New NCSEHE-funded website: Regional Student Futures
The Regional Student Futures website has been designed for people from regional, rural and remote (RRR) locations who are planning for, and working towards, achieving their future goals and dreams, whether this is a career change, a long-held dream, a personal goal, a post-school pathway or a desire to apply knowledge and skills to contribute to society in some way. It is also for families and others who support them as well as those who work across the school and higher education sectors.
This is an open resource informed by research, with the words and ideas of the participants being a feature of the resources. The crafting around RRR “voices” was deliberate to ensure that diversity across educational experiences, life circumstances, motivations and perspectives, was represented as fully as possible. The project was developed as part of a 2020 Equity Fellowship from the NCSEHE.
The website is dedicated to the students and staff who contributed so generously!
About the Research
I interviewed and surveyed three main groups of the RRR population: current university students across Australia, university staff in various roles, and Year 12 students in a regional university outreach program. Students ranged in age from 16-18 (school) to 51 years and over. The majority of university students indicated multiple equity factors (such as First-in-Family, mature-age, low socioeconomic status etc.), and most of them did not move from their RRR location to study, a choice which often included weighing up whether to commute, attend a regional campus, access a Regional University Centre (RUC), or study online. The Year 12 students were in their penultimate school term, most were planning to go to university the following year, and about half identified additional equity factors to their regional/remote categorisation.
Staff voices were also included on their perspectives and the roles they played in supporting students from RRR areas. These roles ranged from student outreach/support, to academics to director or management positions.
The issue motivating the research was the persistent disparity in completion rates for students from RRR areas in Australian higher education. Degree holders in the 25-34 age grouping are significantly fewer in RRR areas (19 per cent) compared with 39 per cent in metropolitan areas (ABS, 2020). The main aim of the research was to better understand this disparity, through asking RRR people themselves what might get in the way of completion as well as exploring what motivates and assists them in working towards completing their studies.
The aim of the website design was for the resources to be as authentic as possible, by ensuring ideas raised by RRR participants were at the fore, so the resources will have relevance for:
- those thinking about university as a future option (any age or stage — mature age to school leavers)
- those who are already at university and would like to know what others have experienced
- parents, family members, friends etc. who are supporting someone who is thinking about or has already begun university
- staff who support students (in various ways) at school or university.
About the Resources
The website draws heavily on the participants’ voices and what they collectively raised as important in their educational experience. It is hoped that visitors to the site gain a sense of being part of a broader conversation. The resources for students and potential students are designed primarily to prompt conversations. These include the Reflective Tool My Future Me and the Advice Tool Within a Cooee! which has four sections: Being regional, rural or remote (strengths and qualities), I’m thinking about uni, but I’m still not sure (things to consider for those who are in the process of deciding), I’m at uni: now keep going! (advice from others who are also in the midst of study), and Like a rollercoaster! (emotional highs and lows and the university experience).
A selection of short stories profiles five diverse students from whom to draw inspiration, highlighting some of their struggles as well as strengths and resilience they’ve shown. For staff there are two downloadable resources: Staff Guide with teaching ideas designed to be used with the Reflective Tool, and Student Vignettes for professional development.
For institutions and university practitioners a set of high level draft retention strategies emerged from the research, may be used as prompts for conversations around how to ensure equitable practices across all dealings with RRR students so that they are advantaged, and not further disadvantaged.
For more information and access to other resources, visit the Regional Student Futures website