Department of Veterans’ Affairs

From the military to the academy: supporting younger military veterans in Australian higher education

In February 2019, the Centre for Higher Education Equity and Diversity Research (CHEEDR) received funding for a new project aimed at increasing access and support of student veterans in Australian higher education. The project is led by Associate Professor Andrew Harvey and Lisa Andrewartha, with colleagues from the Australian Student Veterans Association, Australian Catholic University, Charles Darwin University, and Western Sydney University. Funding has been provided by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs through the Supporting Younger Veterans Grant Program ($181,000).

This new project builds on previous research led by CHEEDR highlighting the unique combination of skills, experiences, and perspectives that student veterans bring to higher education. A recent journal article also outlined the many challenges that student veterans can face at university, and offered recommendations on the types of support that can promote their success and wellbeing.

The current project aims to: increase recruitment and identification of veterans on campus; provide tailored support and advice to student veterans; increase peer support for student veterans; and embed support for student veterans in mainstream university practices. The team will also advocate for changes to university application processes so Australian Defence Force experience and prior learning can be consistently recognised.

Supporting younger veterans to succeed in higher education

In 2017, the Centre for Higher Education Equity and Diversity Research (CHEEDR) received a $21,976 grant from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs Supporting Younger Veterans program. The grants program supports the needs of younger military veterans as they leave the Australian Defence Force and integrate back into civilian life. The successful project, ‘Supporting younger veterans to succeed in higher education’, was led by A/Prof Andrew Harvey and Lisa Andrewartha. Working with the Australian Student Veterans Association (ASVA), the researchers aimed to redress the lack of national research into the number of younger veterans at university, their specific needs and strengths, and their graduate outcomes. The project asked for student veterans’ views on: barriers to accessing higher education; the potential to improve support services; strengths that veterans bring to their studies; formal recognition for military service; and the potential to develop and expand ASVA chapters across Australian campuses. Our research found that veterans were largely invisible within Australian higher education. Only one third of survey respondents disclosed their military status to their institution, many student veterans did not feel a sense of belonging on campus, and many felt that university culture was not respectful or appreciative of their military service. The project identified the need for: improved processes for identifying and monitoring student veterans; greater institutional awareness and recognition of the unique strengths and challenges of student veterans; and increased support for student veterans to promote their wellbeing and success at university. The final report was submitted to the Department of Veteran’s Affairs in June 2018.