Understanding the study-to-work transition of Australian university graduates from disadvantaged backgrounds: A scoping study

Kelly Whitney, Gayl Purchase


Higher education is in a state of transformation with increasing funding cuts leading to an even greater emphasis on ‘value for money’ and graduate outcomes. Despite a proliferation of literature about access to university for under-represented groups in Australia, there is less attention devoted to students’ experiences after graduation, and particularly the study-to-work transition of university graduates from low socioeconomic backgrounds. Qualitative work is rare and heavily localised. Quantitative work is more common and discusses broad trends but this type of data is limited in helping us to understand the student experience, including barriers and enablers. This paper reviews the literature surrounding graduate transitions, synthesises findings and common themes and provides insights for developing more informed approaches and improving the transitional experiences of graduating students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Ten Australian studies were identified, pointing to an over-reliance on national surveys informing perceptions of graduate labour market transitions and a policy focus on access and participation, not employment outcomes, for students from disadvantaged backgrounds.


higher education; low socioeconomic students; graduate outcomes; study-to-work transition; student equity

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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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