Employment Outcomes of Disadvantaged University Students
The 2008 Review of Australian Higher Education by Denise Bradley recommended an increase in higher education participation by people from disadvantaged backgrounds. The uncapping of Commonwealth supported university places under the 2012 Demand Driven Funding System has supported this recommendation, and the share of university students from low socioeconomic backgrounds has risen from 16.2% in 2007 to 17.6% in 2013.
The growth in university enrolments in recent years has led to concerns regarding academic standards and financial sustainability. As a result, there have been calls for caps on university places to be re-introduced as well as a minimum ATAR to be imposed for university admission. Recent research by Li and Dockery shows that students from low socioeconomic backgrounds fare better at university, in comparison to their more privileged peers. Moreover, the proposed changes to the higher education sector would likely affect disadvantaged individuals most, according to analysis by Andrew Norton from the Grattan Institute.
While the findings of recent studies allay fears of slipping academic standards due to the expansion in higher education, there are gaps in the knowledge of the post-university labour market outcomes of students from equity groups.
Dr Ian Li, from The University of Western Australia, has been awarded funding by the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (NCSEHE) to examine the employment for students from equity backgrounds. Dr Li said,
“The question is essentially whether or not higher education leads to sufficient improvement in labour market outcomes, which is one of the key reasons for encouraging higher education participation and access.”
The findings of this study will inform higher education equity policy by comparing groups that experience disadvantage with those that do not. This information is necessary for an evidence-based improvement of the relationship between education equity and labour market equity.
Research team members in this study include Dr Ian Li (The University of Western Australia), Professor Raja Junankar (University of New South Wales), Professor Kostas Mavromaras (National Institute of Labour Studies, Flinders University), Dr Stephane Mahuteau (National Institute of Labour Studies, Flinders Universty) and Associate Professor Mike Dockery (Curtin University).
Dr Li’s project is one of 12 funded via the NCSEHE’s 2015 Student Equity in Higher Education Research Grants Program. The project is scheduled to conclude in December 2015.
Read the final report here.