NPP Projects

Raising University Participation of New Migrants in Regional Communities

Lead University: La Trobe University

Lead Researcher: Andrew Harvey

Research Team: Andrew Harvey, Mark Mallman, Giovanna Szalkowicz and Anthony Moran

Year Funded: 2016

Funding Received: $144,460


This project explored the higher education aspirations and experiences of new migrants in low SES regional communities, and the extent of regional campus support. An evidence base was established through interviews with school and university students; community stakeholders; school and university staff; and focus groups to inform efforts to raise access, participation and social inclusion of students from low SES new migrant backgrounds.

Project outline

  • The project aimed to:
    • establish an evidence base regarding the specific educational challenges and motivations of new migrants in regional, low socioeconomic status (SES) communities in terms of accessing higher education
    • inform efforts to raise participation, diversity and social inclusion of low SES new migrants on regional university campuses
    • support universities to develop more tailored equity, outreach, recruitment and pathways models, and to develop more inclusive campus environments for all students.
  • The project explored the university aspirations and motivations of new migrants in low SES, regional communities, and the extent to which regional campuses support ethnic, socioeconomic and religious diversity.
  • The project focused on Shepparton and Mildura, two Victorian communities that host new migrants from diverse countries such as South Sudan, Iraq, Afghanistan, the Congo and Tonga.
  • Research involved interviews with school and university students, recent graduates, community stakeholders, school and university staff; and focus groups with community members.

Key findings

  • Findings revealed challenges and opportunities for universities across the student life cycle.
    • University aspirations and motivations among new migrants were typically strong, though respondents identified a paucity of local course offerings as a barrier to access and/or student satisfaction.
    • While students were usually motivated to study at university, their awareness of university admissions processes, course offerings and expectations was limited.
    • Parents were perceived to be committed to the education and success of their children, but often limited in their ability to provide advice because of linguistic, cultural and financial barriers.
  • Most respondents reported relatively high levels of student satisfaction:
    • Some students found the campus to be a more tolerant place than the broader community; however, there were cases of unconscious bias by staff and students.
    • While students typically formed strong relationships on campus, there was perceived to be little interaction between students of different ethnicities.
    • University graduates interviewed had typically found positive employment outcomes, and highlighted the value of close regional networks and communities.


  • The report provided 16 recommendations for universities, including:
    1. Extend traditional outreach activities beyond secondary schools to community, religious and other forums that serve new migrants.
    2. Engage parents and families of new migrant prospective students through tailored resources.
    3. Develop alternative admissions schemes that recognise the strengths and qualities of new migrants and other diverse student groups.
    4. Expand course offerings on regional campuses and increase resources around pathways to preferred course destinations.
    5. Increase provision and awareness of financial assistance for students from new migrant, low SES backgrounds.
    6. Promote guided orientation and transition processes.
    7. Provide targeted English language support, including through bridging and enabling programs.
    8. Consult with students and communities to ensure greater inclusion of new migrants in university clubs and societies.
    9. Ensure that multicultural events on campus are mainstreamed and conducted within broader diversity programs.
    10. Develop online resources and modules on student diversity to educate and inform all commencing university students.
    11. Reform curriculum and pedagogy to promote diversity experiences and intercultural awareness.
    12. Increase efforts to broaden ethnic diversity among peer mentors and tutors to better reflect the university community.
    13. Develop structured education for staff and students on the importance of classroom conviviality across cultural differences.
    14. Collaborate with employers to create Work Integrated Learning (WIL) opportunities for new migrants and to address unconscious bias in the workforce.
    15. Ensure that university careers advice and services are promoted to all students, and monitor participation of select target groups in WIL and other activities.
    16. Increase research into student experiences of diversity, campus climate, stereotype threat, and different types of student capital.

Summary prepared by the NCSEHE.


Posted 1 October 2018