Does access mean success? An attrition analysis of low socio-economic students

Year: 2012

Author: Hughes, Katie

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


This paper examines the Social Inclusion agenda of the Australian Federal Government and its Higher Education Participation and Partnerships program which is dedicated to ensuring that by 2025 40% of all 25-34 year olds have a Bachelor level qualification, and that 20% of all domestic undergraduate students come from low socioeconomic backgrounds by 2020.

Two years into this strategy, the paper will explore the massification of higher education and its impact on a university which already enrols 22.1% of its students from low socioeconomic backgrounds, whose mission is to serve diverse local communities and whose students are traditionally the first in family to enter higher education. Whilst access is relatively open, the ability of the university to retain students with limited academic literacies to graduation is less certain.

Two mixed-method research projects were developed to better understand the demographic and social triggers of attrition amongst these students: firstly, the 'Flag and Follow' project which tracked those enrolling with high-risk demographic characteristics for attrition and interventions made to facilitate retention, and the 'Yet to Complete: Attrition Survey' which interrogated the sources of attrition with the commencing students who left in 2012 (n=2200).

This paper will report on these data and explore the ways in which they differ from attrition and retention literature dealing with students with greater cultural and social capital.