Australian higher education establishments aim to enhance the learning experiences of students from low socioeconomic backgrounds. The goal is to increase access to and participation of all groups in the community.
Tim Pitman (2012) argues that there has been the development of distinctive outline that embodies an Australian conception of inclusive teaching in higher education, as well as its approaches to teaching and supporting students who come to university through funding to a range of higher education contexts and to enhancing the experience of all students, irrespective of background. Leesa Wheelahan (2009) also contends that students from lower-status pathways deepen participation in education through existing social groups support to achieve equity of socioeconomic profile and institutional destination of student transfers from vocational education to train to reach higher education in Australia.
It will also discuss the effective approaches to teaching, supporting and providing advanced education to students and socioeconomic equity maintenance for lower-status vocational education, as well as low-SES students who struggle throughout university. Tim Pitman (2012, p.1) quoted, “location and mode of learning have got to be crucial factors. But I believe many disadvantaged students discard university at too early an age, for variety of reasons. This is why I would like to see UNIS doing more to encourage them from a much earlier age.” This is a quote passage contributing to higher education at a younger age, as well as its approaches to teaching and supporting students who goes to university. Students from low-SES background, it is not the cost of university study, but the cost of actually being able to live while studying, that is a big barrier. This is my factor to why there are fewer numbers of low-SES students attending universities.
Australian public universities need to be more inclusive, mainly when it comes to enrolling poorer students. For example, Marcia Devlin (2012) argues that undergraduate students enrolled in universities from low socio-economic status (SES) backgrounds are marked as inadequate when the public education system benefits from wealthier students more than others. This’ according to Tim Pitman (2012) arguably, unfair (p.1). Admission into undergraduate courses is highly competitive, so universities need to increase low-SES students’ enrolment through specific strategies to approach the subject. Universities are quick to point out that educational inequality occurs before they get involved, but could be a more deliberate to part of the solution as education expert, Gavin Moodie has observed.
Undergraduate students who are not benefited as much as wealthier students do also have a positive link between education and improvement such as health and economic outcomes as has been proven through evidence to discourage negative outcomes such as crime. Tim Pitman (2012) speaking of strategies and approaches to increase low-SES enrolments said an effective measure would be to provide a quota for disadvantaged students, but universities see this as compromising entry standards. A second option is to use compensatory scaling.
For example, the university of Sydney uses Broadway Scheme with an ATAR of 5 rank points, the performance of universities using this method suggest that either poor students do not qualify for the schemes, or if they do qualify, then compensation provided is insufficient. The last approach is that universities could consider each claim on a case-by-case basis. Universities already do this but the process is naturally highly subjective and, based on current data, does not appear to be working. Universities will start making a difference when they start to work with disadvantaged students and their parents, but at this period universities will continue using direct measures, notably money (University of Sydney 2010).
Tim Pitman (2012) mentioned that universities reflect the problem with SES students is that their early education has been poorer and therefore they are of a lower standard. The reason this author presents this is because admission into undergraduate courses is highly competitive, so universities need to have specific strategies to increase low-SES students enrolments, which is a challenge. Universities came to a legitimate agreement that following the ‘fixed-price carbon trading scheme,’ this would allow the government to set more realistic price to support low-SES students to enrol without increasing funds.
The barriers to low-SES access and success at university were complex and interrelated, with many long term and cultural components (p. 9, 1.1). Any efforts made by the university to recover outcomes for people from low-SES backgrounds had to integrate outreach access and support programs and spread beyond simple special entry schemes which have, to date, demonstrated slight effects in improving national rates of access (NBEET/HEC 1996). The authors Eleanor Ramsay, Deborah Tranter, Simon Charlton and Robert Sumner (1997), argued that the universities Scheme, or USANET, is aiming to address particular needs of students with individual economic and educational disadvantage, result from their low-SES status.
