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Graduate outcomes and disadvantage in Australia

New research aims to clarify the key determinants of graduate outcomes for equity groups.

Australian higher education equity policy currently focuses on access and participation, with the implicit assumption being that disadvantage will be ameliorated through educational achievement. Less is known, however, as to whether patterns of disadvantage continue post-completion.

A new research project led by ACER Principal Research Fellow Dr Sarah Richardson, in collaboration with Curtin University’s Professor Dawn Bennett and Associate Professor Lynne Roberts, will investigate relationships between disadvantage and graduate outcomes in Australia.

Discussing the project, Dr Richardson said the research team would examine Commonwealth graduate outcome data derived from the 2014 Australian Graduate Survey.

‘The intention of our research is to identify pertinent patterns that suggest whether disadvantage is, or is not, mitigated by higher education completion,’ said Dr Richardson. ‘Our findings will be nuanced by different equity groups, field of education and location, enabling the identification of specific groups either achieving excellent graduate outcomes or facing challenges.

‘The graduate outcomes we’re interested in include employment outcomes, such as type of employment, salary, location of employment and relevance to the degree attained. We’re also interested to know if these graduates have continued to study further.

‘It is our goal to clarify some of the key determinants of graduate outcomes for equity groups. We hope that by identifying contextual factors that appear to be germane in shaping graduate outcomes that our research will contribute to measures that enhance disadvantaged students’ outcomes.’

Dr Richardson’s project, one of 12 funded via the 2015 Student Equity in Higher Education Research Grants Program of the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education at Curtin University, is scheduled to conclude in December 2015. ■

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