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You are reading: 2018 NCSEHE Research Fellow Professor Maria Raciti — Post-Fellowship Impact Bulletin

Career construction, future work and the perceived risks of going to university for young people from low SES backgrounds

Associate Professor Maria Raciti (USC)

Being a NCSEHE Research Fellow was a transformative experience

This 2018 NCSEHE Research Fellowship provided me with an unparalleled, national platform to develop and share ideas and to be part of an agentic community of thought leaders, influencers and change-makers. The placement with the Australian Government Department of Education, Skills and Employment provided a golden opportunity to be immersed in the all-important policy dimension of the national widening participation agenda.

The policy perspective of widening participation, while recognised as critical, is typically the least understood. This extraordinary placement experience with the Department helped me to knit together the many dimensions of widening participation and in doing so, reveal the practice-research-policy nexus. While independently practice, research and policy can bring into effect positive change in the lives of underrepresented groups; it is the interplay between these—the triple helix—that provides the highest leverage point where profound change can be nurtured and mobilised. The most unexpected, yet deeply rewarding aspect of the Fellowship for me, was the chance to make a real difference — to bring forth, albeit incrementally, social justice and a better future for all.

NCSEHE Fellowships do not end with the release of the final report

For me, being the 2018 NCSEHE Research Fellow and, since then, a NCSEHE Adjunct Fellow is a tremendous honour. The release of the final report did not mark the end of the Fellowship but rather was the launching pad for my Fellowship’s ‘second act’ — to provoke new thinking, to fuel real change and to generate impact.

Impact can take many forms such as policy impact, academic impact, media impact, social impact, capability-building impact and personal career impact. It is this post-Fellowship impact where the real credibility of ones work is forged and meaningful inroads are made. In this post-Fellowship bulletin, I wanted to share with the NCSEHE community the impact yields of my 2018 Fellowship to date.

Fellowship refresher

My Fellowship set out to improve the proportional representation of people from low socioeconomic status (SES) backgrounds in Australian higher education. My Fellowship drew attention to the contemporary career context where traditional ways of planning careers no longer work. In particular, it examined the role of perceived risks in the decision to go (or not to go) to university for students from low SES backgrounds.

The project comprised three studies, with the key outputs being:

  • The University Participation Decision Making Model.
  • Identifying ten types of risk that secondary school students from low SES backgrounds perceive as being associated with the decision to go (or not to go) to university.

Post-Fellowship impact summary

My NCSEHE Fellowship report, booklet and information sheets were released in July 2019, and this generated significant media interest. I was interviewed for an article in The Australian as well as Radio National Breakfast with Fran Kelly. National radio coverage also included Triple J, ABC Radio National with online news coverage on ABC online, The Higher Education Whisperer and National Tribune. Regional radio and news coverage was also generated (e.g. ABC Hobart, Hot 91.1, Mirage News, Sunshine Coast Daily, Noosa Today). There was also significant social media interest, including retweets by influential national (e.g. TEQSA) and international groups (e.g. UK-based World Access to Higher Education Day). Webpage hits and report downloads also indicated interest in, and the relevance of, my work to the broader Australian public. In 2019, there were three universities that I was aware of using my Fellowship findings to enrich their outreach programs.

My Fellowship webinar in August 2019 was well received and led to several invitations to be a guest presenter at national conferences such as the ANU Beyond Year 12 Conference and the 2019 TEQSA Annual Conference. From January to the end of June 2019, I was seconded to the Australian Government Department of Education, Skills and Employment to assist with the National Regional, Rural and Remote Tertiary Education Strategy. I was the only academic on the taskforce. The Minister approved the Strategy recommendations and actions. As such, my work on both the Fellowship and Strategy produced meaningful and highly impactful national outcomes.

From mid-2019, I resumed my regular academic duties, including thesis examination, RHD supervision, publishing, program leadership and teaching. My Fellowship piece for Campus Morning Mail was published in early 2020 which led a further invitation to present my findings. To bring about real change, I have sought to disseminate my work and engage in meaningful ways with stakeholders beyond higher education, including parents and school principals.

To date, I have written two blog articles for the parents of secondary school students and the first of these has been posted in USC Parent Lounge and shared by the NCSEHE. At the grassroots level, I have been the guest presenter at four events for school principals leading to several connections and invitations to share my work in their schools with their executive staff. At one of these presentations, I was also invited to deliver a keynote at a 2021 national career conference.

In terms of career impact, I have co-led two research groups at USC for the last few years and we have brought these together to form the Indigenous and Transcultural Research Centre, which commenced in January 2020. Furthermore, I was thrilled to be promoted to Professor in 2020 and have continued to receive invitations to write and present my Fellowship findings in national fora and by peak organisations. While COVID-19 has resulted in the postponement of most of my 2020 presentation engagements, I hope to resume these in 2021.

The impact of the work of NCSEHE Fellows, like myself, are important in many ways. We all set out to generate impact from our Fellowships and sharing these impacts makes palpable the usefulness of our findings, endows credibility to our work and legitimises ourselves, the NCSEHE and others involved in the pursuit of educational equality and social justice.

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Continue reading Maria’s Post-Fellowship Impact Bulletin.