University experiences of new migrants in Australian regional communities

Year: 2018

Author: Szalkowicz, Giovanna, Harvey, Andrew, Mallman, Mark, Moran, Anthony

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Several Australian regional communities now include large numbers of new migrants, many of whom are from non-English speaking and refugee backgrounds. While relatively little is known about the experiences of new migrants on university campuses, existing Australian and international evidence suggests that some students may face issues of unconscious bias and discrimination (Mangan & Winter, 2017; Morrice, 2013). This paper explores the university experiences and motivations of new migrants in regional Australia and the extent to which regional campuses support ethnic and religious diversity.
The paper reveals the findings from a recent national research report funded by the Australian Government Department of Education and Training into university participation of new migrants in regional communities. The analysis draws on interviews conducted in 2017 across two regional university campuses with students from non-English speaking backgrounds, many of whom are from refugee backgrounds. The participants were asked about their motivations, experiences, challenges and perceived strengths within a regional university context.
Our findings reveal that new migrants were usually strongly motivated to study at university, however their awareness of university admissions processes, course offerings, and expectations was limited. Moreover, participants were broadly satisfied with the attitudes and teaching of their lecturers, the support services available, and the extent to which the campus community was welcoming. Nevertheless, there were reported cases of unconscious bias by students, and most new migrant students reported few friendships with Anglo-Australian students. Diversity was perceived to be tolerated but not actively harnessed, either within or outside the classroom. Our findings contribute new insights to inform strategies concerning how to better support new migrants to succeed at university.
Mangan, D., & Winter, L. A. (2017). (In) validation and (mis) recognition in higher education: the experiences of students from refugee backgrounds. International Journal of Lifelong Education, 1-17.
Morrice, L. (2013). Refugees in higher education: boundaries of belonging and recognition, stigma and exclusion. International Journal of Lifelong Education, 32(5), 652-668. doi:10.1080/02601370.2012.761288