The overarching objective of the 2020 NCSEHE Equity Fellowship was to explore risks to university completion for those in regional, rural and remote locations of Australia. While the original proposal focused on regional students, the participation of some from remote regions broadened this focus. However, to also be inclusive of rural students, the acronym ‘RRR’ will be adopted throughout the report, as widely accepted when referring collectively to regional, rural and remote. Where appropriate, distinctions will be made between these groupings.
The problem motivating the Fellowship inquiry was the consistently low rates of university completion for RRR students over the past decade. According to Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data (2021), the proportion of RRR people with a degree qualification remains half that of people in major cities. Thus, the aim of the fellowship was to understand what factors contribute to this persistent disparity, and by taking a strengths-based approach, to also capture what enables students to persist.