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You are reading: Closing the policy–practice gap for low-SES students in higher education: the pedagogical challenge

Written by Dr Glyn Thomas (University of Queensland)

Published in Higher Education Research & Development Vol 33 Issue 4

Published 19 Dec 2013


This paper reports on an interpretivist research study that sought to articulate the strategies being adopted by selected universities to recruit, teach and retain students from low socio-economic status (SES) backgrounds. The literature is clear that these students face more barriers and fewer encouragers than their peers to engage with higher education and that the institutional habitus of universities, including their pedagogies, does not always work in their favour – creating an impression that they do not belong. Using a naturalistic inquiry approach, 19 semi-structured interviews were conducted with teachers and leaders from 12 Australian universities with a regional focus. Findings suggest that while these universities have successfully developed initiatives to recruit and support students from low SES backgrounds, less attention is being directed to the teaching and learning challenges and opportunities created by increased student diversity. New thinking, effective curricula and pedagogies, and transformative staff-development programmes are needed to capitalise on the potential benefits of a more socially diverse cohort.

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Thomas, G. “Closing the policy-practice gap for low-SES students in higher education: the pedagogical challenge.” Higher Education Research & Development, 33(4). 807-820. DOI: 10.1080/07294360.2013.863846.