The NCSEHE Building Legacy and Capacity Workshop Series: Workshop Two
The University of Western Australia
17 October 2017
Higher education participation and completion of regional and remote students
The second workshop in the series put a spotlight on the higher education participation and completion outcomes of regional and remote students. While Australian universities have engaged in strategic efforts to address the lower participation and completion rates of regional and remote students for many years, there is currently renewed interest by the Australian Government: an Interdepartmental Committee on Access to Higher Education for Regional and Remote Students, budget announcements of targeted scholarships and eight regional study hubs as well as a government-commissioned review into equitable education access for rural and regional students.
It is clear that regional and remote students as well as regional higher education institutions face structural challenges that impact on participation and completion outcomes. The recent Higher Education Standards Panel discussion paper identified institutional and student characteristics associated with higher attrition rates which correlate with regional universities and their diverse student cohorts. At the same time, regional institutions do the heavy lifting in attracting students from regional and remote backgrounds to higher education and graduating them, notwithstanding an increasing flow of regional and remote students to metropolitan universities.
For equity practitioners, researchers and policymakers, there remain questions about the nature of the problem and the best ways to support people in regional and remote locations to access and succeed in higher education.
- How can universities successfully mitigate the structural challenges faced by their (potential) student cohort, especially regional institutions which themselves suffer from systemic disadvantage?
- How do universities create both flexibility and consistency in the student experience for a cohort which increases in diversity with increased distance from (metropolitan) campuses? Do these strategies work for Indigenous students who make up a significantly larger share of regional and remote cohorts then metropolitan ones?
- How do institutions manage critical first encounters, clarify expectations, address the diverse and often complex needs of students and create a sense of belonging in a massified system looking for further efficiencies?
- Should policy approaches focus on creating scale and critical mass or on delivering local support to smaller and more remote communities?
- Is it possible to move beyond geographical limitations to create supportive, technology-enabled third spaces?
In trying to resolve these questions and work towards evidence-based advice to policymakers and practitioners, this workshop brought together a group of subject matter experts who came at the topic from different perspectives. These included researchers who have explored migration and completion patterns of regional and remote students, provided a more finely grained picture of the remote student cohort in particular and highlighted the importance of effective online delivery to any successful strategy.
At the same time, we learned from equity practitioners, and senior managers, who have designed and implemented university-wide strategies or initiatives to support students from regional and remote backgrounds in accessing and succeeding in higher education. The featured case studies provided insights into both strategic approaches and tailored interventions to improve participation and completion outcomes for students from regional and remote backgrounds. The workshop also included the voices and insights of policymakers who have the opportunity to set the framework and provide incentives for addressing the structural barriers to equitable outcomes for individuals in regional and remote locations and the universities they choose to attend.
Accessible documents pending.
About the Building Legacy and Capacity Workshop series
The Building Legacy and Capacity Workshop Series is a strategic initiative by the NCSEHE to explore in depth four topics chosen from the ‘Ten Conversations’ conducted during the NCSEHE Forum in November 2016. This new strategy aims to further extend the NCSEHE’s capacity in synthesising, codifying and disseminating learnings from equity research and practice and use them to inform future initiatives, studies and policy.
The objectives of the workshops are to:
- define a collective knowledge base informed by research and practice
- engage in strategic and action planning to guide institutional practice and future research
- develop evidence-informed policy advice.
Each workshop consists of a small group of about 10 participants, including researchers, practitioners, policymakers and community partners, who contribute their insights as subject matter experts. Taking recent research findings and case studies of good practice as the starting point, the workshops are structured around high-level questions which frame the group discussion. The outcomes of the discussion will be shared widely across the sector, including via a webinar, written materials and professional illustrations. All workshop resources will be made available on the NCSEHE website.