Freeing hearts and minds by redefining ‘elite’

Dr Giselle Bastin with some of Flinders University's BA High Achievers.
Dr Giselle Bastin with some of Flinders University’s BA High Achievers.

All the really, really smart students do Law, Medicine or Engineering … right?

According to Flinders University’s Dr Giselle Bastin, that’s one of the strongly held – but incorrect – perceptions driving some of South Australia’s brightest young people to make university course choices which may negatively impact them for the rest of their lives.

Dr Bastin, who is the Chief Mentor and Course Coordinator of Flinders University’s BA – Enhanced Program for High Achievers, is pushing the message that there is indeed life, and career success, for exceptional students beyond the perceived ‘elite’ subjects.

“There is a large body of exceptional students who want to follow their hearts, and their hearts are in some of the more traditional arts topics,” Dr Bastin said.

“Unfortunately, they face a lot of pressure to do something that is perceived within the community to be of higher status, or with better career and salary prospects.

“In Australia, this has seen a large move towards a small number of courses as the perceived ‘elite’ degrees.”

Dr Bastin said that the BA High Achievers Program at Flinders was designed to provide support and advice to help students identify and enjoy tailored pathways of study leading to highly successful careers after their undergraduate degrees.

“Often, students and their families don’t know what these careers are,” Dr Bastin said.

“The High Achievers program is a way of showing them the wide range of opportunities available and ensuring they get the skills and qualifications they need.

“We have a work integrated learning topic at the second level and we also work with the University’s central and School of Humanities’ work learning programs.

“This puts the focus strongly on planning for a successful career and removing the uncertainty that students might otherwise face.”

Dr Bastin said participants in Flinders’ BA High Achievers Program were selected from first year students with an ATAR score of 90 or above, and second year students who achieved an exceptional GPA in their first year.

“The program ensures students’ core topics are designed to make them become work ready, but it also recognises that some of these students are highly likely to go on to higher degree paths or into research careers after they finish their undergraduate study,” Dr Bastin said.

“For this reason, the first and second years of the BA High Achiever Program place their major emphasis on high-level research skills.”

It’s not all about work though, she says, as students also get the opportunity to form peer groups and enjoy a sense of strong group identity with other like-minded high achievers.

“One of the other key aims is to foster a sense of student cohort,” Dr Bastin said.

“The program means students who might feel lost in a larger campus environment also get the support and peer engagement they need to relax and enjoy their university experience.

“In addition, they benefit from one-to-one mentoring and pastoral care with an academic advisor to help keep them on track.”

More information on the Flinders BA High Achievers Program can be found here.

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