First-in-family university students: what helps and hinders success

Year: 2015

Author: Macqueen, Suzanne, Scevak, Jill, Southgate, Erica, Rubin, Mark, Williams, Paul, Douglas, Heather

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

In an era with a focus on widening participation in university education, the under-representation of some social groups has been of particular interest. In Australia there has been considerable focus on students from low socioeconomic status backgrounds, but this categorisation has proven problematic. Currently, students who are of the first generation in their family to attend university are gaining increased attention from researchers and institutions. While some of these students may come from low socioeconomic status backgrounds, not all do. Much of the literature suggests that first-in-family (FiF) students are more likely to struggle at university and to discontinue their studies. The current study sought to investigate factors impacting the HE success of FiF students. A survey was completed by 991 students across a number of degree programs at a regional university with a high enrolment of FiF students, with 328 students identifying as FiF in this sample. In this paper we present data related to factors the students identified as either helping or hindering their progress at university. Results show that categories related to personal factors, outside commitments, curriculum, social support, learning development, resources and teaching staff affected students’ studies. Comparisons are made between factors noted by FiF and non-FiF students. The findings have implications for universities striving to better support FiF students.