Globalisation opportunities for low socio-economic and regional domestic students

Year: 2015

Author: Harvey, Andrew, Sellar, Samantha, Peacock, David, Szallkowicz, Giovanna

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Global citizenship has become central to the mission of most Australian universities. The nature of this institutional commitment takes many forms, including the development of tailored interdisciplinary courses and subjects designed to foster the intercultural capabilities of students. Two of the most prominent global citizenship practices are foreign language offerings and overseas study experiences. The study of languages other than English and participation in outbound mobility programs, in which students travel for international study that is typically tied to their course, or for internships or other experiential learning opportunities that may or may not be for academic credit, are widely promoted by most universities. Language study and outbound mobility thus form twin pillars of institutional globalisation strategies, and are further reflected in Australian Government policies such as the New Colombo Plan and the restriction on universities closing any course seen to involve a strategic language. As universities move to encourage outbound mobility and foreign language study, the equity implications of these strategies require close investigation.
This paper reports findings from a major project funded by the Higher Education Participation and Partnership Programme 2014 National Priorities Pool. The project maps the geo-demographics of outbound mobility and foreign language domestic student cohorts; identifies barriers to participation for low socio-economic status (SES) and regional domestic students; and identifies institutional programmes that facilitate global experiences for these students. The analysis draws on surveys of university administrators and students, focus group interviews with students and institutional data sets relation to participation in language study and outbound mobility.
The paper outlines the extent to which students from regional and low socio-economic status (SES) backgrounds are under-represented within foreign language study and outbound mobility experiences. We will then explore causes of the disparities in participation, which relate to the availability of language offerings in regional and low SES schools, financial pressures facing low SES students, curriculum limitations and a range of cultural and attitudinal differences. Finally, we will investigate whether universities are developing specific policies to support low SES and regional students. As global citizenship becomes integral to the university experience and the value of bachelor degrees, it is important that all Australian students are afforded the opportunity to access outbound mobility experiences and language learning opportunities. This paper contributes new insights to inform policies and programs designed to create such opportunities.