An Australian study of graduate outcomes for disadvantaged students

  • Tim Pitman, Lynne Roberts, Dawn Bennett, Sarah Richardson
  • Journal of Further and Higher Education, July 2017, Taylor & Francis
  • DOI: 10.1080/0309877x.2017.1349895

Graduate outcomes for disadvantaged students in Australia

What is it about?

This study asked whether or not disadvantaged students are realizing the same benefits from higher education as their peers. is of fundamental importance to equity practitioners and policymakers. Despite this, equity policy has focused on access to higher education and little attention has been paid to graduate outcomes.

Why is it important?

The question is of fundamental importance to equity practitioners and policymakers because equity policy has focused on access to higher education rather than graduate outcomes.


Professor Dawn Bennett
Curtin University

This study reveals that outcomes are not equal for all students and that higher education disadvantage persists, to varying degrees, for many groups of students after they have completed their studies. Increased access to higher education needs to result in equal rates of post-graduation success, and ensuring success will require multiple approaches. There is also a need to further support these students during their studies. The poorest results relate to women enrolling in science, engineering and IT-related courses, and students from non-English speaking backgrounds. Not only are their rates of access and participation well under their representation in the wider community, these students fail to realize the same post-graduation benefits achieved by most other graduates. We don't yet understand why! We need to ensure positive learning experiences and better support as these students transition into graduate life. It appears that for many students, working while studying fulfills the dual function of providing the economic means to make study possible as well as developing and maintaining the networks and experience required to gain further employment post-graduation. For all equity groups our study highlights the reflexive relationship between work and higher education. Whilst it has long been a bi-partisan political mantra to ‘study for a job’, it is equally true that many students need to have a job in order to study.

Read Publication

The following have contributed to this page: Professor Dawn Bennett