Evaluation must reflect Indigenous students’ sustained commitment to university
New research led by Charles Darwin University has found university student outcomes data does not entirely capture the complexity of regional and remote Indigenous student pathways.
The report, funded by the NCSEHE, showed Indigenous students may engage with higher education for more than a decade, which needs to be considered in the evaluation of student success over the long term.
Lead author Fiona Shalley said Indigenous students from regional and remote areas faced extra challenges to accessing and participating in higher education, which may influence the length of time it takes to complete a degree.
“Extending the timeframe for reporting of award completion is needed to acknowledge and reflect the familial, cultural, social and employment obligations that regional and remote Indigenous students are regularly balancing with their study commitments,” Ms Shalley said.
The research focused on Indigenous students enrolled in two regionally based universities (CDU and Central Queensland University) bringing together analysis of student enrolment information with student and staff interviews to better understand how Indigenous students progressed through university study.
“Indigenous students in regional and remote areas are likely to experience compounding disadvantage if appropriate support systems are not in place. They are generally the first in their families to attend university, often come from areas described as having low socioeconomic status and may have non-English speaking backgrounds,” Ms Shalley said.
“University enrolment data could be used to better inform policy and practice by identifying multiple equity group membership within this student population.”
Living in regional and remote areas was often associated with by barriers related to communication, technology and financial support. Being afforded the opportunity to study full-time and studying through a multi-mode design (combining both internal and external elements of coursework) were some of the factors associated with higher rates of university award completions for those Indigenous students included in the research.
NCSEHE Director Professor Sue Trinidad said reporting of higher education outcomes needed to be responsive to the unique pathways of students from all backgrounds.
“Many regional and remote Indigenous students are demonstrating outstanding perseverance, managing higher education while facing multiple commitments and barriers to success,” Professor Trinidad said.
“This valuable report provides evidence-based recommendations to ensure these achievements are not overlooked when measuring student outcomes.”
The full report, Understanding completion rates of Indigenous higher education students from two regional universities, is available here.