22 SES 12 D, Inclusion and Diversity in Higher Education Settings
Parallel Paper Session
In Australia, in common with Europe and the USA, Higher Education institutions are grappling with national imperatives to widen participation, particularly with regard to traditionally marginalized groups. In Europe, following the Bologna Declaration (1999) emphasis has been on “fostering the potential of students from underrepresented groups and by providing adequate conditions for the completion of their studies.” (EU, 2009, p.2). In Australia, these imperatives have been articulated as recommendations in a nationally commissioned report, the Bradley Review (Commonwealth of Australia, 2008) which focuses on specific targets for increasing access to and participation in Higher Education. The report articulates the need for universities to develop effective transition and retention strategies and university funding, is now predicated on the achievement of specific participation targets. How universities respond to the significant challenges presented by potential open-access to tertiary education is becoming prominent international research and policy.
Changing demographics, transition and retention strategies and the importance of focusing on the student experience has generated an important body of national research in Australia in transition pedagogy (Kift , Nelson & Kift, 2008, Krause, Hartley, James & McInnis 2005; McInnis,James & Hartley 2000; McInnis & James with McNaught 1995, ) as well as an emergent field of international qualitative studies focusing on student experience within particular courses and institutions (Yorke 1999,2006; Yorke & Longden, 2007). Empirical research both in Australia and overseas(for example AUSSE, 2010; Yorke & Longden, 2007) points to the importance of generating contextualized data to support policy and practice in enhancing student experience and achievement.
James Cook University has campuses in remote and regional Queensland and its student demographic reflects higher proportions of students from traditionally marginalized groups. The institution already has a number of support initiatives in place for commencing students. However, new policy and accountability measures have provided an opportunity (and an imperative) to investigate and evaluate whole-of –institution responses to the conflating challenges that aspiration, access, expectation, geography, socio-economics, academic standards and student transition and support present to the institution in an environment of economic constraint and stringent performativity measures.
This paper seeks to contribute to contribute to the emerging field of international research into ways of investigating and interrogating the nature of the student experience of traditionally marginalised groups as widening participation policy-in-action unfolds. The paper describes the theoretical and methodological framework employed by researchers at James Cook University, Queensland, Australia as they embark on a three year a pilot study into the transition experiences of purposively sampled commencing students and the development of an evidence-led sustainable transition framework across the institution.
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