Informing Policy and Practice I: 2014 Student Equity in Higher Education Research Grants Program Projects
by Professor Sue Trinidad and Professor John Phillimore – NCSEHE Program Leaders
Higher education confers significant individual benefits in terms of personal development, career opportunities and lifetime learning. In addition, higher education is key to the social well-being and economic prosperity of Australia. Providing access to higher levels of education to people from all backgrounds enhances social inclusion and reduces social and economic disadvantage. In the interests of individuals and for the nation, higher education equity for all capable people must be seen as an objective of the system.
There has been positive but limited change in access, participation and completion rates for equity students over time. Even with the recent expansion in overall participation rates polarisation remains. This experience is shared internationally and reveals that further data and knowledge is required so that the issues facing equity students can be fully understood. The policy framework needed to achieve the required change will not result from a single policy decision or funding program. The issues facing equity students are multi-faceted and effective policy and practice will come from an understanding of the situations students face and the impact of current policy in higher education as well as other social and economic policies.
In pursuing its objective of improving higher education participation and success for marginalised and disadvantaged people, the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (NCSEHE) funds equity policy and planning research to provide evidence of the impact of policy on equity outcomes. Funding of $1,084,147 has been made available by the NCSEHE during 2014 and 2015 to fund projects at Australian universities and other research organisations.
Informing Policy and Practice: 2014 Student Equity in Higher Education Research Grants Program Projects, reports on the 12 research projects funded under the 2014 grants program and acts as a conduit for discussion on how the research findings may inform student equity policy and practice.
The research reports address different, but related, aspects of higher education student equity and bring evidence-based investigation to the consideration of policy and practice in student equity. This research highlights the complexity of the issues the researchers are attempting to unravel, and that simple statements arising from analysis need to be carefully considered.
The results confirm that more needs to be done to ensure that capable people are not prevented from accessing and completing higher education in pursuit of personal and career objectives.
The NCSEHE welcomes the reports on the 2014 research projects. Funding for the 2015 research projects has been allocated and the work to improve quality information continues. The new information and insights will contribute to public dialogue on equity in higher education and assist the work of the NCSEHE in closing the loop between equity research, policy and practice.