News & Events

2017 Research Grants Program projects

The NCSEHE conducts an annual competitive research program, building a solid evidence base to improve access and outcomes for students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

We received an unprecedented 55 submissions for the 2017 grants funding round, and would like to congratulate the successful applicants who will be commencing their projects in September. This round’s additional research priorities were analysis of the impact of changes in student financial support; graduate outcomes; equity implications of the increase in postgraduate education; and the impact of local communities on equity participation.

The project proposals were consistently of a very high standard, so final selections were challenging. We now look forward to publishing a diverse and progressive body of research led by 10 Australian universities in late 2018.

The 13 Research Grants Program projects for 2017 will be as follows:

Access to Work Integrated Learning: Influence of communities of practice 

Researchers: Dr Natalie Lloyd, Curtin University; Dr Sally Male, The University of Western Australia; and Dr Megan Paull, Murdoch University.

Abstract: A consortium of cross-disciplinary researchers propose to research the impact of the local community (engineering industry) on increasing equity participation and success (a positive experience contributing to student employability and wellbeing) in Work Integrated Learning (WIL) for equity students of engineering. The targeted equity groups include women in non-traditional areas and regional and remote students due to the viable participation rates of these groups. An innovative new source of data is proposed: engineering students’ WIL reports that are submitted to the faculties for graduation and accreditation purposes. Students’ narratives of their WIL experiences and measures of resilience will be used to generate recommendations to enhance the accessibility and impact of WIL.

Regional communities’ influences on equity participation in higher education

Researchers: Dr Robin Barnes, Professor Sue Kilpatrick, Dr Jess Woodroffe, Dr Nicole Crawford and Professor Margaret Noble, The University of Tasmania.

Abstract: Research investigating the impact of regional community factors on higher education aspiration and participation typically takes a deficit-based approach. This project will take an innovative strength-based approach to investigating the impact of regional community assets and factors that enhance equity student participation and success. A mixed methods explanatory sequential design will use data from the Higher Education Student Collection, Regional Australia Institute Insight indices, international literature, a survey of regional students at selected universities and community case studies. These data will inform understanding of community factors and develop recommendations and guidelines for policy and practice to improve regional equity higher education participation.

Success and failure in higher education on uneven playing fields 

Researchers: Associate Professor Bernadette Walker-Gibbs, Dr Rola Ajjawi, Dr Emma Rowe, Dr Andrew Skourdoumbis and Dr Matthew Krehl Edward Thomas, Deakin University; and Associate Professor Sarah O’Shea and Professor Sue Bennett, University of Wollongong.

Abstract: This research will examine student aspiration, success and failure within their first experiences of assessment at university, to improve knowledge and practice to better support students from low socioeconomic status groups. Exploring forms of ‘capital’ that first year university students draw upon from their prior schooling to support their transitional journey into higher education, specifically we aim to better understand contributing influences on students to ensure success in higher education. We will utilise multiple methods and a large-scale data set, to examine whether student aspiration, success and failure in higher education is informed and influenced by individual and school-based markers of social disadvantage and segregation.

People seeking asylum: Access and support in higher education

Researchers: Dr Lisa Hartley and Dr Caroline Fleay, Curtin University; and Dr Sally Baker and Dr Rachel Burke, The University of Newcastle.

Abstract: This study will explore the complex barriers to higher education facing People Seeking Asylum (PSA) in Australia, and evaluate university and community level support. Analysing primary and secondary quantitative and qualitative sources at macro-national, meso-institutional, and micro-practice/lived experience levels, the study will address a research gap by producing a national map of access barriers specific to PSA and university and community efforts. Through surveys and interviews with university and community sector stakeholders, and interviews with PSA, this study will examine the impact of PSA-specific scholarships and other enabling initiatives, identify best practice, and produce greater awareness of PSA engagement and barriers to higher education.

Community influence on university aspirations: Does it take a village…? 

Researchers: Professor Jenny Gore, Dr Jess Harris, Dr Adam Lloyd, Dr Leanne Fray and Miss Sally Patfield, The University of Newcastle.

Abstract: This project will investigate the impact of local communities on school students’ aspirations for higher education. Drawing on multiple datasets involving students in Years 3 to 12 (n ~ 8000) and augmented by rich, detailed case studies, we explore the role of communities in shaping post-school aspirations among students from targeted equity groups. By foregrounding the role of communities in shaping student aspirations, including variance within and between communities, this project contributes to building the evidence base for equity policy and practice.

Shifts in space and self: Moving from community to university

Researchers: Associate Professor Sarah O’Shea, The University of Wollongong; Associate Professor Erica Southgate and Dr Shamus Smith, The University of Newcastle; and Dr Ann Jardine, The University of New South Wales.

Abstract: High numbers of students do not complete their higher education studies and disproportionate numbers are from regional and remote areas. Too often it is the individual who is ‘blamed’ for this departure and perceived as ‘lacking’ the necessary knowledge. The proposed research project intends to disrupt this deficit discourse by innovatively employing a digital storytelling methodology to investigate the subjective experience of this transition experience. Following one cohort of regional and remote students as they transition into and move through their first year of university studies, we will visually explore the ways in which: (a) these students enter higher education and how those around them perceive and support this movement; and (b) define the repercussions that this educational undertaking has for their community of origin.

Beyond graduation: Long term socioeconomic outcomes amongst equity students

Researchers: Dr Wojtek Tomaszewski, Dr Francisco Perales, Mr Matthias Kubler and Dr Ning Xiang, The University of Queensland.

Abstract: This project will address an important policy question: what are the differences in post-graduation trajectories of socioeconomic outcomes amongst advantaged and disadvantaged graduates? The work will adopt an interdisciplinary approach by combining perspectives from sociology, educational studies and economics, and will involve the application of cutting-edge statistical methodologies and high-quality, large-scale datasets to track long term graduate outcomes across a range of social and economic domains. The project will generate robust findings, discuss the implications for Australian policy on equity in higher education, and develop concrete recommendations for policymakers and equity practitioners.

Structural inequality and retention in equity students: best practice models of institutional culture from across the sector

Researcher: Dr Ryan Naylor, La Trobe University.

Abstract: This project will examine institutional culture and structural bias in higher education institutions across the sector (rather than just universities) to identify best practice in supporting and retaining students from equity backgrounds. The project’s theoretical framework focuses on institutional culture and engagement with local communities, rather than deficit models of students, to provide new policy-focused perspectives on equity student retention and inclusion. A particular focus will be case studies of how distributed leadership can influence institutional culture and, thus, student experience. The project is timely, given proposed changes to government funding and increased sectoral focus on student retention.

Understanding completion rates of Indigenous higher education students from two regional universities

Researchers: Ms Fiona Shalley and Associate Professor James Smith, Charles Darwin University; Professor Denise Wood and Professor Bronwyn Fredericks, CQ University; and Professor Steven Larkin, The University of Newcastle.

Abstract: Understanding the success and completion rates of Indigenous students is complex. Various student characteristics, circumstances and behaviours impact the way they progress through their studies and influence the length of time it may take to complete a degree. These factors may differentially impact the Indigenous student population. Cohort tracking enables a better understanding of the progression of students through the higher education system. Regression analysis and qualitative research studies can be applied to results, identifying the relevance and importance of particular student characteristics to the likelihood of completion. An understanding of ‘region-ality’ in this context is of interest to Charles Darwin University and Central Queensland University and could be used to inform national understanding of Indigenous higher education completions in regional universities now that these factors are a more important focus in both Indigenous and equity higher education policy and program contexts.

Designing equitable principles for performance based funding

Researchers: Dr Andrew Harvey, Matt Brett and Beni Cakitaki, La Trobe University; Dr Tiffany Jones, American Council of Education; Professor Julia Clarke, Manchester Metropolitan University; and Associate Professor Jason Taylor, University of Utah.

Abstract: This project will outline effective design principles of performance based funding (PBF) models, to protect and support student equity in Australian higher education. Current government proposals include plans for a mainstream PBF program worth AU$500 million, as well as a smaller PBF element of Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program (HEPPP) funding. These proposals are in addition to recent performance based measures in Indigenous support funding. Drawing on evidence from the United States and the United Kingdom and an analysis of national data sets, the project will explore principles required to support identified student equity groups, and to ensure equitable assessment of admissions, student success, and graduate outcomes.

Equity at and beyond the boundary of Australian universities

Researchers: Matt Brett, Dr Andrew Harvey, Associate Professor Buly Cardak and Naomi Tootell, La Trobe University; and Professor Peter Noonan, Victoria University.

Abstract: Disadvantaged higher education students are enrolled through third party delivery arrangements and non-university higher education providers. However, comparatively little is known about student demographics and learning outcomes in this domain. This project builds a much needed evidence base around student equity at, and beyond, the boundary of Australian universities. The project will establish baseline data and a framework for continuing analysis of student equity in third party delivery and non-university providers. The framework will support evaluation of policy changes (such as performance funding, sub-bachelor funding and provider category reforms) likely to have a significant impact on this domain of participation.

Widening participation or widening the gap? Equity in postgraduate study

Researchers: Dr Deanna Grant-Smith and Dr Robyn Mayes, Queensland University of Technology.

Abstract: There has been an emphasis on widening participation in higher education in Australia in recent years. However, relative to efforts to increase the participation of equity groups in undergraduate education, there has been a lesser focus on postgraduate participation. This research will explore equity trends in participation in postgraduate study. It will compare enrolment, completion and employment data for this cohort across universities by university type. It will also identify the key initiatives and discourses within the sector relating to widening participation in postgraduate study.

Employment and study outcomes after graduation: An Australian higher education equity perspective.

Researchers: Dr Ian Li and Dr David Carroll, The University of Western Australia.

Abstract: The representation of equity groups in Australian higher education has progressed over the past decade, with larger proportions of disadvantaged individuals participating in bachelor degree study. Less is known, however, regarding their post-graduation outcomes, particularly whether there are differences in the proportions of equity and non-equity students entering postgraduate study. This study will examine differences in post-graduation pathways for equity group members relative to non-equity students, using national survey data and enrolment records. Outcomes analysed in this study will include the rates of postgraduate study uptake, postgraduate study areas and degree types, and labour market outcomes post-completion.

The final reports from the 2016 Research Grants Funding Program can be accessed here.


Posted 23 August 2017 Posted in Culturally and linguistically diverse, Disability, Editorial, General, Indigenous, Low SES, Regional, rural and remote