A study led by The University of Western Australia and funded by the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (NCSEHE) has found improvements for the disadvantaged in accessing a tertiary education, but there are still challenges that lie ahead in the job market.
The study, led by Dr Ian Li from UWA’s School of Population and Global Health, used 2016 data collected from the Australian Graduate Outcomes Study linked to administrative records from 19 Australian universities. It examined education and employment opportunities available to people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, people with a disability, and people from non-English speaking backgrounds.
Dr Li said the findings for postgraduate study were positive. In most cases, participation levels for graduates from disadvantaged backgrounds were higher and they were more likely to engage in further study.
“It's pleasing to see that university graduates from disadvantaged backgrounds have improved access to a quality education at levels equivalent to their relatively privileged peers,” Dr Li said.
“Higher education policy seems to be working well by levelling the playing field and providing more opportunities for individuals, and support through university programs for the disadvantaged.”
Dr Li said that more work still needed to be done to address opportunities in the workforce.
“Alongside access to postgraduate study, transition into meaningful employment after university is critical in overcoming disadvantage and facilitating social mobility,” he said.
“Graduates from non-English speaking backgrounds still face discrimination and exploitation, with 16 per cent less likely to find employment and some being mismatched to jobs or earning less.
“The factors surrounding this are complex, but more needs to be done at a policy level to address these issues.”
NCSEHE Director Professor Sue Trinidad reinforced the broad significance of further education and employment opportunities for all university graduates.
“Higher education provides tangible benefits for the individual and the community, and it is incredibly positive to see increasing parity in regards to undergraduate outcomes,” Professor Trinidad said.
“We have a responsibility to support these graduates as they move forward into further study and employment, so they can translate their academic accomplishments into personal and professional success.”
The report Employment and study outcomes after graduation: An Australian higher education equity perspective was published today.