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Supporting educational aspirations of people with disability


Friday, 8 Sep 2017

People living with disability are looking to higher education as a path to engaging with meaningful activity in their community, particularly in regional areas. But can our regional universities support these aspirations?

Researchers from five universities including Charles Sturt University (CSU) are currently investigating the experiences of people with disability who aspire to complete a university course in regional Australia.

The research team is now calling for people with disability in regional areas from Wangaratta in Victoria to Port Macquarie in NSW to share their experiences of higher education, particularly those:

  • currently at high school in Years 10 and 11 and who are interested to go to university; and,
  • mature aged people who  haven't been to university but are interested in study.

Clare Wilding"We want to interview volunteers from regional communities to understand their perceptions of higher education. We are investigating the barriers for people with disability in undertaking a university course," said CSU researcher Dr Clare Wilding.

"The uptake of higher education by people with disability is lower in regional areas than for their city counterparts," Dr Wilding said.

"According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, people with disability are more likely to have lower levels of educational attainment. Furthermore, data from the bureau showed that there are more people aged 15 to 64 years living with disability in regional areas – around 18 per cent - than those living in major cities, which is 13 per cent. So we should see a higher proportion of students with disability from regional areas attending university."

"However, only two per cent of people with disability living in Australia's regional or remote areas are currently studying in higher education, compared with four per cent in a major city.

"We want to find out why this pattern is happening, and how universities, governments and the community can address the problem," she said.

As part of the project, the researchers have already surveyed and interviewed students with disability who are currently enrolled in regional universities.

"Through this research, we hope to improve access and participation in higher education by regional people with disability, particularly those from a low socio-economic background," Dr Wilding said.

The upcoming round of interviews will be conducted using media to suit the volunteer participants: by telephone, instant messaging, Skype, email or face-to-face. People wishing to participate should contact Ms Kate Freire on (02) 6051 9355 or email kfreire@csu.edu.au.

The researchers aim to complete and analyse the interviews before the end of 2017, and report final recommendations to the Federal Department of Education by the middle of 2018.

Media contact: Wes Ward, 0417 125 795

Media Note:

Interviews with project researcher Dr Clare Wilding are available through CSU Media.

The research project, titled "Understanding how regionality and socioeconomic status intersect with disability", is funded by the Federal Department of Education.

The project has been approved by the CSU Human Ethics Committee, project number H17124.

Other partners in the project are Federation University in Victoria, and University of Southern Queensland, Central Queensland University and James Cook University in Queensland.

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