News & Events

Are low SES students disadvantaged in the university application process?

Dr Buly Cardak from La Trobe University and Dr Mark Bowden from Swinburne University of Technology are recipients of one of twelve NCSEHE 2014 research grants. Drs Cardak and Bowden will receive $68,000 across 2014 and 2015 to fund their project, “Are low SES students disadvantaged in the university application process?”

Dr Cardak says:

“High socioeconomic status (SES) students are almost three times as likely as low SES students to attend university in Australia, which is a concern as it is well established that higher education leads to higher earnings. Inequalities in educational participation reinforce and perpetuate inequalities across society, both within and across generations.

This project will contribute to our understanding of this SES gradient in university participation by investigating university application and offer acceptance decisions of recent high school graduates. We will focus on student’s university application rankings before and after they receive their final high school results (ATAR) to understand how students process the information in their results, how they incorporate it into their university applications, and if there are differences in this process between high and low SES students.

This project will build on emerging international literature that finds talented low SES students do not have the expertise or information on the university admissions process to enrol at the universities that would best suit their desired qualifications. We will also analyse the decisions of students to accept or reject university offers. Specifically, are students from different SES backgrounds more or less likely to accept offers for courses with low ATARs?

Our study will contribute to the evidence base around equity and access policy and practice, guiding policy makers and practitioners to ultimately improve student understanding of the application and admissions process. As an example, if it is found that low SES students do not engage with the application process in the same way as high SES students, we will have identified a need for improved secondary student engagement around university application processes.”

This project will be completed in two phases, each of which will result in deliverables of research reports, academic papers, and conference and seminar presentations for dissemination and feedback purposes. The project will conclude in August 2015 after which time the reports and papers will be made available here on the NCSEHE website.

Dr Cardak is a research and teaching academic in the School of Economics at La Trobe University. His research expertise is in the economics of education taking, both theoretical and empirical approaches. His work has a particular focus on the school to university transition and related equity issues. Dr Cardak has worked with various data sources in research on intergenerational earnings mobility, participation in higher education, the effects of credit constraints on higher education enrolment and the differences between Catholic and public school educational outcomes.

Dr Bowden is a Lecturer in Economics in the Faculty of Business and Enterprise at Swinburne University of Technology. Mark is a theoretical and applied micro-economist with extensive teaching, consulting, public policy and industry experience. His research interests include economics and sociology of class, education and religion; and teaching and learning (particularly learning and teaching styles and approaches).

Posted 10 April 2014 Posted in General, Low SES