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New research — Building the evidence to improve completion rates for Indigenous students

New NCSEHE-funded research shows that while the number of Indigenous students participating in higher education continues to grow, Indigenous student completion rates remain very low relative to non-Indigenous students.

Led by Professor Bronwyn Fredericks from The University of Queensland, the team investigated national data which indicates that, while Indigenous students typically can take longer to graduate, the nine-year completion rates for Indigenous students remain around 47 per cent — significantly below the 74 per cent for non-Indigenous students.

Key findings include:

  • Indigenous centres/units at universities are key for building a sense of community and belonging.
  • University faculties need to collaborate further with Indigenous centres.
  • Indigenous perspectives are needed in the classroom.
  • Racism is being experienced in the classroom, and there is a need for university staff to be culturally competent.
  • Non-completed students cited reasons for leaving university including negative experiences living at college, mental health concerns and “burnout”, poor fit of the degree with their interests, and a lack of a cohort of Indigenous students.

Recommendations for universities include:

  • Provide more cultural competency training opportunities for all staff and students.
  • Ensure classrooms are strongly anti-racist and issues are addressed.
  • Increase the provision of scholarships for Indigenous students.
  • Increase collaboration between university faculties and Indigenous centre/unit staff and Indigenous academics.
  • Strengthen strategies that build a sense of belonging and connection.
  • Ensure targets and initiatives are in place to grow the number of Indigenous academic staff within universities.

Recommendations for Australian Government include:

  • Feasibility testing including a separate analysis of the national Indigenous student population in the annual cohort analysis of higher education students.
  • Extend timeframe reporting of Indigenous student higher education award completion to a minimum of 10 years in order to optimise data capture.

Read the full report, Building the evidence to improve completion rates for Indigenous students

This research was conducted under the NCSEHE Research Grants Program, funded by the Australian Government Department of Education, Skills and Employment.

Posted 28 February 2022 Posted in Indigenous