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Picking winners for the enabling course in Engineering and Science

Yarra Korczynskyj
Division of Engineering and Science, Curtin University of Technology
Women are under-represented in most technologically oriented professions in Australia and indeed in the international arena. In order to address this issue and a number of related equity issues - in particular, the relatively few mature aged students in such degree courses and the lack of opportunity, particularly in the science areas, afforded students in rural and isolated areas - the Division of Engineering and Science at Curtin University of Technology, has supported an Enabling Course in Engineering and Science since 1998.

Women who have not had the opportunity to pursue a career in a technological area are invited to apply. The majority of applicants are mature aged. Successful completion qualifies the student for admission to a Curtin course in science, engineering or computing. It is a one year, full time program, HECS free to the student and eligible for Austudy/Youth Allowance. Selection is made on the basis of a CV and an interview. There are no formal science or mathematics prerequisites.

This paper addresses a continuing area of concern for the course: its high dropout rate. A grant obtained under Curtin's Higher Education Equity Program, has enabled an examination of causes and initial results indicate a variety of reasonably predictable factors, not the least of which is the students' lack of a science and/or mathematics background. Not surprisingly, a dedicated mentoring and support session has been found to be crucial to the students' confidence and hence to their success.

An obvious way to improve retention rates would be to increase entry requirements. It is argued here that this would necessarily remove from consideration a large proportion of those women for whom the opportunity was intended on equity grounds. A number of such students complete the course and go on to do particularly well in their chosen degree courses. Some alternative strategies are suggested.

Please cite as: Korczynskyj, Y. (2003). Picking winners for the enabling course in Engineering and Science. In Partners in Learning. Proceedings of the 12th Annual Teaching Learning Forum, 11-12 February 2003. Perth: Edith Cowan University. http://lsn.curtin.edu.au/tlf/tlf2003/abstracts/korczynskyj2-abs.html

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Last revision: 15 Jan 2003. This URL: http://lsn.curtin.edu.au/tlf/tlf2003/abstracts/korczynskyj2-abs.html