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New Children’s University at the Uni of Adelaide

A new drive to set children as young as five on the path to higher education was launched yesterday at the University of Adelaide with the first graduation of students from Children’s University Australia.

The University of Adelaide is introducing to Australia for the first time the award-winning international Children’s University model which originated in the UK in the early 1990s.

The aim of Children’s University is to promote a love of lifelong learning to children through community engagement, with a particular focus on children from rural and remote locations, Indigenous communities and disadvantaged backgrounds.

“The University of Adelaide was founded on the principle that our future leaders should be shaped by education, not birth or wealth,” says University of Adelaide Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Warren Bebbington.

“That vision continues, with our belief that a high quality university education should be open to all who have ability, and not be restricted by where you come from, the family or community you are born into, or your social or financial situation.

“There is substantial evidence that early intervention increases children’s engagement with learning and education. Through Children’s University Australia we aim to promote a love of learning that we hope will lead to a lifetime of learning.”

Children’s University offers fun learning opportunities for five to 14 year olds outside of normal school activities in collaboration with school and community clubs, museums, galleries and other activity providers, involving parents and the wider community.

Children are issued with a ‘Passport to Learning’, which records their individual learning activities. They are rewarded for their participation with certificates at graduation ceremonies at ‘grown-up’ universities such as the University of Adelaide.

“There are many programs which try to address the issues of disadvantaged children engaging with their communities,” says Kiri Hagenus, Director of the University of Adelaide’s Office for Future Students and Director of the new Children’s University Australia.

“Most of these programs are developed by adults who have great intentions but don’t think like children. The beauty of Children’s University is that children lead the way. It’s fun, it’s based on their interests, and they get to choose what they do.”

The first graduations, for 22 children from Mark Oliphant College, took place yesterday. Activities to date have included bread, chutney and marmalade making, getting ‘hands on’ with bugs at the South Australian Museum, Glee Club, French Club, interactive science lectures, creating art at the Art Gallery of South Australia, weaving and a range of sporting activities. From 2014, a greater variety of learning activities will be introduced.

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