Indigenous Australians

Read Complete Research Material


Participation of Indigenous Australian Students in Universities

Participation of Indigenous Australian Students in Universities


Indigenous Australians are relatively disadvantaged in the Australian higher education system as a result of underrepresentation, among other socio-economic factors. Australian universities proposed several reforms to their selection processes in order to improve Indigenous Australian participation in universities. This paper analyses past trends in Indigenous Australian students' participation, in higher education, based on statistics from the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR). The paper also evaluates the social and psychological forces that work to explain these trends such as SES, Parson's meritocracy and Bourdieu's cultural capital, assessing how being part of this demographic influences Indigenous Australian students' choices of courses in higher education, as well as opportunities in employment after graduation. This paper recognizes that educational and employment prospects for this demographic are scarce, reflected in current trends and existing literature on the subject.


Trends in Indigenous Australian Students' Participation in Universities


The graph above illustrates offer and acceptance rates by Indigenous status for the year 2011, retrieved from DEEWR's Undergraduate Applications, Offers and Acceptances 2011 Report.

Indigenous groups represent approximately 2.5% of the Australian population; however, they compose only about 1.1% of the total number of applications to university. DEEWR estimates illustrate these trends of Indigenous underrepresentation through statistical evidence from the pool of applications for higher education in 2011. Statistics confirm that the offer-rate for Indigenous students is 4.3% points lower than non-Indigenous students. Trend analysis proves that Indigenous people are underrepresented at universities as the growth in applications from Indigenous students lowered marginally in the year 2011. Compared to the previous year, statistics showed a decrease in Indigenous applications by 51 applicants. Offers, however, increased by more than 100, showing some promise in the representation of Indigenous students in universities (DEEWR pp.49-50).

Indigenous applications in Queensland and New South Wales totalled 1.5%, whereas only reached up to 0.6% in Victoria and 107% in Western Australia. The figures were relatively lower for Western Australia, considering that 3.4% of its population is Indigenous (DEEWR p.50). These figures suggest that some applicants may be reluctant to identify their Indigenous status. Naturally, the hesitation in identifying with their ethnicity suggests some socio-psychological forces at play.

Choice of Courses

Statistics suggest that Indigenous students prefer courses in the national priority areas, for instance, Health and Education. They shy away from courses like Management and Commerce. The preference of courses in universities between Indigenous students and non-Indigenous students, however, is markedly different. Existing literature recognizes this to the effect that many sociological and psychological researches recommend incorporating Australian Indigenous culture as a part of the curriculum. Doing this will enhance existing career prospects for Australian Indigenous students and lead to greater integration in the Australian system of higher education.

In “Choices of Degree or Degrees of Choice? Class, 'Race' and the Higher Education Choice Process”, Reay et al. examine narratives that describe racial, ethnic, and class disparities when studying non-traditional applicants to higher education. The experiences of the choice process are intrinsically different for non-traditional applicants ...
Related Ads