Uni’s quest for equal study opportunities

Federation University will use three recently awarded research grants to help break the barriers faced by students from low socioeconomic backgrounds.

The university hopes the projects will better equip it to increase low socioeconomic status enrolments and support these students throughout their studies.

Currently 33 per cent of students at the Churchill campus are from low socioeconomic backgrounds.

“There is much known about the factors that contribute to students dropping out but less about what works to help them stay at university,” Federation University deputy Vice-Chancellor (Learning and Quality) Professor Marcia Devlin said.

“Our (first) project will focus on these success factors.”

The second research assignment will be a collaboration with other Australian universities and focus on how tertiary education providers utilise funding designed to support disadvantage students.

“How do we know we are doing the best with the money or should we use that elsewhere?” Prof Devlin said.

“(We will determine if we do) through a proposed comparative evaluation of the efficacy of the approaches each partner university employs to guide the prioritisation, management and evaluate of the outcomes of initiatives.”

A third project will develop resources to attract and support care leavers – people who have spent time in foster care, kinship care and out-of-home care – to complete tertiary education.

Federation University Associate Professor Jacqueline Wilson is a care leaver and will represent the university as a member of the project.

“Care leavers are among the most disadvantaged young people with the lowest rates of university education participation in Australia,” Associate Professor Wilson said.

Professor Devlin said the research projects were vital in ensuring the university was supporting low SES students in the best way possible.

“That’s what FedUni is about – offering opportunities to people who otherwise wouldn’t have them,” she said.

“It is just important for us to work really hard and make sure what we are doing is targeted the right way. These grants will allow us to do so.”