National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (NCSEHE)

Supporting carers to succeed in Australian higher education

La Trobe received a $18,120 research grant from the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education’s (NCSEHE) 2019 funding round. This project will establish the first major evidential base for carers in Australian higher education. This project will examine available national data sets to create a geo-demographic profile of carers; work with Carers Australia (Victoria) to identify and survey carers who have studied at university; and analyse admissions policies at university level, including the treatment of carers through the Special Education Access Scheme (SEAS) within the Tertiary Admissions Centres (TACs). This project will support policy makers to improve the university access, success and outcomes of student carers. The project is led by La Trobe, represented by Lisa Andrewartha, Giovanna Szalkowicz and Associate Professor Andrew Harvey. Carers Australia (Victoria) is a partner on this project.

An institutional study of ‘Ghost Student’ failure amongst equity cohorts

La Trobe received a $17,550 research grant from the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education’s (NCSEHE) 2019 funding round. The project will utilise longitudinal enrolment data from a metropolitan university with regional campuses and quantify patterns of non-participating enrolments (NPE) among disadvantaged and under-represented student cohorts. Every year a significant minority of students will remain enrolled in a unit and incur a financial liability but exhibit no evidence of having participated in the unit. Early evidence suggests this behaviour is a leading indicator of degree non-completion and is significantly more likely among equity student groups. The project is led by La Trobe, represented by Dr Bret Stephenson, Michael Luckman, Yujie Wang and Beni Cakitaki.

Australian universities and educational equity for student veterans

La Trobe received a $36,230 research grant from the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education’s (NCSEHE) 2019 funding round. Existing research on veterans at Australian universities has highlighted some of the difficulties facing student veterans’ participation in higher education. There is little information about how Australian universities recognise, support and govern student veterans. This project will investigate how Australian universities, and key government departments, address the educational equity needs of student veterans. The project will examine how universities across four states (SA, VIC, NSW and QLD) identify, prepare and support veterans in higher education. The project will involve interviews, focus groups, university consultation seminars, and document analyses. The project is led by Associate Professor Ben Wadham from Flinders University. La Trobe is represented by Associate Professor Andrew Harvey and Lisa Andrewartha. Other project partners include Dr Melanie Takarangi (Flinders University), Dr Brad West (University of South Australia), Professor Liz Burd (University of Newcastle), and Mr Matthew Wyatt-Smith (Australian Student Veterans Association).

Higher education aspirations, participation and achievement of Australian Indigenous males

La Trobe received a $40,000 research grant from the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education’s (NCSEHE) 2019 funding round. This project aims to examine the intersection between Indigeneity and gender among Indigenous males that are aspiring to pursue higher education (aged 14-18); and participating in, or recently completed, higher education (any age). The project will identify policy and practice levers to improve Indigenous men’s participation in higher education in Australia. This project will utilise a cross-jurisdictional explorative study involving a combination of qualitative approaches aligned with a decolonising research methodology, including yarning sessions with school-aged Indigenous males about their aspirations for further education and vignettes of Indigenous male higher education students and alumni.


This project is led by Professor James Smith (Charles Darwin University) and Mr Jesse Fleay (Edith Cowan University). La Trobe is represented by Associate Professor Andrew Harvey and Professor Dennis McDermott. Project partners include Professor Braden Hill (Edith Cowan University), Dr Garth Stahl and Professor Lester-Irabinna Rigney (University of South Australia), Professor Steven Larkin (Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education), Dr Himanshu Gupta (Menzies School of Health Research), Professor Peter Radoll (University of Canberra), Dr Rebecca Bennett and Dr Bep Uink (Murdoch University).

A student-centred approach: Understanding higher education pathways through co-design

La Trobe has received a $223,961 research grant from the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education's (NCSEHE) 2019 funding round. This project will harness students' and key influencers' own perspectives towards co-designing resources and future intervention strategies to support student equity in higher education pathways. The co-design approach used in this project will address the common marginalisation of low SES, Indigenous and other student voices even within research projects that explicitly concern them. This project will utilise a literature review, data analysis and co-design workshops with students and influencers. The project outputs will include a national report and co-created, tailored toolkits to translate research findings into digestible resources that parents, teachers, and other influencers can use and adapt to their contexts.

The project is led by La Trobe, represented by Dr Mollie Dollinger, Associate Professor Andrew Harvey and Dr Ryan Naylor. This project also includes Dr Marian Mahat (University of Melbourne).

Assessing descriptors of academic program inherent requirements

This $20,553 project assessed descriptors of academic program inherent requirements across the Australian higher education sector. There has been long-standing advocacy amongst Australian university disability practitioners for the introduction of statements that describe academic program inherent requirements. These statements are perceived to be useful in facilitating the provision of reasonable adjustments that enable the participation of students with disability. There has, however, been little research undertaken on the prevalence or characteristics of these statements. The study will further knowledge on the usage of inherent requirement statements and will inform policy and practice to support the participation of students with disability.

Read the final report

The report is also available through the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education.

