Uni kids shine after adversity

About 180 bushfire-affected Blue Mountains 2013 HSC students who accepted guaranteed placement offers at UWS are making pleasing progress, says pro vice-chancellor Angelo Kourtis.

About 180 bushfire-affected Blue Mountains 2013 HSC students who accepted guaranteed placement offers at UWS are making pleasing progress, says pro vice-chancellor Angelo Kourtis.

Angelo Kourtis

Angelo Kourtis

The University of Western Sydney (UWS) confirmed last week that its generous offer of a guaranteed course placement to all interested Blue Mountains residents who were due to sit for the HSC final exams during last October's bushfires has been taken up by just over half of that student group.

UWS pro vice-chancellor Angelo Kourtis told the Gazette on Thursday "we made about 350 offers to individual students and about 180 - just over half - ended up enrolling with us.

"The aim was to alleviate the stress bushfire-affected HSC students would have been feeling," he said.

"Sitting the HSC exams can be such a stressful time anyway, but especially when the students had bushfires where they lived and went to school.

Mr Kourtis said UWS has a mission to help the community around it.

"The impact of the bushfires on our already enrolled students at the time was significant - we had more than 30 students and staff whose homes were destroyed, to whom we offered assistance through a $25,000 fundraising grant.

"Our goals for the Blue Mountains HSC students weren't so much that they enrolled at UWS, but to provide them with the assurance that there was a place at university and a clear and dedicated pathway for them if they had aspirations to go and start a course.

"There was quite an even and uniform spread of courses that were applied for.

"Science was the top choice (12 per cent) followed very closely by health and then the arts, engineering, teaching and computing/technology-related courses."

Mr Kourtis said the Blue Mountains students were performing very well.

"We are monitoring their progress as we do for all our students and we've found this student group has really seemed to adjust to university life, which is very pleasing.

"I think it speaks volumes to their resilience and adaptability."

He said few students took up a separate offer of individual scholarships worth $2,000 aimed at those whose homes were destroyed or damaged, to help pay for study materials.

"We did look into that (who would be eligible) but our records show that those students didn't feel the need to access that assistance.

"That offer still stands though - we didn't put a time limit on it."

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