Background

Why was this report was completed?

“Can’t be what you can’t see: The transition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students into higher education” (SI11-2138) was instigated by the Indigenous Higher Education Advisory Committee (IHEAC) in 2011 to support the work of the Indigenous Higher Education Review (IHER), the findings of which were published in September 2012 (Behrendt et al., 2012). The University of Notre Dame Australia (UNDA) led a successful Expression of Interest (EOI) in partnership with Southern Cross University (SCU) and the Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education (BIITE). The project’s purpose was to identify key enablers and constraints for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in transition to higher education with a specific focus on models of successful transitions relating to access, participation, retention, and completion. Wherever possible, within the constraints of data and information availability (refer project’s literature review for more detail), special consideration was given to ‘under-represented groups’ identified by the IHEAC including: women who are principal carers; students with a disability; young men; remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students; and prisoners.

Who is this report for?

The target audience for the research is university staff members engaged in supporting successful transitions for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students into higher education. This includes those employed within IEUs within universities, as well as senior managers and executive staff members of universities seeking to implement models of success for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander student transitions. The findings are also of value to government, non-government and commercial groups engaged in supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander student success. The project engaged student perspectives, but was not primarily aimed at a student audience as a related project of the same title (SI11-2137) was funded concurrently by the Office for Learning and Teaching (OLT) predecessor agency and focused on student perspectives of making a transition into higher education. The project’s findings will be disseminated via: a dedicated project website; the literature review with its various components; publications arising from the findings; the final report including the identification of the key elements and principles of leading practice in this area for uptake across the sector; and conference and workshop presentations.

What does the report do?

The report builds on the work of the literature review which documented (from academic literature; reports; grey literature [unpublished documents or highly relevant reports]; university websites, etc.); exisiting knowledge—and the knowledge gaps—relating to the key enablers, constraints, and current initiatives to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and certain of the under-represented groups to transition successfully to higher education. This report also builds on the recent Review of higher education access and outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people: Final Report (IHER) (2012) which reviewed and made recommendations on higher education access and outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Through documenting the findings of interviews with academic and professional staff members working across Australian universities at all levels of the university hierarchy, this report substantially builds on this existing body of knowledge. It identifies elements of leading practice toward the development of leading practice models for the transition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to higher education.

Key objectives

The project addressed the four key objectives as outlined in the OLT request for expressions of interest:

  1. What are the key enablers and constraints to successful transition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students into higher education? Particular consideration, where data and information was available, was given to ‘under-represented groups’ identified by OLT which included:
    • women who are principal carers
    • young men
    • young people not transitioning from VET
    • people with disabilities
    • people in the prison system, and
    • remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.
  2. What are the best practice models or frameworks that can be utilised to achieve successful transitions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to higher education?
  3. Why are current initiatives, intended to support under-represented groups, not delivering intended outcomes?
  4. What strategies will assist potential Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to transition successfully into higher education?