How Are Students From Refugee Backgrounds Faring In Higher Education?

Year: 2015

Author: Terry, Leslie, Naylor, Ryan, Ngyuyen, Nga, Rizzo, Alberto

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Since 2008-2009, Australia has approved more than 60,000 visas under its Special Humanitarian Programme (SHP), with 20,019 being granted in the period 2012-2013. Selected researchers (see, for example, Zammit and Vickers 2011, Ben Moshe et al. 2008 & Earnst et al. 2010) have found that SHP participants experience major obstacles –linguistic and cultural barriers, lack of information, inappropriate teaching styles – in achieving full participation at the tertiary level. Even though these qualitative studies have made a significant contribution to the field, they have tended to focus on developing strategies for inclusion within a single or small number of sites, while also ‘treating’ the concept of ‘refugee’ as a homogenous category. Consequently the proposed forms of action remain at a generic level. So how are the diverse refugee communities faring in regard their ‘access’ and ‘participation’ in this phase of education? This paper presents the results of a scoping inquiry that accessed Commonwealth data (2006 – 2014) relating to the patterns of participation of students from refugee background in the national system of higher education. In this session quantitative data will be presented on, among other things, the numbers of SHP students from across the university system, course selection and retention, and trends in terms of gender. In addition, the session will explore the figures on the relationship of particular SHP communities with universities. Discussion will also spotlight the development of a framework for the on-going monitoring of equity issues in relation to students from these groups and explore what might constitute the elements of model targeted community ‘engagement’ projects across the university system.

Key words: Refugee, access and equity, higher education, Special Humanitarian Programme