When uni drop out happens, it can be tempting to balme the student. But this is simplistic thinking at its worst.
The ways in which students from low socio-economic status in Australian higher education are thought about and talked about need some careful examination.
There are deficit conceptions of students from low socio-economic backgrounds and deficit conceptions of the institutions in which they study. But is there a more useful and progressive framing of the widening participation agenda?
The Australian federal government has set an ambitious target in an attempt to address the under-representation of students from low socioeconomic status (low SES) backgrounds in higher education: that by the year 2020, twenty per cent of higher education enrolments at undergraduate level should be from students from low SES backgrounds.
The caps are coming off and university administrations are nervous. Just what a demand driven system means for university recruitment, no-one really knows for sure. What I know for sure is that as well as ensuring recruitment targets are met, we need to be ready to ensure the success of the students we recruit, especially the ones who are from underprivileged backgrounds.
I think we should give them all schoalrships, bursaries, stipends and all the other versions of free money available. Lucky I don't rule the university world or we'd be spending a bit of money (and maybe keeping more students to completion...ahem).
We also need to assist those who aren't familiar with the discourses and norms of higher education to understand what is expected of them as university students and to learn to perform in ways that ensure their success. Easy to type, hard to do. But some research I led last year has some cool tips.