NPP Projects

Globalisation Opportunities for Low Socio-economic Status and Regional Students

Lead University: La Trobe University

Lead Researcher: Andrew Harvey

Research Team: Andrew Harvey, Sam Sellar, Tebeje Mekonnen Molla, Aspa Baroutsis, Beni Cakitaki, Jenna Tellefson, Michael Luckman, Giovanna Szalkowicz and Matt Brett

Year Funded: 2014

Funding Received: $245,000


Globalisation is central to the mission of most universities, but the extent to which equity students participate in outbound mobility and language learning experiences has been unclear. Through national and international literature analysis; a national geo-demographic map of students enrolled in foreign languages and accessing outbound mobility experiences; surveys of university leaders; and interviews with students, the report produced 25 recommendations for universities and government.

Project outline

  • Globalisation is central to the mission of most universities, taking many forms, including: the establishment of off-shore campuses; tailored inter-disciplinary courses and subjects; the provision of languages other than English; and the promotion of outbound mobility and learning programs.
  • There are questions as to the extent to which equity students participate in outbound mobility and language learning experiences.
  • The project used a mixed methods study that included: analysis of national and international literature; a national geo-demographic map of students enrolled in foreign languages and accessing outbound mobility experiences; surveys of university leaders; and interviews with students.

Key findings

  • There are mixed messages coming from Anglophone countries on globalisation: there is growing interest but declining student participation in learning foreign languages. Outbound mobility, like foreign language learning, is an inconsistent area of policy and practice.
  • Within Australia, there is Government support for globalisation in education; for example, the 2015 Draft National Strategy for International Education and the 2012 white paper Australia in the Asian Century. However, only four per cent of Australian domestic undergraduates are studying a foreign language; in contrast, outbound mobility in higher education is rising in line with international trends.
  • In languages, education and outbound mobility, Australian universities are marked by unequal participation. Foreign languages are studied most at Group of Eight universities. Students from regional and low socioeconomic (SES) backgrounds are underrepresented in outbound mobility (as evidenced through student loans through the Overseas Higher Education Loan program OS-HELP). In 2014 only 11.4 per cent of students in the OS-HELP program were from a low SES background, despite comprising 17.6 per cent of the overall Australian student undergraduate population.
  • Many university leaders are aware of differential rates in participation in languages and outbound study. Small and regional university leaders reported financial constraints in supporting outbound programs. However, many leaders also described strategies for progress, including setting targets, better data, financial support and improved communications.
  • Students highlighted financial support as an issue. Many students were unaware that an income-contingent loan was available to support overseas study. The connection between language offerings at schools and university was underlined, with many students pursuing a language they studied at school. Poor information often informed study choices.
  • There are also notable cultural barriers to broad participation in globalisation activities, tied to a history of elitism around foreign languages and outbound mobility.
  • Several policy developments provide cause for optimism, including the New Colombo Plan and ongoing support for the OS-HELP program.


  • The report produced 25 recommendations; shortened versions of selected key recommendations include:
    • Government:
      • Commission research on the underrepresentation of student equity groups in foreign languages and outbound mobility programs.
      • Promote the availability of the OS-HELP program and investigate its expansion.
      • Require universities to track participation and achievement of equity groups in outbound mobility experiences and publish the outcomes.
      • Support and promote foreign language learning across the student lifecycle.
    • Universities:
      • Collaborate to ensure students at all public universities have access to multiple foreign languages.
      • Establish dedicated language teaching positions and offer professional development in pedagogy for language teachers.
      • Develop greater support during outbound mobility programs e.g. a mentor program.
      • Promote the mobility of underrepresented students in institutions e.g. integrating outbound mobility with employability strategies.
      • Establish participation targets for outbound mobility and foreign language study, particularly for underrepresented groups.
      • Promote languages and outbound mobility programs to low SES and regional students through bursaries and scholarships.
      • Offer Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) bonus points to students from equity groups who are studying a foreign language.
      • Work with Indigenous offices, disability services and student support areas to ensure promotion and take-up of outbound mobility services by underrepresented groups.
      • Provide information widely and early on outbound mobility to all students.
    • State and Territory Governments:
      • Prioritise the teaching of foreign languages in regional and low SES schools and encourage collaboration among schools to ensure broad access to languages.
      • Collaborate with the Australian Government to support and promote foreign languages across the student lifecycle, from early childhood through to higher education.
      • Promote the value of foreign languages in careers education.

Summary prepared by the NCSEHE.


Posted 7 June 2018