Harvey et al. (2022) have provided a detailed report on how to get students back to study after a deferral or leave. They include on low SES, rural, those with a disability and Indigenous students. However, I suggest it would be more beneficial to increase the flexibility of study, so students don;t have to break their studies. Reducing the need to defer will help both the students and universities. Flexibility could include the option of online study, low rate part time study, work integrated learning, and credit for real world projects. Nested programs, where a student is awards a certificate, or diploma, and welcomed back to continue their studies with full credit, would also be useful.
As a low SES student myself, who was not comfortable with university study until becoming an online, low rate, part time, WIL student, I can understand the issues. Also at one point I was offered the choice of exiting with a certificate or continuing on to a degree. This was an either/or choice: if I took the certificate I could not resume the degree. That is a decision I should have not been forced to make (I ended up taking the certificate, and resuming my studies outside Australia in a more flexible higher education system).
The authors point out that two thirds of deferrals are by school leavers. So I suggest universities could offer introductory study skills programs (with course credit), to ease the transition. Similarly, other students have leave for very good reasons. Rather than universities try to get students back into a rigid program which forced them out in the first place, the programs need to change to allow students to study, and have a family, job, and life, at the same time, wherever they are.
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