Overview of the project
This research was funded by the Learning and Teaching Excellence Branch of the federal Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR). The research contributes to enhancing the learning and experiences of students from low socioeconomic status (LSES) in Australian higher education. The research identifies and documents successful initiatives and has created a new, easy-to-use and adaptable set of resources to assist institutions to effectively implement policies, programs and practices to facilitate the success of students from LSES backgrounds enrolled in higher education institutions in Australia. These resources can be accessed by clicking on the links below:
A key feature of this research project has been the development of a distinctive framework that embodies an Australian conception of inclusive teaching in higher education. The project has focused on effective approaches to teaching and supporting students who come to university with greater diversity in preparedness and in social and cultural capital. The findings are applicable to a range of higher education contexts and to enhancing the experience of all students, irrespective of background.
The project commenced in February, 2011 and will be completed by October 2012. We warmly welcome and encourage engagement and contributions from colleagues across the sector – please do not hesitate to contact any member of the project team if you would like to add to our resources or talk to us about the research. Our contact details can be found on the About us page.
In 2009, the Australian Government set a target for the Australian higher education sector that, by 2020, 20% of university students are to come from LSES backgrounds. In focusing attention on the participation of these students, the government has also acknowledged that, having entered university, 'students from disadvantaged backgrounds [often] require higher levels of support to succeed, including greater academic support' (Australian Government 2009a: 14).
Central to this academic support is the quality of the teaching that students experience in higher education. The Government has since proposed a set of Performance Indicators for Australian higher education to be used in the allocation of funding to institutions (Australian Government 2009b). The Indicators include performance in relation to the participation of low SES students and their experience in higher education.
The research will include a literature review and an environmental scan of the available evidence of curricular and co-curricular initiatives, and leadership arrangements, that contribute to the effective engagement and learning of students from LSES backgrounds. Interviews with staff and students at universities, and particular campuses of universities, where there are high proportions of students from LSES backgrounds will interrogate existing expertise within the Australian context where it is already concentrated. Feedback on a preliminary discussion paper based on the findings from the literature and interviews will be used to develop the proposed new resources. Finally, there will be a formal launch of the project resources.
The research will generate a new integrated national resource. It will comprise five interrelated sets of materials and exemplars, all of which will be made available to the sector via the project website:
- A conceptual framework relevant to the Australian context
- Advice for policy makers and teaching and learning leaders
- Practical guidelines for academic staff
- Materials to support professional development
- A repository of effective policy, programs and practice
In addition to the national launch and promotion, a continual dissemination program will incorporate the involvement of multiple learning and teaching leaders and practitioners throughout the project, a continuously updated website, conference presentations and journal articles and extensive media promotion. If you would like to contribute to the project, please do not hesitate to contact a member of the team.
Australian Government (2009a). Transforming Australia's Higher Education System. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia. Retrieved June 13, 2009 from http://www.deewr.gov.au/HigherEducation/Documents/PDF/Additional Report - Transforming Aus Higher ED_webaw.pdf
Australian Government (2009b). Indicator Framework - An Indicator Framework for Higher Education Performance Funding. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia.