Project update: Ameliorating disadvantage: Creating accessible, efficacious and equitable careers and study information for low SES students
In 2019, the NCSEHE commissioned four large-scale projects to improve access to information about higher education study options, pathways and careers for disadvantaged students and those who influence them.
With a particular focus on low socioeconomic status (SES), regional and remote, and Indigenous students, the research projects are being conducted under the Australian Government Department of Education, Skills and Employment National Priorities Pool (NPP) program.
Ameliorating disadvantage: Creating accessible, efficacious and equitable careers and study information for low SES students, led by Professor Dawn Bennett and Dr Jane Coffey (Curtin University) is one of the successful projects currently underway.
The project aims to understand and improve low SES students’ access to, and the efficacy of, information about higher education study options, pathways and careers. This includes low SES Indigenous, regional and remote students. The importance of the project is highlighted in overriding evidence that students from disadvantaged groups experience higher rates of attrition and deferral and poorer graduate employment outcomes.
Given the breadth of the project’s aim, the project consists of three inter-related Inquiries:
- Inquiry 1 is using a nationwide survey to examine support relating to study, pathways and careers for students and influencers within low SES and non-low SES secondary schools.
- Inquiry 2 will employ the established employABILITY survey alongside institutional and national datasets to analyse the career and study confidence of low SES university students in relation to that of their peers.
- Inquiry 3 will engage with low SES students in Years 11 and 12, and further into higher education, to understand how disadvantage is experienced during the transition into study and across the undergraduate experience.
The project has significant potential to improve low SES students’ access to effective information about higher education study options, pathways and careers. The project will create a unique understanding of the accessibility and efficacy of school-based career counselling services and student success. By identifying gaps in service provision, the project will generate recommendations for policy, service design and delivery.
Since notification of approval for access to Longitudinal Surveys of Australian Youth (LSAY) data in December 2019, five datasets (1995, 1998, 2003, 2006 and 2009) have been analysed. Literature and extant surveys have also been reviewed, leading to the development of the school survey instrument. The instrument was reviewed, revised and tested by a number of key stakeholders, prior to being promoted and distributed via a number of channels, including social media, in late-February 2020.
The team has also been working on enabling a link between survey data from Curtin students and Curtin’s administrative data on student background, study characteristics and academic standing/progress. A trial was undertaken in November 2019 and the initial linked dataset was received in December. In January 2020 the datasets were combined for the first 8,500 students. Equity students will next be identified so that comparative analysis can be undertaken. Data linkage will be extended to other institutions over the coming months.
The project team is also working with Curtin University to further integrate survey collection, which will allow this type of data linkage with student responses collected directly through its systems. A new cohort of students commenced at Curtin University in March 2020 and the team anticipates a further 7,000 cases by July, with approximately 50 per cent of respondents belonging to one or more equity groups.
The team has completed a literature review and desktop audit to identify current best practice initiatives across the sector and inform the development of a suite of best practice principles for career advice.
The final report will be published here on the NCSEHE website later in 2020.
Read more about the Competitive Grants Program and successful projects.