All students in Australia, regardless of where they live, should be encouraged to pursue their educational goals. However, a child born in remote Australia is only one third as likely to go to university as a child born in a major city (Cassells et al., 2017). Moreover, of those who attend university, the completion rates are lower (60.33 per cent) than their regional (69.37 per cent) and metropolitan (74.87 per cent) peers (Department of Education and Training, 2017a). This study explored the principles of good practice that support the success of university students who come from remote Australia.
The research confirms that remote students are not just a component of a larger regional cohort, but are a distinct group in themselves. Moreover, remote students often have unique knowledge, capabilities and perspectives that are a valuable part of a wider Australian culture. There is a compelling case to explore the great potential that remote Australia, its cultures and people have to offer.
The research in this report was made possible by an Equity Fellowship in 2017 from the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (NCSEHE) and the Department of Education and Training (DET). It examined ways in which universities and public policy could support remote students’ success. The research adopted a mixed-methods approach. Analysis of national datasets was undertaken to identify the unique characteristics of the ‘remote’ student cohort as a separate group, instead of it being subsumed within the broader ‘regional and remote’ equity category. Qualitative methods involved case studies of three universities, to identify ways in which the government and universities can better support remote student success. Interviews were conducted with 14 remote students and 13 staff members. Themes arising from these interviews, along with an examination of institutional strategies, a review of the existing literature, and a study tour of Canadian universities have led to the findings reported here.