Evaluating equity initiatives in higher education: Processes and challenges from one Australian university

Greer Lamaro Haintz, Sophie Goldingay, Renee Heckman, Tanya Ward, Rojan Afrouz, Kelly George

Abstract


As part of the Australian Government’s ‘Widening Participation’ agenda, the Higher Education Partnership and Participation Program (HEPPP) provides funding for universities to develop interventions to support the aspiration, access, participation, retention and successful completion of higher education among students from under-represented groups. There is an increasing emphasis on evaluating these interventions to demonstrate their effectiveness and to inform future program planning, particularly in the context of decreasing HEPPP funding over the coming years whereby universities will be required to make decisions about how to prioritise those funds. Quantitative data provides important information about population trends. However, understanding the more complex impacts on students’ lived experiences of higher education is important, albeit challenging. This paper provides a discussion of an approach to evaluation undertaken by a research team at Deakin University to assess the cumulative and intersecting impacts of a range of HEPPP funded initiatives on students’ experiences of higher education. The socio-ecological approach adopted to explore the complexity of impacts on student and staff experiences, and institutional culture and practices, was guided by Bourdieu’s theory of habitus. The challenges of undertaking this kind of evaluation are also discussed, as well as recommendations to inform future approaches.

Keywords


equity initiatives; evaluation; socio-ecological; widening participation; higher education

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References


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Banner image: Kira Jovanovski (2020), movement score 01 (detail): oil stick and acrylic on paper. Photograph by Kira Jovanovski. Cover image: Kira Jovanovski (2020), grunt_iteration 02 in the boughs and stamped: installation in University Gallery. Photograph by Jedidiah Cranfield. (c) the artist.

 

 

    

 

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