Informing Policy and Practice II: 2015 Student Equity in Higher Education Research Grants Program Projects
by Professor Sue Trinidad and Professor John Phillimore — NCSEHE Program Leaders
The issues facing disadvantaged students wanting a tertiary education are multi-faceted. Being accepted into a course at university is the first of many hurdles that a student must overcome to complete their degree. University cohorts are also increasingly diverse and require different forms and durations of support: academic, cultural, emotional, financial, and so on.
As higher education confers significant individual benefits by way of personal development, career opportunities, friendships and lifetime learning, it is a driver of social well-being and economic prosperity in 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. We know from our research that the policy framework needed to achieve the required change for disadvantaged people will not result from a single policy decision or funding program; educational disadvantage is a complex and challenging problem requiring wide-ranging and evidence-based solutions.
Australian universities have long demonstrated a strong commitment to student equity and to increasing the participation of people from under-represented backgrounds. Commitment to equity was also a core recommendation resulting from the Bradley Review in 2008 and the Transforming Australia’s Higher Education System report in 2009.
The National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (NCSEHE) aims to close the gap between equity research, policy and practice. The NCSEHE supports and informs the evaluation of current equity practice; identifies innovative approaches to equity, and subsequent gaps in knowledge, through research conducted by universities across Australia; and seeks to translate learnings into practical advice for decision makers and practitioners alike.
In 2014, the NCSEHE introduced an annual, competitive research grants program designed to identify the ways in which Australian higher education access, participation, and success might be improved. The publication, Informing Policy and Practice: 2014 Student Equity in Higher Education Research Grants Program Projects, brought together the first 12 of 24 projects the NCSEHE has funded to date through its research program. This publication, Informing Policy and Practice II: 2015 Student Equity in Higher Education Research Grants Program Projects, provides a summary of the subsequent 12 projects.
Each project funded through our research grants program addresses different, but related, aspects of higher education student equity. In total, we have committed over $1.08 million to the 24 studies to date. The resultant reports contribute to an evidence-base from which carefully considered decisions may be discussed and made. Accordingly, further funding of approximately $350,000 will be committed to the research program in 2016.
The research teams behind the 12 projects presented in this publication have worked diligently to add to the discourse surrounding higher education policy and practice. While the findings confirm that more needs to be done to ensure that capable students are not prevented from accessing and completing higher education, it is unmistakable that many dedicated, bright minds remain focused on building a better future for disadvantaged students in Australia.