Dr Ann Jardine - Founder of ASPIRE | Aspire

Universities often reflect on what they are good at but don't spend much time on what they are good for.

The common tendency to confuse social class and academic potential labels students from disadvantaged backgrounds as unsuitable for university education.

This is a mistake.

Academic achievement is as much about circumstance and aspiration as it is about intelligence. 

The opportunity to go to university should not depend on personal circumstance. The vast pool of untapped human potential in schools throughout urban, rural and remote areas of Australia cannot and should not be ignored.

Universities have a duty to ensure that everyone able to perform well at university has an opportunity to do so, regardless of their personal circumstances. Enabling those who lack social capital to have the chance of social mobility through university education is important to the whole community.

The work being done through programs such as ASPIRE brings about generational change. However, it requires
long term effort, commitment and, of course, funding. Now in our twelfth year, we hope to continue for the long term.

Educational outreach is in all our best interests. Intellectual talent can be found in the most unlikely places.
When universities reach out to harness it, the whole of society benefits.


Dr Ann Jardine began developing the core ASPIRE program in 2007 from studying and applying the international evidence on widening participation that was available at the time. Leading submissions that won $8 million in competitive funds, Dr Ann spearheaded the innovation and expansion of the ASPIRE program across Sydney and in particular, to schools in regional and remote NSW. Dr Jardine is a passionate advocate for social justice, and a strident believer in taking action to dismantle barriers that prevent students from realising their academic potenital as well as accessing a university education. After 12 years at the helm of ASPIRE and Director of UNSW's widening partipation unit, Dr Jardine announced her departure from the UNSW in January 2019.