Residential programs

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Category: Out of school learning

Suitable ages: Secondary


Residential STEM programs are multi-day live-in STEM education experiences for students, such as camps and conferences. These immersive experiences aim to boost students’ interest, knowledge and skills in STEM and their aspirations for future STEM careers. Programs often target high-achievers in a particular field or within a particular population group, and entry can be competitive.

Examples include:

Great for challenging high-achieving students in a particular field or groupCosts can be high
Students meet, work with, and befriend like-minded peersSignificant logistical challenges
Can inspire aspirations for further STEM study and careersDifficult to offer to large groups


There is not enough clear evidence to draw a conclusion about the impact of this initiative type on student STEM engagement or achievement.

Some studies suggest that residential programs can positively impact student attitudes towards STEM education and careers. However, these studies have relatively small sample sizes and are based on student survey responses or anecdotal evidence. There is not enough evidence to draw conclusions about the impacts of residential STEM programs on either engagement or achievement.

This does not mean that STEM residential programs don’t work. It just means that there is an opportunity for more research. If planning a STEM residential program, be sure to evaluate its success.



It is rare for schools to run STEM residential programs themselves. Schools can support students by informing students and parents about relevant programs (the STARportal is a good place to search). Schools may also consider subsidising students’ costs, which can vary from zero to several hundreds of dollars.

Implementation tips:

  • Look for programs well in advance. Applications can be due months before the program.
  • Look closely at the program details to gauge travel and logistics requirements.
  • Consider financial assistance options for disadvantaged students, where necessary.

Industry involvement

Businesses can support STEM residential programs by:

  • Supporting an existing STEM residential program or students’ participation in it. For example, a business might sponsor the participation of disadvantaged students.
  • Partnering with an existing program provider to scale up a residential program to enable more students to participate.
  • If there is a significant gap in STEM residential program offerings, creating or sponsoring a new STEM residential camp.

Case study: CSIRO Aboriginal Summer School for Excellence in Technology and Science

Aboriginal Summer School for Excellence in Technology and Science is a nine-day residential program for high-achieving Indigenous Year 10 students. The program is funded by BHP Billiton Foundation and managed by CSIRO. Each summer school has a Cultural Patron who works with students to explore cultural identity and Indigenous knowledge. Scientists share their research and discuss study and career options with students. Students work together on group research projects. In 2016-17, 105 students participated in summer school programs in Adelaide, Newcastle and Townsville. An early evaluation found strong anecdotal evidence of improvements in student confidence, aspiration and knowledge of STEM career pathways.