In summary

  • The Swinburne Care Leavers Assistance and Support Program (CLASP) has won a AFR Higher Education Award for equity and access
  • CLASP supports care leavers to study and thrive in a university degree
  • Tech startup, mDetect, was a finalist in the awards for best research commercialisation

People who have experienced out-of-home care, such as foster care, face significant barriers to accessing university. Swinburne University of Technology wanted to help these students get into their dream course, then thrive in and complete their degree.

Together with Raising Expectations, the Swinburne Care Leavers Assistance and Support Program (CLASP) was created to engage care leavers from enrolment through to graduation and beyond. The program has taken out the prize for equity and access in the Australian Financial Review (AFR) Higher Education Awards 2022.

A support net for students

Swinburne director of student engagement Dr Nadine Zacharias explains that the post-high school, university years can be a fragile time in the lives of care leavers.

“You see examples where students lose their homes, and before you know it, they’ve lost their university placement during that extremely critical time when they would normally be transitioning to university,” she says.

Through regular communication and support from the start, staff can get ahead of any problems and knock down barriers to education, participation and achievement.

The program has grown from 61 to 354 students in three years – achieving an 86.4 per cent completion rate for students who joined in 2020, which is well above the national average.

A spin-out success

Tech startup, mDetect, was a finalist and strong competitor in the research commercialisation category of the AFR Higher Education Awards 2022.

It is no secret Swinburne is fertile ground for startups and spinoffs. A spin-out from Swinburne research into dark matter, mDetect is bringing to market its cutting-edge muon sensor technology. Simply put, muon technology can look through hundreds of metres of rock to create images or underground regions and detect abnormalities which provide the early warning signs needed to prevent potential structural failures in dams, mine sites, bridges and tunnels.

The mDetect team (left to right) Dr Jerome Donovan, Craig Webster, Professor Alan Duffy, Dr Eryadi Masli and Dr Shanti Krishnan

With a management team well-versed in the Australian research and start-up eco-system, mDetect has tapped into a range of government funding to help pave the way for commercialising this technology. Most significantly, the company secured significant commercialisation funding from the Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre, supporting the scaling of device production and opening an opportunity for advanced manufacturing to continue to grow in Australia.

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