This report summarises key research findings and recommendations of a 2019–20 National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (NCSEHE) funded project entitled, A student-centred approach: understanding higher education pathways through co-design. Through the project, researchers worked closely with RRR stakeholders, including students, school staff (e.g., teachers, principals, career practitioners), and carers (e.g., parents, guardians) to understand the barriers and motivations around post-secondary pathways and careers advice.

The project team utilised a participatory design methodology that integrated stakeholder workshops to uncover participants’ perceptions, experiences, and ideas on what resources or interventions could help to inform students’ decision-making in postsecondary educational pathways and careers. The workshops used a series of scaffolded activities aimed to generate user ideas such as mind maps, role-playing, and storyboarding that helped stakeholders reflect and communicate to the research team.

The findings reveal a remarkable diversity of views among different stakeholders, including students, carers, and school staff. For example, students frequently perceived the major barriers to university to be related to academic difficulty or costs, while carers instead highlighted safety, distance, and cultural issues related to the transition from regional to metropolitan life. School staff, meanwhile, often felt the major barriers were around a lack of information on tertiary options and predicted industry growth areas. Findings convey the need to work both individually and collaboratively with these groups to develop strategies that are informed and mutually supported by students, their carers, and teachers. Higher education institutions and the government also need to address these unique perspectives in both substantive reforms and future messaging and continue to utilise co-design as a mechanism to elevate student voices. This report illustrates how both participant-generated ideas can help reform policy and practice, and how the use of participatory design may facilitate improvement in engagement and communication between government, higher education institutions, industry, schools and communities.

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