They just give us the shiny picture, but I want to know what it's really like
Insights from regional high schools on perceptions of university outreach in South Australia.
Keywords:higher education, regional students, widening participation, university outreach
Across Australia, students at regional, rural and remote high schools are considerably less likely to go to university than their metropolitan counterparts. One of the ways in which universities try to help to bridge this gap is to organise visits to such schools, with the purpose of familiarising students with the idea of university and encouraging them to consider going on to university after school. These visits range in purpose, from direct marketing to a genuine effort to widen access to university more generally. The key purpose of university visits is not always made explicit to the schools or the students, leading to a mismatch between university intentions and school and student expectations. Recent research with regional high schools in South Australia, using a mixed-methods approach, reveals the impact of this mismatch, with university visits being regarded by students and schools as, at best, disappointing and, at worst, as nothing more than marketing exercises and hence to be treated with suspicion. These research findings are discussed, and recommendations made for ways in which university visits may be more effectively geared towards meeting the needs of students, schools and parents. This paper recommends that universities work more closely with regional schools, parents and communities more broadly, with a greater emphasis on providing useful, practical information about what ‘going to university’ entails. We argue that, through this, more regional students may consider university as a viable post-school option.
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Copyright (c) 2022 Cathy Stone, Sharron King, Chris Ronan
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