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Completing university in a growing sector: is equity an issue?

While Australia’s growing higher education system offers disadvantaged students increasing opportunities to enter university, the question remains whether completions match increased access. To answer this question, ACER Principal Research Fellow Dr Daniel Edwards is using Commonwealth government data on university entrance and completion as well as national engagement, experience and graduate survey data, to explore whether or not equity in higher education remains an issue.

Dr Edwards says:

“In the recent context of an expanding higher education system in Australia, some accessibility issues have been alleviated. This context offers an opportunity to explore the pathways of disadvantaged students through university. In this expanded system are disadvantaged students less likely to complete university? Do demographic or enrolment characteristics, campus locations, etc. influence the likelihood of these students to complete?

Analysis of the Commonwealth’s Higher Education Statistics Collection to track progress of students through the higher education sector should enable us to analyse first-year attrition and full-course completion rates and examine in particular the patterns for students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

By looking at data from the Commonwealth Higher Education Student Support Number system, as well as from the Australasian Survey of Student Engagement (AUSSE), University Experience Survey (UES) and Course Experience Questionnaire (CEQ), we expect not only to answerquestions empirically about equity in terms of student access and completion, but also with reference to the quality of higher education during the past few years of dramatic expansion.”

A collaboration with the Higher Education Directorate of the New South Wales Department of Education and Communities (NSWDEC) and funded via one of twelve NCSEHE research grants, Dr Edwards’ research is expected to conclude in February 2015.

Daniel Edwards is a Principal Research Fellow and coordinates the Higher Education research program at the Australian Council for Educational Research and an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Centre for Population and Urban Research at Monash University. Dr Edwards’ research encompasses a range of educational issues, with particular emphasis on higher education. He has a keen interest in all aspects of education policy and has explored issues relating to demand for higher education places (both amongst students and employers), student achievement, student aspirations and pathways, selection policies for entrance to university, and educational ‘choice’ theories.

Posted 8 May 2014 Posted in General