Principles for equity in higher education performance funding

La Trobe has received a $37,250 research grant from the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education’s (NCSEHE) 2017 funding round. This project will outline effective design principles of performance based funding (PBF) models, to protect and support student equity in Australian higher education. Current Government proposals include plans for a mainstream PBF program worth $500 million, as well as a smaller PBF element of Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Programme (HEPPP) funding. These proposals are in addition to recent performance based measures in Indigenous support funding. Drawing on evidence from the US and UK and an analysis of national data sets, the project will explore principles required to support identified student equity groups, and to ensure equitable assessment of admissions, student success, and graduate outcomes.

The project is led by La Trobe, represented by Dr Andrew Harvey (Chief Investigator), Matt Brett and Beni Cakitaki. Project partners include Dr Tiffany Jones (The Education Trust), Professor Julia Clarke (Manchester Metropolitan University), and Associate Professor Jason Taylor (University of Utah).

Read the final report

The report is also available through the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education.

Equity at and beyond the boundary of Australian universities

La Trobe has received a $39,500 research grant from the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education’s (NCSEHE) 2017 funding round. Disadvantaged higher education students are enrolled through third party delivery arrangements and non-university higher education providers. However, comparatively little is known about student demographics and learning outcomes in this domain. This project builds a much needed evidence base around student equity at and beyond the boundary of Australian universities. The project will establish baseline data and a framework for continuing analysis of student equity in third party delivery and non-university providers. The framework will support evaluation of policy changes (such as performance funding, sub-bachelor funding and provider category reforms) likely to have a significant impact on this domain of participation.

The project is led by Matt Brett (Chief Investigator) from La Trobe University. CHEEDR is represented by Dr Andrew Harvey and Naomi Tootell. Project partners include Professor Peter Noonan (Victoria University) and Buly Cardak (La Trobe University).

Read the final report

The report is also available through the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education.

Out of care, into university: Raising higher education access and achievement of care leavers

The Centre for Higher Education Equity and Diversity Research (CHEEDR; formerly known as The Access and Achievement Research Unit) mapped the higher education sector in relation to people from out-of-home care backgrounds, including kinship care and foster care. The $64,000 project was selected for funding by the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (NCSEHE) to increase the visibility of the out-of-home care cohort and to provide a strong information base for future policy and research work.

Read the final report

The report is also available through the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education.

Care leavers in Australian higher education: success and graduate outcomes

La Trobe received a $37,400 research grant from the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education's (NCSEHE) 2020 funding round. This project will provide the first national analysis of success, completion and graduate outcomes of care leavers in Australian higher education. This new evidence base will inform university and government policies to improve outcomes for one of the most disadvantaged groups in Australia, whose disadvantage has been further heightened by the COVID-19 pandemic (Mendes; Waugh 2020). Outcomes will include recommendations to universities on recruitment, teaching and learning, student support, and employability, creating a broad national and international impact. The project will provide a template for exploring the outcomes of other 'invisible' student groups in higher education, and a foundation for international comparative analysis between the UK, US and Australia.

The project is led by La Trobe, represented by Associate Professor Andrew Harvey, Naomi Tootell and Beni Cakitaki. This project also includes Associate Professor Jacqueline Z. Wilson (Federation University Australia).

Undermatching and underrepresentation: Improving student equity across fields of education

La Trobe received a $24,800 research grant from the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education's (NCSEHE) 2020 funding round. This project will analyse equity access and participation rates within different fields of education, and investigate the course choices of disadvantaged students. Despite a wealth of access and participation research on equity groups in higher education, comparatively little work has addressed stratification at course level, and its underlying causes. Stratification restricts underrepresented students' access to the most selective courses and fields of education, thereby reducing systemic equity. This project will explore the extent to which underrepresentation of disadvantaged students across different fields of education could be a result of an 'undermatching' between their academic results and course preferences.

The project is led by La Trobe, represented by Beni Cakitaki, Michael Luckman and Associate Professor Andrew Harvey.

Towards principles for Inclusive Analytics in Australian higher education

La Trobe received a $21,500 research grant from the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education's (NCSEHE) 2020 funding round. This project will outline a framework of principles for the equitable use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) applications, techniques, and services in Australian universities. While many universities have adopted broad ethics or privacy statements relating to the narrow use of 'learning analytics,' these almost universally lack a thorough recognition of the threats posed by AI/ML to student equity goals and interests, when deployed throughout the university. This project offers a detailed assessment of both the dangers and benefits of AI/ML, and further proposes a normative framework of Inclusive Analytics for the advancement of student equity interests in the age of machine intelligence.

The project is led by La Trobe, represented by Dr Bret Stephenson, Associate Professor Andrew Harvey, Professor Damminda Alahakoon and Dr Qing Huang.

Supporting student parents to succeed in Australian higher education

La Trobe received a $18,000 research grant from the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education's (NCSEHE) 2020 funding round. This project will establish the first major evidential base for domestic student parents in Australian higher education. Juggling parenting and study can create considerable time pressures and financial hardship. Barriers to success include limited institutional support and inflexible study arrangements. Further research is pressing as the COVID-19 crisis has created additional challenges for student parents, including job losses and increased caring responsibilities. Original evidence will be collected via a national survey, in collaboration with Victoria University and the Council of Single Mothers and their Children. Findings will support policymakers to improve the access, success and outcomes of student parents.

The project is led by La Trobe, represented by Lisa Andrewartha, Dr Andrea Simpson and Hannah Beattie. Project partners include Dr Lizzie Knight (Victoria University) and The Council of Single Mothers and their Children.