Indigenous students highly engaged with university study

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Thursday, 5 May 2011

For immediate release Thursday 5 May 2011

Indigenous university students experience similar or higher levels of satisfaction and engagement with learning than their non-Indigenous peers, according to the latest briefing paper from the Australasian Survey of Student Engagement (AUSSE).

The new analysis also reveals that Indigenous students rate their relationships with other students and teaching staff just as positively as non-Indigenous students do and are significantly more likely to report positive relationships with administrative staff.

Yet despite such positive findings, Indigenous students are significantly more likely to seriously consider leaving their current institution prior to completing their studies.

The paper focuses on the responses of more than 500 Indigenous Australian students, collected as part of the 2009 administration of AUSSE. It is co-authored by Dr Christine Asmar, Senior Lecturer at Murrup Barak, the Melbourne Institute for Indigenous Development at the University of Melbourne, and Associate Professor Susan Page, Director of Macquarie University’s Warawara Department of Indigenous Studies.

“The puzzle is that, while Indigenous students are enthusiastic about their studies, and are engaged on similar or higher levels than their peers, they remain more likely to seriously consider leaving,” said Associate Professor Page.

Around 37 per cent of Indigenous students and 29 per cent of non-Indigenous students report that they plan to or have seriously considered leaving their current institution before finishing their qualification. Importantly, the analysis found that Indigenous students who report a high level of support from their institutions are significantly less likely to have departure intentions than those who report a low level of support.

One third of students’ comments rated Indigenous centres as among the ‘best aspects’ of how their universities engaged them in learning, leading the authors to conclude that such centres play a vital supporting role. They note, however, that more data is needed on this aspect of Indigenous engagement.

“We have a clear picture of what Indigenous students think about university, but much less idea of why they think it,” said Dr Asmar. “Tapping into the ‘hidden stories’ of Indigenous engagement and success will help to better inform our efforts to attract, support, engage and retain our Indigenous students.”

AUSSE is a collaboration between ACER and participating universities. The full briefing, Dispelling myths: Indigenous students’ engagement with university, is available from 


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Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER)
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