Thursday, July 14, 2022

Getting disadvantaged students through post secondary education requires designing programs for them

Sarah O' Shea (Curtin University) asks "So what more can be done?" to get  disadvantaged, particularly regional, students into university. I suggest this is the wrong question. Stone, King, and Ronan (2022) provide some of the answers. They suggest working with Regional University Centres and regional campuses to support online study options for regional students. 

Also I suggest university may not be the best place for these students, and the goal should be broadened to include vocational education and training (VET), as this is just as useful for the community (and the student), if not more so, than university study. Regional students can undertake a short, job relevant program, at a nearby VET institution, which caters to students with limited schooling. If universities want to have those same students succeed, they need to either partner with VET, or set up campuses, courses, and services, to meet their needs.

The length of programs aimed for at university should be shortened, to allow for certificates, & diplomas, as well as degrees. A student who successfully completes a program shorter than a degree is not a failure. Their success should be celebrated, and they should be made to feel welcome to return, with full credit, to continue their studies in a nested degree program, later. Also the learning needs to be provided when and where the students are, online and flexibly. Lastly, the learning needs to include basics and study skills, for those students who missed these.

As it is, universities have been set up to cater for students from affluent suburbs, who undertook courses at school (especially elite private schools), to prepare them for university. It is not surprising that if you don't have a university nearby, have never seen a campus, have no one in your family who went to university, don't know anyone who did, and did no courses to prepare you for university, that it might be difficult to contemplate enrolling, let along completing.


King, S., Stone, C., & Ronan, C. (2022). Investigating transitions to university from regional South Australian high schools. National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education.

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