University of South Australia has implemented a range if strategies and their aims were to increase access and participation of people in the six targeted equity groups identified by the Commonwealth. Despite this, the authors Eleanor Ramsay, Deborah Tranter, Simon Charlton and Robert Sumner (1997), argued that the university’s special access scheme, or USANET, was design to address the particular needs of students who experienced individual educational disadvantage (p.9). In 1998, the university expanded the scheme to widen opportunities for students from isolated country schools.
The scheme incorporates three components: outreach, access and support. The need to investigate trends in Australian higher education institutional access and equity policies in the context of a mass higher education system has been identified including trends in criteria for entry to higher education and the implications of these on institutional structures, as well as teaching approaches and standards.
Eleanor Ramsay, Deborah Tranter, Simon Charlton and Robert Sumner (1997) clarified that under the USANET scheme an increasing proportion of applicants from these schools are enrolling at the University of South Australia. Compared with other school leavers, the two USANET groups tend to be older, more likely to be studying full time and much more likely to be from Low SES and non-English speaking backgrounds.
Social inclusion policies in Australian tertiary education focus on the underrepresentation of students from disadvantaged backgrounds and rarely call attention to the over-representation of students from more privileged backgrounds. This casts disadvantage as attributes that are lacking in students from disadvantaged backgrounds, thus obscuring the social conditions that structure disadvantage and privilege.
As an example, the Australian government routinely publishes statistics on access and participation levels of students from low socio-economic backgrounds in HE, but it does not do so for students from middle or high socio-economic backgrounds. Pathways are seen as one mechanism to redress disadvantage because of the ‘second chance’ they provide to those who do not have the necessary levels of achievement to access HE, and in so doing, reinforces the notion that students need a second-chance because of their presumed deficits, rather than the institutional practices of universities and the extent to which they are prepared to accept such students.
Leesa Wheelahan (2009) argued that educational pathways deepen participation in education by existing social groups but do not effectively widen participation for groups that do not have reasonable access. Australian government policies emphasise pathways between the vocational education and training (VET) and higher education (HE) sectors as an important component of equity policies (p.1). One of the outcomes of this paper is that equity in HE cannot be considered independently of equity in VET. Leesa Wheelahan (2009) therefore needs to rethink the nature of VET and HE as separate and distinct fields and to reconsider the nature of the boundaries between them.
Lessa Wheelahan described that student who is from disadvantaged backgrounds benefit most from pathways because it’s known to redress disadvantage, they are accessible and flexible second chance education as they provide to those who do not have the necessary levels of achievement. All students deserve a second chance; it is an effective awareness to the extended society for those students to have capability to access higher education.
The decision whether or not to undertake higher education studies is influenced by a wide range of economic, social and educational reasons. Some individuals will choose not to undertake higher education studies as the other options open to them, for example in the labour market, will be more attractive. For others, for whom higher education studies may be a sound choice, real or perceived barriers may impede them in undertaking higher education. These will include inadequate financial resources, lack of family or peer support, language difficulties and cultural alienation.
Andrews (1999) argued that successive Australian Governments have had a commitment to removing the barriers and improving the access of disadvantaged groups to higher education (p.1). According to Andrews, Les, over the past decade effort has been directed at improving the participation of students from low socio-economic status (SES) backgrounds in higher education.
The participation of young people from such backgrounds remains low, however. Ever since its introduction some commentators have identified the Higher Education Contribution Scheme (HECS) as a contributing factor in the inequitable access to higher education. This paper attempts to identify what factors account for this low participation among low SES individuals and ascertain whether the introduction of HECS in 1989 and subsequent changes to that Scheme may have provided particular disincentives for such students.
The Australian government and universities are attempting to improve participation and the experiences of students from low-SES backgrounds. There are still cultural, social, employment and financial barriers to accessing higher education, however improvements in policy are definitely improving the educational situation. The introduction of USANET has had a positive impact on the experience of low SES students along with strategies to increase low-SES students enrolments as universities came to a legitimate agreement following the ‘fixed-price carbon trading scheme,’ this would allow the government to set more realistic prices to support low-SES students to enrol without increasing funds.