New research: Country students at home on campus
New research has shown regional, rural and remote (RRR) students prioritise social factors in deciding where to study and live when relocating for university.
The project team, led by Dr Julia Cook from the University of Newcastle and funded by the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (NCSEHE), found on-campus accommodation provided a sense of connectedness, but was not always inclusive of all students.
“The aim of the study was to understand how RRR students’ experiences of housing impact upon their participation in higher education, and to identify the specific housing challenges faced by students who experience multiple forms of disadvantage,” Dr Cook said.
“Surveys and interviews indicated students’ choice of university balanced institutional factors, such as the study programs on offer, with cost of living and the desire to stay somewhere they would fit in and feel comfortable,” Dr Cook said.
Those who lived on campus reported higher levels of housing satisfaction and had more positive relationships and experiences of social connectedness, though on-campus accommodation was not necessarily suitable or available to all students. Those who were not school leavers, had dependents or preferred a less socially orientated environment often had to rely on the private rental market.
Affordability of accommodation was also important, with many of the study’s participants engaged in paid employment to cover expenses.
“Students working one to 10 hours weekly during semester reported little impact on their studies, while those working more than 11 hours a week reported significant impacts. The degree of impact increased in concert with the number of hours worked,” Dr Cook said.
“RRR students coming from disadvantaged backgrounds are likely to suffer more in their studies, owing to the greater financial and time demands of long working hours.”
NCSEHE Director Professor Sarah O’Shea highlighted the importance of the research in helping shape future decisions and practices around students relocating to study.
“This research highlights how university accommodation providers should recognise the complex nature of decisions to relocate, as well as the diversity of students making this choice,” Professor O’Shea said.
“The research team provide several creditable recommendations that will assist in positively shaping the experiences of RRR students who relocate to study.”
This research was conducted under the NCSEHE Research Grants Program, funded by the Australian Government Department of Education, Skills and Employment.
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