Helping NT students aspire to higher education

Claire Halliday
Claire Halliday

A Charles Darwin University (CDU) program that offers support for high school students exploring tertiary education is expanding.

From 2024, the Aspire program will be offered at CDU’s Alice Springs and Katherine campuses and Nhulunbuy centre, as well as continuing in Palmerston and Darwin.

Applications for the CDU’s Aspire program, which supports, guides and encourages high school students to pursue higher education by introducing them to university life, pathways and support to set and achieve academic goals, are open now.

The program is funded by the Australian Government’s Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program (HEPPP).

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Students who enrol in the program are invited to the CDU campuses to participate in coaching, workshops, and faculty activities, as well as meet support staff, academics and Aspire alumni.

Aspire Program Officer Louise Turner said the team was excited to bring the experiences, information and guidance of Aspire to more NT students.

“Aspire is about exposing students to university and breaking down those barriers towards higher education,” Ms Turner says.

“It’s about building self-confidence, resilience, and awareness so they have a better understanding of themselves and their own strengths to take pathways into higher education. We are so excited to work in the regions, showcase the phenomenal campuses and their resources.”

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Celebrating successful graduates

The Aspire program has been running, in some capacity, since 2012. In that time, it has, Ms Turner says, graduated 171 students, with another 54 Year 11 and 12 students being supported to graduate within the next two years.

“It has gone through a few changes and refocused its direction based on feedback and needs within the community,” she told The Bursar. “This is why we are expanding in 2024 to include Year 10 students and focusing on supporting regional and remote students more where they live.”

The program’s goal, she says, is to “support 90 students across years 10, 11 and 12 in 2024”.

“There will be 30 places each in years 10 and 11 and limited places for Year 12 students,” Ms Turner told The Bursar.

Students who join the program will have benchmarks across the three years to achieve to graduate.

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“These benchmarks are outlined in their ‘Aspire Passport’,” she says. “The benchmarks include engaging in ongoing coaching, campus experiences, being committed to their education and Aspire journey, and communicating with Aspire regarding school results and scholarship spending.”

Overcoming unique challenges to pursue local higher education

Describing the NT as “a unique location with a very transient professional population”, Ms Turner told The Bursar her team would like to see “more locals educated and stay in the Territory to be able to support our amazing population”.

“People growing up in the Territory are better positioned to understand the Territory’s unique population, culture and context. This is why it is important to keep young people here to support their community,” she says.

Students who participate in the program have access to a $1000 scholarship per annum in Year 11 and Year 12. The funds can be put towards school fees, tutoring, course, and study materials and more. Students who graduate from the Aspire program and enrol at CDU are also eligible to apply for a $10,000 scholarship.

The program has supported students enrolling in nursing, business, and arts qualifications at CDU.

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Applications for the Aspire program close on October 31.

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Claire Halliday has an extensive career as a full-time writer - across book publishing, copywriting, podcasting and feature journalism - for more than 25 years. She lives in Melbourne with children, two border collies and a grumpy Burmese cat. Contact: claire.halliday[at]