Igniting social justice beyond campus: U:PASS
The first year at uni is daunting for anyone, but even more so for those without the academic and financial support from their family or community. Feeling overwhelmed, inadequate and unprepared, failure is a very real risk for undergraduates. U:PASS was developed to be the helping hand that pulls first year students through. With the support of Peer Leaders, students can learn how to cope in an environment that turns out to be entirely different from high school. Thanks to the efforts of the U:PASS team, a staggering 81% of students who attended U:PASS were saved from dropping out in their first year.
But it is not only the students who benefit. It is also the Peer Leaders. According to U:PASS Manager Georgina Barratt-See, it is the leaps in their personal and professional development that have kept her energised for the past nine years.
“Our Peer Leaders were all themselves struggling in their first year, many had no faith in their skills and abilities. It is so amazing and rewarding to see those same people gain the confidence to apply for a position as leader – and for many it’s the very first experience of a job interview!
“You can see how nervous many of them are during their training. They think they can’t do it; that it’s all too intimidating. But then they run their first session and tell me ‘I did it! I can do this!’” she says.
Not surprisingly, many former U:PASS Peer Leaders have gone on to pursue careers in teaching and education. But even when they don’t, Ms Barratt-See firmly believes they take a sense of social justice and peer support with them.
“Their success is what fills me with pride. When I see how far they have come, and how much they have grown. That’s what it’s all about for me.
“I really believe that the U:PASS experience goes beyond their studies. I know many of them enter the workforce concerned about how companies are run, and they are motivated to change things if they’re not right. It really warms my heart,” she says.
Undergraduates coming from disadvantaged and Indigenous communities often have a particularly tough time in their first year. Feeling unprepared and overwhelmed, some of them fail or drop-out without support.
U:PASS is a weekly study program in which peer leaders offer learning support in the first year subjects with the highest failure rates.
What helped accomplish this?
In the sessions, students compare notes, break down difficult literature and review past exam questions with their peer leaders. Most importantly, they make friends and build a support community.
What has changed as a result?
The program has significantly contributed student retention and success. It has also helped shape professionals who enter the workforce with a sense of social justice and peer support.
Download full case study
UTS Faculty or Unit
Georgina Barratt-See, Manager, U:PASS, Higher Education Language & Presentation Support