“Should I stay, or should I go?”: The mobility paradigm in widening participation for regional, rural and remote students

Chris Ronan


This paper examines the key question that rural, regional and remote (RRR) students face when they are considering their post-secondary education pathway: “Should I stay in my community, or should I leave?”. It considers the last thirty years of Australian higher education policy to explore how policy discourses have re/produced this ‘mobility paradigm’, where success for RRR students is defined by leaving their local communities. Australian RRR student identity has been discursively constructed in a way that provides the illusion of autonomy in post-secondary choice for students, but surreptitiously channels individuals into prescribed pathways through a process of differentiation and exclusion. These prescribed ‘successful’ pathways over-emphasise the need for students to leave communities when considering post-secondary study options – irrespective of what educational choices are locally available. The analysis in this paper draws on Foucault to unpack how RRR student identity has been historically constructed in Australia and offers directions for reconceptualising how education policy has affected RRR student participation in higher education and their geographic mobility.


rural; regional; remote; discourse analysis; mobility

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The title of this journal changed in 2021 from International Studies in Widening Participation to Access: Critical explorations of equity in higher education.

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