Equity and Access

One of the most important aims of every higher education system during the past 50 years has been to expand its coverage. According to UNESCO’s official data, this is happening both in the developed and developing world. During the second half of the 20th century, enrolments have had the largest increase in history, rising from 13 million people in 1960 to 82 million in 1995 (UNESCO, 1998).  APRU universities are not an exception, with every country contributing to this growing trend.

A set of interesting questions can be asked within this context: How is higher education growing and how are its leading universities participating? Who are the new students and where are they coming from? In which way do they represent the society to which they belong? How do we understand merit and how do we or should we select students?  Are our teaching and learning environments considering the student needs and making use of diversity?

The APRU Equity and Access Program aims to inform higher education policy decisions by addressing challenges and barriers to access in higher education, quality and ethics to facilitate equity pathways and processes at APRU member universities.  

The program maintains a set of data and indicators on equity at member universities to provide a working map from which individual member universities' practices and programs may be traced.  A consensus statement formed at the 2014 Experts' Workshop on Equity and Access in Santiago, Chile lays down the principle foundations and core beliefs that underscore the work of equity organizations, professionals and researchers at member universities.

APRU at GAPS Conference, Kuala Lumpur, October 2015

GAPS logo

APRU participated for the first time in the Global Access to Post-Secondary education (GAPS) Conference in Kuala Lumpur from October 5 to 8, 2015 with the theme 'Meeting the global challenge of building equitable knowledge economies'.  The GAPS Initiative, led by the European Access Network, aims to build the global case for increasing access to post-secondary education for those from all social backgrounds, exchange knowledge and practice across countries to improve our understanding of how to meet the access challenge and advocate to policymakers and senior leaders across all sectors.

The 2015 conference, hosted by Sunway University, examined equity and access through the perspectives of sustainable development, indigenous and migrant learners, student financing and mobility, public and private higher education models, and evidence-based approaches to global student access. While generally recognising the contributions of higher education in advancing human capital development, and more prosperous societies, there are expectations and opportunities for postsecondary and higher education to tackle diverse challenges in widening access, re-defining success, and meeting humanistic aspirations beyond issues in employability, financing and reaching disadvantaged groups.  

Jacquelline Heng, Program Director (Higher Education) spoke at the roundtable session on 'Access, Diversity and Equity in Post-Secondary Education in Asia & the South Pacific', presenting on the work of APRU in equity and access which included a summary report on APRU members' equity indicators, outcomes of the Santiago experts' workshop in 2014 and the strategy behind APRU's focus on lower SES students as a focal area in higher education.

Keynote speakers at the conference included leaders and education specialists from the International Association of Universities, UNESCO, World Bank, and the European Access Network. The Best Presenter Award was won by Ruben Canedo of UC Berkeley (APRU member) and Kyle Southern of University of Michigan, for their workshop on institutional support for undocumented immigrant students.

Inaugural Workshop on Equity and Access 2014

equity2014 new

The University of Chile hosted the inaugural APRU Experts' Workshop on Equity and Access in Higher Education 2014 from April 9 to 11.  Workshop outcomes included the establishment of an Asia-Pacific network of major research universities in the area of equity and access to address specific equity issues in higher education and provide an APRU platform for engagement with government, business, public policy and international organizations.  

Case studies from Australia, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines and USA were presented at the workshop based on the following topics:

- Issues of access to research universities by students from lower socio-economic and under-represented groups;

- Responsibilities of public and private institutions for equity and access in national higher education systems; and

- Effective policies, partnerships, pathways, funding models and programs for enhancing access and equity for lower socio-economic and under-represented groups.

An APRU consensus statement on equity and access was conceived by the Australian National University, University of Auckland, University of Chile, University of Hawaii at Manoa, University of Hong Kong, University of Malaya, UNSW Australia, University of the Philippines, Zhejiang University.

Equity and access indicators and a map of programs and resources at member institutions can be found at:
i.   Dimensions of Equity 
ii.  Equity and Inclusion Programs in Higher Education

APRU Equity and Access in Higher Education Concept Note

Workshop Program Schedule

Conference website: www.uchile.cl/equityworkshop

A full report of the workshop is available here (PDF download).

List of available presentations

Opening Session: Address by APRU Secretary General, Dr Christopher Tremewan


An Equity Cycle approach to meeting our responsibilities in higher education
Dr Trudie McNaughton, Pro Vice Chancellor, Equity, The University of Auckland

Widening participation: the story at the ANU
Dr Tania Willis, Director, Student Equity, Australian National University

Session I:

Strengthening equity and inclusion at Universidad de Chile  
Professor Rosa Deves, Provost, University of Chile

The UNSW ASPIRE program
Dr Ann Jardine, Director of Student Equity and Disabilities Unit, UNSW Australia

Public and private institutions: the role of the University in meeting social responsibilities in national higher education
Professor Dr Mohd Hamdi Shukor, Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic and International), University of Malaya

Access and equity in higher education for students from disadvantaged backgrounds: a case study of China 
Professor Yue Kan, College of Education, Zhejiang University

Session II:

Social responsibility competencies framework
Dr Carmen Gloria Bravo, Director of Student Affairs, Faculty of Business and Economics, University of Chile

Dealing with equity and other social obligations in the U.P. system
Dr Aurora Mendoza, Professor of Psychology and Incoming Director, Office of Admissions, University of the Philippines

Case study: Hong Kong and the University of Hong Kong
Professor John Spinks, Senior Advisor to Vice-Chancellor, University of Hong Kong

Session III:

Optimising Māori and Pasifika Academic Achievement (OMAA & OMPAA): Meta-cognition as revolution to uplift student mana and aspirations toward programme completion
Dr Lorri Santamaria, Associate Dean Postgraduate, Faculty of Education, University of Auckland

Online Learning Academy
Dr Francisco Hernandez, Vice Chancellor for Students, University of Hawaii at Manoa

The contributions of private higher education towards the improvement of educational equity in Mainland China
Professor Wu Hua, Center on Private Education, Department of Educational Leadership and Policy, Zhejiang University



Equity and Access links

Links and publications on equity and access from APRU member institutions and economies include: 

Australian National University: Student Equity

Peking University: Equity and Access to Tertiary Education: The Case of China (Report)

Stanford University: Diversity and Access Office

University of Auckland: Equity Office

University of British Columbia: Implementing Inclusion: A Consultation on Organizational Change to Support UBC's Commitments to Equity and Diversity (Report 2013)

University of California, Berkeley: Equity, Inclusion and Diversity

University of California, Davis: Career Equity Review and UC Davis School of Education's Equity Summit 2013

University of California, Irvine: ADVANCE Program for Equity and Diversity

University of California, Los Angeles: Institute for Democracy, Education, and Access

University of Chile: The Priority Access System for Educational Equity at the University of Chile (Journal Article)

University of Hong Kong: Equity and Access to Education: Themes, Tensions, and Policies (Publication by Asian Development Bank and Comparative Education Research Centre, University of Hong Kong) and Equal Opportunities Unit

University of Melbourne: Equity and Student Engagement and Social Equity in a Mass, Globalized Higher Education Environment: The Unresolved Issue of Widening Access to University (Faculty of Education Dean's Lecture Series 2007)

University of Sydney: Equity and Diversity at the University of Sydney