NCSEHE Focus: Successful outcomes for low SES students in Australian higher education
A critical component of the drive towards more equitable outcomes in higher education is the need for quality research into the trends and issues, and the challenges and opportunities, which characterise equity in higher education.
The NCSEHE has funded 34 research projects that inform policy and practice, 10 of which have a primary focus on students from low socioeconomic status (SES) backgrounds and which form the basis of this second report in the NCSEHE Focus series.
The research collated for this report adds to our growing knowledge of the underlying reasons why students from low SES backgrounds struggle on access, participation and outcomes, and illustrates how compounding disadvantages limit students’ ability to navigate the Australian higher education system as easily as their non-equity group peers.
Review by A/Professor Sarah O’Shea, University of Wollongong
“The latest NCSEHE publication on supporting the success of low SES students opens with the recognition that while we have experienced a 50% growth in enrolments for this student cohort, the influence of ‘compounding multiple issues’ profoundly impacts their academic success and completion rates. This is a key point that recognises how the intersectionality of this student cohort underlines the need to adopt multiple approaches to both their support and retention.
These studies outline empirical insight into the complex and diverse demands that students from low SES backgrounds need to manage, such complexity clearly impacting on educational trajectories. Perhaps unsurprisingly, NCSEHE supported research has evidenced how these learners may be both more likely to drop out and, also, take longer to graduate. The research similarly delves into the school-university transition, highlighting the structural and relational supports that underpin successful engagement in further learning.
However, learners need to be recognised in their individuality rather than reduced to broad characteristics or qualities, so it is commendable to see that the NCSEHE has supported research that seeks to conduct ‘close-up’ analysis, which foregrounds students’ unique and multi-faceted experiences. This is work that exposes the subtle intricacies of student experiences and the ten projects featured provide a holistic perspective focusing on various stages of this journey. This focus includes foregrounding the roles of schools, careers support and mentoring in higher education participation, the significant transformational nature of enabling programs as well as attention to students’ family biographies and specific demographic nuances that may impact on application and enrolment behaviours.
The NCSEHE’s comprehensive report brings together key empirical data on various facets of higher education participation, largely drawn from the perspective of the students themselves. This is compelling work that is essential reading for anyone involved in supporting or teaching students from diverse backgrounds.”
Access NCSEHE Focus: Successful outcomes for low SES students in Australian higher education below:
National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (2017). NCSEHE Focus: Successful outcomes for low SES students in Australian higher education. National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (NCSEHE), Perth: Curtin University.
You may also be interested in NCSEHE Focus: Successful outcomes for students with disability in Australian higher education:
National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (2017). NCSEHE Focus: Successful outcomes for students with disability in Australian higher education. National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (NCSEHE), Perth: Curtin University.