ACADEMICS from across Australia have gathered at the University of Newcastle to discuss how to improve equity in science degrees.
UON Faculty of Science Assistant Dean for Teaching and Learning, Dr Andrew Kepert, said the two-day event had drawn 50 people to Newcastle and was the first time the Australian Council of Deans of Science Teaching and Learning Leaders Conference had been held outside a capital city.
"Equity is an issue that cuts across the business of a lot of Australian universities and one that science has some way to go on," Dr Kepert said.
"This gives us an opportunity to compare and contrast - to have discussions about comparing approaches and solutions.
"We have speakers who are challenging us, provoking us and providing us with issues to think about."
Dr Kepert said attendees were looking at equity through lenses including gender, socio-economic status, educational experience and expectations, Indigenous backgrounds and non-English speaking backgrounds.
He said they were exploring how to make access to science degrees more equitable both before entry and throughout the course.
"For Newcastle we're looking at socio-economic status and managing educational experience and expectations. So many students at UON are the first in their family.
"They may have challenges seeing university as something for them, so there's a threshold they have to cross before they even start thinking about physics, or mathematics, or psychology. There's an issue of belief and belonging before they even start thinking about science."
He said by improving equity, universities could ensure they were getting the best students and addressing the needs of their communities.