On Campus

Aboriginal, first-generation students face barriers to higher education: Riddell

Three day conference gathers 350 people from around the world to discuss student access and success

Although Canada has made progress in expanding the number of students pursuing post-secondary education, there are still major hurdles for many, says Norman Riddell, CEO of the Canadian Millennium Scholarship Foundation. “That progress is uneven; some segments of our society do not have access,” he said in his opening remarks at an international post-secondary education conference this week.

In a nondescript building near Markham more than 350 academics, educators, policy makers, and lobbyists have gathered for a three-day international conference to discuss and exam the issues surrounding access to post-secondary education. The “Neither a moment nor a mind to waste” conference is jointly hosted by the Canadian Millennium Scholarship Foundation and the European Access Network. The international conference includes experts from Australia, United Kingdom, Norway, and the United States.

“It is especially important to create strategies to improve access to post-secondary education,” Riddell said, adding that Canada cannot continue to have large segments of our population, especially Aboriginal peoples, not attending any post-secondary education “with knowledge more important in everyday work life.”

He says one of the main challenges is providing information to first-generation students — young people whose parents never attended college or university. Riddell hopes that stakeholders and decision-makers live the conference with concrete ideas and models for success from across the world.

Thirty-four academic papers are being presented based on four key themes – increasing the odds of post-secondary access and success, the power of partnerships between institutions and the private sector, the role of career development in building pathways to and from post-secondary education, and system-level initiatives to increase access and success.

The conference schedule has been organized with lengthy periods of unorganized time for networking and the exchange of ideas. The conference ends Tuesday.

An invitation-only policy session will occur Wednesday with major government bureaucrats, stakeholders and over twenty institution presidents gathering to discuss policy.

Check back here Wednesday for further coverage.

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