A model of influence: Four key, interacting, influences on rural Queensland students' decisions about higher education and digital media

Year: 2019

Author: Turner, Krystle

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Using Bourdieu’s cultural capital and habitus as a conceptual framework, this research identifies four influences on rural Queensland students’ decisions to pursue higher education and their perceptions of the value of digital media, and develops a model of influence. The influences include family, community, school and digital media. The model illustrates the connections between the influences, and suggests which influences have the greatest impact on students' decisions. Family is at the fore of the influencers, while the other influences work together to build an environment rural students draw on to make decisions about their future.

Understanding how rural students make decisions about higher education is important because rural and remote students remain underrepresented in higher education in Australia. Concurrently, the workforce is transforming with the growth and integration of digital and automated processes into everyday work and life. A digital economy requires workers who are digitally literate and competent. Rural people have lower digital literacy competencies than urban based people. Queensland, which is a largely regionalised state in Australia, has a high percentage of rural students. These circumstances represent the presence of an unequal distribution of opportunity for rural people.

The research draws on 25 interviews conducted with rural Queensland high school students. Findings provide valuable new data around student influences towards higher education and digital media, and highlight possible avenues to improve the dissemination of widening participation initiatives targeting students in rural areas.