It’s a commitment for country kids to attend university and to get them over the line the perception that it is a worthwhile, life changing choice needs reinforcing.
The key is information, the more students knew about university programs, pathways, scholarships, and future occupations further study could lead to, the more positive their attitudes to it were.
“Efforts should be focused on helping students to understand university as a feasible and valuable choice, capable of providing access to better work alternatives and consequent improved life-quality conditions,” says Associate Professor Franz Carrillo-Higueras of Universidad Austral.
With Dr Todd Walton of UNSW Sydney and Griffith University Franz Carrillo-Higueras drew on the questionaire responses of 620 students attending Year 12 in 33 regional and remote schools across New South Wales, Australia.
They tested how big a role students’ perceptions of control, their attitudes to university, and the support of those close to them played in predicting their intention to go to university.
“These findings confirm the importance for students of relying on accurate knowledge about university,” say the researchers. “Our results emphasise that a lack of understanding and awareness about higher education is a major obstacle experienced by rural students in Australia when finishing school.”
Another major factor that did influence the students’ decisions to attend university was the support of parents, carers, and other people close to them.
“Previous studies have shown that parents and carers are one of the most important sources of encouragement, inspiration and influence on students when they shape their goals in life”, said Associate Professor Carrillo-Higueras. “Parents who are present, supportive, communicative and concerned about their children can provide better attention and guidance, particularly on issues related to future life decisions and educational aspirations.”
“Teachers, parents and other agents should be aligned towards extending and reinforcing students’ positivity towards university,” said Walton. “This includes the introduction of role models for students, such as professionals in the areas they show interest.”
The researchers expected students’ perceptions of control – affected by financial issues and their belief in their own academic skills – to also play a big role in whether they intended to go to uni. Surprisingly, these played only a small role for the students surveyed.
To better understand what affects rural students’ intentions to go to university, the authors are now exploring the impact of other possible factors, such as students’ fear of homesickness and being away from their loved ones if they relocate to a university in the city.
Franz Carrillo-Higueras & Todd Walton. (2020). ‘Perceptions and intentions of secondary students in rural Australia to progress to university’, Higher Education Research & Development.