as an ASCILITE (Australasian Society for Computers in Learning in Tertiary Education) Award for Exemplary Use of Technology in Teaching & Learning in Tertiary Education. In 2008, the STUDY LINK Program which Liz was responsible for developing and managing over a ten year period was awarded the CSU Vice Chancellor’s Award for Programs that Enhance Learning. The following year, Liz led her team to an ALTC Citation for Outstanding Contribution to Student Learning (First Year Experience) and also the prestigious ALTC Program Award for First Year Experience. Liz has recently (August 2011) been awarded an ALTC Citation for Sustained excellence and leadership in the support of students and their learning during their first year of university study.

Dr Jade McKay, Deakin University (Project manager)

Email: jade.mckay@deakin.edu.au

Jade is a Research Fellow in the Higher Education Research group (HERG) at Deakin University. Jade works across a number of research projects led by HERG, including this ALTC project focused on effective teaching and support of students from low socioeconomic backgrounds. Jade has a PhD in Literary Studies and has interdisciplinary research experience working on a range of projects exploring innovative virtual learning environments, Accounting International Education Standards (IESs) and large class teaching in higher education. Jade's research draws on feminist theory to interrogate gender political representations of women in western culture and her interests more broadly encompass middle-class identities, minority groups and disadvantaged groups in culture and higher education.

Reference group

Professor David Smith, Glasgow Caledonian University, UK
Professor Margaret Mazzolini, Swinburne University of Technology, Australia
Professor Ron Oliver, Edith Cowan University, Australia
Associate Professor Jill Lawrence, University of Southern Queensland, Australia
Mr Tony Payne, York University, UK
Ms Mary Kelly, Queensland University of Technology, Australia


Project Evaluator

The team are fortunate to have the expert evaluation services and advice of Dr Maureen Bell, Consultant.


The funding for this research was originally provided by the Australian Learning and Teaching Council Strategic Priority Grant Scheme.  The research is now overseen by the Office for Learning and Teaching in the Commonwealth Department of Innovation, Industry, Science, Research and Tertiary Education.

We would like to thank the Knowledge Media Division of Deakin University for their assistance in setting up the website.