Multiple equity issues and educational disadvantage (Dr. Julie Willems)

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Educational disadvantage and equity (under-represented) groups in the Australian context

  • Considerations of equity and access to higher education in an Australian context have been an increasing focus of attention by all educational stakeholders over the past 30+ years.
  • Initially, six equity groups of educationally-disadvantaged student groups were noted in the federal government’s publication A Fair Chance for All (1990).
  • These six groups were: students of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island descent (Indigenous students); female students (particularly in non-traditional and postgraduate study); students who have a disability; rural and isolated students; students from non-English speaking backgrounds (NESB); and students with a low socio-economic status (SES) (DETYA, 1999, p.1).
  • These equity groups were later operationally defined in the so-named Martin Report (Martin, 1994).
  • Following the recommendations of the Bradley Report (Bradley et al., 2008), the pre-existing six identified equity groups, have been replaced with the four identified under-represented groups: Indigenous students; low SES; regional and remote students.
  • There are national calls for a refocusing of research on equity in higher education (Bradley et al, 2008) and access to higher education of these groups by the setting of targets for institutional providers (Gillard, 2009).
  • Distance education is a means by which these targets may be met.

Equity sub-groups

  • Equity sub-groups which potentially affect the opprtunities of all students to access, participate, and successfully complete formal education, irrespective of the context, or whether they are already recognised members of an under-represented (equity) group of the educationally disadvantaged.
  • Equity sub-groups explain the gradients of disadvantage experienced by students in under-represented groups in education, in addition to the broader student population.
  • If you would like to participate in the Delphi project on defining equity sub-groups, please participate in the survey questionnaire at the following URL: