Low Socio-Economic Status People and Their Impact on University Participation, Choice of University and Choice of Course in Australia

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Low socio-economic status people and their impact on university participation, choice of university and choice of course in Australia

There seem to be persistent inequalities in Australian higher education participation. Over the last two decades the participation numbers for low socio-economic status group have only slightly improved despite improvements in access (Centre for the Study of Higher Education, 2008, p. 15). After the Bradley report which was written following the review of higher education system in 2008, the Australian government has introduced many policies and financial assistance for this demographic in hope of increasing the participation rates to 20 per cent by 2020 (Department of Education, Employment, and Workplace
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One of the reasons that could explain the current higher education participation numbers by people from low socio-economic background is aspiration. It has to be considered as one of the principal issues in student’s decision making process. According to the English dictionary, to aspire, it means to have a strong desire to achieve something. Consequently, to attend university, an individual needs to aspire to do so. Bowden and Doughney (2010), in their study of secondary students in the western suburbs of Melbourne, have found that those with lower socio-economic status have fewer aspirations to attend university. Instead, they aspire to attend a vocational training institution or gain employment. Difference in aspirations among different demographics is mainly influenced by individual’s social systems, such as class, ethnicity, gender, customs and religion (Bowden & Doughney, 2010, p. 119). Furthermore, in his research for the Department of Education, Science and Training, James has found that there is a strong relationship between parental education levels and young people’s educational aspirations (DEST, 2002, p. 51). Bowden and Doughney’s study results are consistent with James’ findings, as well as Bourdieu’s concept of ‘cultural capital’, which Harker et al. (cited in Webb et al. 2002, p. 22) defined as ‘culturally valued taste and consumption pattern’. Therefore, it can be said that those who come from low socio-economic background are at a
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