NON-TRADITIONAL STUDENTS IN AUSTRALIAN HIGHER EDUCATION: PERSISTENT INEQUITIES AND THE NEW IDEOLOGY OF ‘STUDENT CHOICE’


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Abstract

Despite the expansion of access to Australian higher education in the past decade, the participation shares of rural and isolated people and people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds have altered little and remain unacceptably low. This paper reports findings from two national studies at the Centre for the Study of Higher Education that have examined student choices about higher education, especially the inhibiting factors still present for non-traditional students. The discussion focuses on the dilemmas and challenges for Australian universities in balancing the adoption of entrepreneurial approaches to student recruitment with an unfinished equity agenda. The paper raises questions about the new ideology of individual choice influencing university policy and whether or not this can be reconciled with social equity objectives.

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