In today's ever-evolving academic landscape, universities face the challenge of accommodating an increasingly diverse student body. This blog delves into the crucial significance of how universities should actively support their multifaceted student populations, aligning with the Higher Education Support Amendment (Response to the Australian Universities Accord Interim Report) Bill 2023. It specifically examines how universities should be providing academic and non-academic support to three key diverse groups: age-appropriate, culturally sensitive, and First Nations students.
Universities are witnessing a growing range of age groups among their student populations. From traditional undergraduate students fresh out of high school to mature students returning to education later in life, the diversity in age is evident. Research from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) indicates that the proportion of mature students (over 21) in higher education has steadily increased. Therefore, universities must offer age-appropriate support mechanisms that cater to students' unique needs and goals at different stages of life.
Culturally Sensitive Support
Universities are home to a diverse array of cultures and backgrounds. Students from various ethnic, national, and cultural backgrounds enrich the academic environment. To support this diversity effectively, universities must provide culturally sensitive support. Research by Australian Universities International Directors reveals that international students, in particular, benefit from support that acknowledges their cultural context and offers resources to help them acclimate to a new educational system and culture.
First Nations Support
Prioritising support for First Nations students is pivotal in fostering an inclusive educational environment. Research conducted by Universities Australia underscores that Indigenous students frequently encounter distinct challenges within higher education. These obstacles encompass cultural disconnection, financial impediments, and the essential requirement for culturally sensitive support services. Consequently, universities should emphasise evolving Australian First Nations support services that strengthen their heritage, culture, and distinctive educational needs.
It's clear that we must place greater importance on supporting our diverse communities. This emphasis will undoubtedly yield positive outcomes, notably in terms of student retention and academic achievement. Let's collaborate to boost academic performance and cultivate a strong sense of belonging among our students.