The Australian Centre for Student Equity and Success acknowledges Indigenous peoples as the Traditional Owners of the lands on which our campuses are situated. With a history spanning 60,000 years as the original educators, Indigenous peoples hold a unique place in Australia. We recognise the importance of their knowledge and culture, and reflect the principles of participation, equity, and cultural respect in our work. We pay our respects to Elders past, present, and future, and consider it an honour to learn from our Indigenous colleagues, partners, and friends.

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You are reading: Moving beyond “acts of faith” effective scholarships for equity students

Research conducted by the NCSEHE in late 2014 into scholarship provision in Australian universities identified a lack of knowledge around leading practice in scholarship design to improve the retention and success of disadvantaged students. Similarly, there is a lack of comparative data on the influence of scholarships on educational retention and success, and only a few studies have considered the student voice in assessing the influence of scholarships on student success.

A new research project led by Dr Nadine Zacharias from Deakin University will analyse and compare cohorts of students who received equity-only or equity-merit scholarships in 2013 in three different universities to identify which types of scholarships positively influence retention and success.

“In 2015, the Australian political context is one of higher education reform proposals. Fee deregulation, a new Commonwealth Scholarships Program, and the conversion of Student Start-up Scholarships from a grant to a loan are all being considered,” said Dr Zacharias.

“As these changes may have significant implications for prospective students, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, we need to know which type of equity scholarship is most effective in increasing participation and success in higher education.”

Working with Deakin colleagues Professor Brenda Cherednichenko and Dr Juliana Ryan, QUT’s Mary Kelly and the University of Sydney’s Annette Cairnduff, Dr Zacharias said the participating universities were chosen for their geographic and institutional differences.

“Deakin, QUT and the University of Sydney have each developed distinctly different equity scholarship programs. By triangulating institutional and survey data, my colleagues and I aim to identify common and university-specific factors that support scholarship recipients’ success.”

Dr Zacharias’ project is one of 12 funded via the NCSEHE’s 2015 Student Equity in Higher Education Research Grants Program. The project is scheduled to conclude in December 2015, after which time the final report will be made available here on the NCSEHE website.