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University access and achievement of people from out-of-home care backgrounds

In Australia, around 40,000 Australian children are estimated to require out-of-home care, a number that has risen every year over the past decade.1 Many of these children are from multiple equity groups. In Western Australia, for example, an estimated 45 per cent of children in foster care are Indigenous.2 Despite the magnitude of this cohort, to date there has been little analysis of the progression of people from care into higher education, or of potential policies that might increase their aspirations, access and success. Dr Andrew Harvey, Director of the Access and Achievement Research Unit (AARU) and Dr Patricia MacNamara, Senior Lecturer in Social Work at La Trobe University, will be addressing these issues in collaboration with Mackillop Family Services and Berry Street as part of their successful 2014 NCSEHE research grant proposal.

Dr Harvey says:

“The absence of out-of-home care as a specific higher education priority in the Australian context contrasts starkly with the British context. In the United Kingdom, children from care form a specific university equity category, and institutional policies and outcomes for this cohort are monitored closely by the Office for Fair Access.

Our project will map the higher education sector in relation to people from out-of-home care backgrounds, drawing closely on work undertaken in the UK and through subsequent European research in the YiPPEE project (Young People from a public care background Pathways to Education in Europe), whose major report highlighted that ‘reliable statistical information is an essential basis for improving the educational opportunities of young people who have been in care’ and that young people in care ‘should be encouraged to aim as high as possible, regardless of their care status.’ 3

Our aim is to increase the visibility of the out-of-home care cohort and provide a strong information base for future policy and research work. Recommendations from the project will be targeted to higher education institutions, governments, and service providers.”

Dr Harvey’s project is scheduled to conclude in February 2015, after which time the final report will be made available here on the NCSEHE website.

Dr Andrew Harvey is Director of the Access and Achievement Research Unit (AARU) at La Trobe University. He holds a PhD and a Bachelor of Arts (Hons), both from the University of Melbourne. Dr Harvey has a strong educational policy and research background, developed in previous roles with the Australian Council of Deans of Education and as Director of Regional Operations at La Trobe University, and through his current role leading and educational research unit. He is a regular commentator on education policy and is experienced at translating research into policy outcomes and communicating research to mainstream audiences.

1 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2013). ‘Child Protection Australia 2011-2012’
2 Department for Child Protection and Family Support (2012). ‘Aboriginal Services Framework Dec 2012’ (751Kb)
3 Jackson & Cameron (2012), Final Report of the YiPPEE project, Thomas Coram Institute, University of London.

Posted 13 May 2014 Posted in General