NPP Projects

Removing Barriers to Engagement in Higher Education by Students Living in a Rural Community

Lead University: University of the Sunshine Coast

Lead Researcher: Kerry Rutter

Research Team: Kerry Rutter, Graham Young, Angeline Medland and Michael Christie

Year Funded: 2015

Funding Received: $59,195

DOI: 10.6084/m9.figshare.6474200.v1



This project investigated the underrepresentation in higher education of non-Indigenous young males around the Gympie region of Queensland, identifying and implementing strategies to inform and motivate individuals to increase university participation. Research also addressed the reluctance of young non-Indigenous females in this region to pursue STEM degrees, indicating future outreach activities focusing on raising aspirations, allaying common misconceptions, providing information, and confidence building.

Project Outline

  • The project had three objectives:
    • investigate the reasons for the underrepresentation in higher education of non-Indigenous males aged 20–34 from the Gympie region of Queensland
    • identify and implement strategies for the removal of barriers to university engagement for the above cohort and to devise ways to inform, motivate and increase university recruitment from this group
    • research ways to widen aspirations of non-Indigenous females aged 20–34 from the Gympie region of Queensland beyond the commonly chosen degrees of nursing and teaching.
  • The process of developing the project incorporated:
    • substantial data collection and an in-depth literature review
    • identifying and addressing strategies by employing five interventions: mathematics and chemistry workshops; foundation of a RBETS Award; laboratory and career information sessions; high school outreach programs; and targeted marketing strategies
    • recommendations to expand young female engagement in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) higher education courses
    • twenty participants were engaged in focus groups.

Key Findings

  • The data collection and analysis revealed significant information regarding the reasons for the underrepresentation in higher education of non-Indigenous young males, which will be used to inform approaches to increasing university recruitment from this group.
  • The case study on young women’s reluctance to engage in STEM subjects revealed a number of insights, for example a lack of information, and misconceptions concerning STEM and their own lack of confidence in enrolling in such courses. This will inform future high school outreach activities.
  • The transformative learning that occurred during the focus groups and interviews as part of the data collection activity led to both males and females gaining new insights and information about higher education during discussions with their peers and facilitators.
  • The high school outreach program developed as part of the interventions in the second stage of the research cycle was important in further understanding the reasons for the low uptake of young males from low socioeconomic status (SES) regional backgrounds. Earlier intervention would be beneficial to increase information and motivation levels in this cohort.

Summary prepared by the NCSEHE.


Posted 7 June 2018