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.

You are reading: Positive school experiences drive equity students’ university enrolment

Event information

A new study, funded by the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education at Curtin University and led by Dr Wojtek Tomaszewski from the University of Queensland, has shown that career guidance and positive school experiences have a significant bearing on equity students’ propensity to enrol in tertiary education.

The study found that high school students from low socioeconomic backgrounds and regional and remote areas benefited more from career advice and positive student-teacher relations than their non-equity counterparts. These factors were all strong predictors of subsequent university enrolment.

“While the membership of equity groups generally reduces the likelihood of university participation, we find evidence that the receipt of career advice and positive school experiences increase such likelihood,” said Dr Tomaszewski.

“However, not all forms of career guidance were found to be equally associated with university enrolment. The strongest positive effects were found for talks by TAFE or university representatives, and talks by schools’ career advisors.”

Researchers also concluded that some factors had stronger effects on university enrolment among students from different equity groups.

“Positive student-teacher relations and talks by school career advisors were more conducive to subsequent university enrolment amongst young people from low socio-economic backgrounds, and positive student-teacher relations and career group discussions more strongly predicted subsequent university enrolment amongst young people from regional and remote areas within Australia,” said Dr Tomaszewski.

Data analysis led researchers to point out the need to reevaluate the current indicators of disadvantage in higher education. For example, results indicated that students from non-English speaking backgrounds were actually more likely to enrol at university, and at earlier stages, than students from English speaking backgrounds. The researchers suggested that these findings were representative of an equity group with a broadening demographic.

Dr Tomaszewski also pointed out that their “analyses suggest other collectives that could be considered as equity groups in contemporary Australia, including young people from single-parent families and those living in large families, who are significantly less likely to enrol into university than other young people.”

NCSEHE Director Professor Sue Trinidad commended the research and its implications for future policy initiatives.

“Defining and effecting appropriate interventional measures to engage equity students at a school level is a positive step toward improving their representation in higher education. Furthermore, adopting an individualised approach to each equity group promotes the development of tailored programs to optimise student outcomes,” Professor Trinidad said.

“It is imperative that high school career advice aligns with the complexities of equity students’ situations, as well as societal, economic and educational change, to prepare young people for the jobs of tomorrow.”

The report, School Experiences, Career Guidance, and the University Participation of Young People from Three Equity Groups in Australia, is available on the NCSEHE website.

Read more here.

The NCSEHE aims to inform public policy design and implementation and institutional practice to improve the higher education participation and success for marginalised and disadvantaged people.

The Centre is based at Curtin University in Perth.