History@Newcastle Research Seminar: 18 March 2016
“The History and Impacts of the University of Newcastle’s Open Foundation Program”.
By Rosalie J. Bunn, English Language and Foundation Studies Centre
The Open Foundation program has been running at the University of Newcastle for the past 42 years. It began only 9 years after the University became autonomous, as part of an initiative by Dr Brian Smith, and was referred to by research respondents as “Brian’s Baby”. As Director of the Community Programmes Department which aimed to link University and Community, Open Foundation was Dr Smith’s attempt to embrace Continuing Education and tap into the rich resource of people in the Hunter and Central Coast regions who had not matriculated, as well as provide an alternative pathway for them to undergraduate study. From a small quota of 80 students in the pilot program in 1974, the enabling programs have collectively expanded to an intake of around 3,000 people per year and constitute between 15-20% of the undergraduate intake, of which Open Foundation constitutes about 67%. Using archival material and oral history methodology, this thesis traces the history of the program through documentary evidence and 38 interviews with decision makers; long term lecturers; and support workers attached to the program. In addition, the thesis analyses 350 student surveys that report on student experiences before, during and after completing the program which have been coded using NVivo software for the purpose of detecting patterns and themes in the data. The theoretical framework is a combination of Bourdieu’s (1970; 1979) concepts of cultural capital, habitus and field. The thesis argues that Open Foundation provides institutionalized and embodied cultural capital which are investments in people’s futures and it changes their habitus in ways that make students more confident in social, familial and occupational domains.
Rosalie Bunn has been an Enabling Educator for the past 21 years and teaches Social Enquiry in the Open Foundation Program. She has an Honours degree in Sociology; a Diploma of Education; a Master’s degree by Research in Educational Sociology; a Graduate Certificate in the Practice of Tertiary Teaching; and is currently completing her PhD in History on the topic of the “History and Impacts of the University of Newcastle’s Open Foundation Program”. She has written extensively on issues related to enabling education as refereed conference papers, has a book chapter in Scevak and Cantwell’s Stepping Stones. A Guide for Mature Age Students at University on student mentoring, and a journal article with Associate Professor Jo May on the history of the Open Foundation Program.