Date: Monday 3 July 2023
9:30am – 11:00am AEST
Sofitel Brisbane


Access to education, including higher education, is critical to achieving more equitable societies and to reduce poverty. The Australian Universities Accord Panel is taking an expansive view of the higher education sector and explicitly addressed the relationship between equality, participation and democracy in its Discussion Paper which was released in February 2023.

The panel highlighted that the benefits of higher education are currently not shared equally by all Australians. Even with the establishment of national participation targets following the Bradley and Behrendt reviews, and more than a decade of government-funded interventions, First Nations Australians, people with disability, people from regional and remote areas, and people from low socioeconomic status (low SES) backgrounds remain substantially under-represented in Australian universities.

This year’s Student Equity Network session will focus on the big questions around achieving a more equitable tertiary education sector in Australia, in the context of the current review process and, hopefully, its interim report. We will share the key recommendations provided by EPHEA in response to the Discussion Paper as the basis for a wide-ranging conversation to discuss what kind of changes in national aspirations, funding, policy, curriculum, pedagogy, service design and/or institutional cultures are necessary to ensure that all Australians, regardless of their background, can access post-secondary education across their life course. The insights generated during the session might be developed into recommendations which EPHEA could raise with the panel in a future round of consultations.

The aspiration for the Student Equity Network is that discussions will lead to:

  • A shared understanding of the current barriers to equitable participation
  • A more informed and nuanced view on the possible solutions to creating an equitable education system
  • Coordinated action to influence public policy.

The Student Equity Network meeting will be of interest to education leaders, practitioners, analysts and researchers with a commitment to creating a more equitable higher education system. The Network takes a broad approach to the student experience, spanning students’ journeys from first considering university as their path to realising desired career and life outcomes post-graduation. The focus is on equity group students in formal tertiary education but the aspiration is to enable all Australians to share in the benefits of lifelong learning.


Dr Nadine Zacharias

Nadine leads transformative work in higher education to achieve a more equitable and high-performing sector which can support an increasingly diverse student cohort and leverage the potential of individuals for the common good. She is the Director and Founder of Equity by Design, a specialist consultancy firm in student equity strategy, program evaluation, and program and service design.

Nadine has made a sustained contribution to student equity research, policy and practice in Australian tertiary education. This was enabled by research roles with the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (NCSEHE), including as an inaugural Equity Fellow, as well as senior management roles at Swinburne and Deakin Universities. Nadine has led ground-breaking research projects and, with Dr Matt Brett and Prof Sally Kift, developed a proposed policy statement for Australian tertiary education in The Best Chance for All.

Sonal Singh

Sonal is an equity practitioner with 15 years of experience across the higher education and social sectors. Sonal currently holds the position of Executive Manager, Student Equity at the Centre for Social Justice and Inclusion, UTS. She is also the EPHEA Treasurer, advocating for equity in higher education. Sonal has led key national research projects focussing refugee-educational outcomes, culturally inclusive research methodologies and digital literacy in Australia. Key focus of Sonal’s research has been on collaborations across universities resulting in her leading the Bridges to Higher Education evaluation for Macquarie University and is currently UTS Lead for NSW Equity Consortium and co-chairs Learning Creates- Tertiary Pathways project in breaking systematic access barriers to higher education.

Dr Kylie Austin

Dr Kylie Austin has over fifteen years experience in Australian higher education and is currently the Associate Director, Student Equity and Success. During this time, Kylie has led institution wide initiatives aimed to increase the representation and participation of underrepresented cohorts at university. In addition to this Kylie has led institution wide initiatives related to academic support, peer mentoring and co-curricular engagement. She is also the current President for Equity Practitioners in Higher Education Australasia, providing sector-wide advocacy and professional development to student and staff equity practitioners. Kylie’s research interests are in partnerships and equity, and has led national research projects to investigate the experiences of underrepresented cohorts with higher education.