NPP Projects

Facilitating Success for Students from Low Socioeconomic Status Backgrounds at Regional Universities

Lead University: Federation University

Lead Researcher: Marcia Devlin

Research Team: Marcia Devlin and Jade McKay

Year Funded: 2015

Funding Received: $149,500

DOI: 10.6084/m9.figshare.6984014.v1



This project examined factors affecting retention and completion of low SES students at regional Australian universities. A research and literature review, combined with staff and student interviews, identified eight high-level factors that assist students to succeed. The research yielded implementable outcomes and recommendations for policy and practice which are applicable to regional universities (and metropolitan universities with regional campuses) as well as the Australian Government.

Project Outline

  • The project was to determine the major high-level factors that contribute to retention and completion for domestic students from low socioeconomic status (SES) backgrounds who are studying at regional universities.
  • Other objectives were to:
    • determine successful approaches to increasing the success of these students
    • provide guidance about how to begin addressing gaps in current approaches to supporting these students
    • provide policy advice around priorities for potential new approaches to fostering success for low SES students studying at regional universities.
  • The evidence gathered through the study comprised:
    • a review of previous research and literature
    • interviews with 69 successful students from low SES backgrounds approaching completion of their studies at six regional universities
    • interviews with 26 staff from these six universities who are expert in how these students succeed.

Key Findings

  • The project led to the identification of eight high-level factors that assist students to succeed:
    • student attitude, motivation, determination and resilience
    • family support
    • financial security and sustainability
    • reliable technology
    • understanding and responding to students’ particular circumstances and needs
    • facilitating students being and feeling connected to university
    • student preparedness for the realities of university study
    • an inclusive approach to learning and teaching.
  • In addition, the study identified five policy areas that were considered important in achieving the right settings to support students from disadvantaged backgrounds:
    • ensuring financial stability for students
    • defining, measuring and monitoring attrition
    • valuing staged and micro qualifications
    • leveraging existing regional and remote infrastructure
    • regional school investment.
  • The project delivered a number of implementable outcomes, including:
    • The project findings can be used as a basis for positive changes at regional universities and metropolitan universities with regional campuses to enhance the likelihood of students from low SES backgrounds completing their qualifications.
    • The findings can be considered by the Australian Government as a basis for national policy changes that will contribute to low SES background regional student retention, success and completion.


  • The findings in the project report should be used by regional universities and metropolitan universities with regional campuses to informing teaching approaches and support programs to assist students from low SES backgrounds.
  • The policy findings, particularly those related to defining, measuring and monitoring attrition, could be considered by the Australian Government in light of the development of performance measures for universities.

Summary prepared by the NCSEHE.


Posted 30 May 2018