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: Interpreting the first-year experience of a non-traditional student: A case study

Judith Kearney, Glenda Stanley and Gina Blackberry (Griffith University).

Published in Student Success 2018 STARS Conference Special Issue.


This article concerns non-traditional students’ involvement in Australian higher education. It aims to deepen understanding of enabling and constraining factors for this group’s retention, through an in-depth case study of a non-traditional student’s university experience. The study is underpinned by principles of phenomenology, hermeneutics and idiography with data analysis involving an inductive coding process and a thematic analysis. Findings draw attention to the need to provide support for non-traditional university students in developing a sense of connectedness and resourcefulness. The study makes an original contribution to knowledge by challenging the assumption that western theories of psychology, which privilege an individualist perspective, adequately explain and predict behaviours of non-traditional students who are members of collective social systems. It emphasises the need for researchers and practitioners to adopt an interpretative stance that accommodates a collectivist perspective. Without this approach, student behaviours may be misinterpreted and their circumstances may be unfairly undervalued.

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