Book reveals key to improving Indigenous student retention


Charles Darwin University Associate Professor Dr James Smith

Charles Darwin University Associate Professor Dr James Smith.

An improved understanding of the difficulties Indigenous students face in navigating pathways and transitions into higher education is the key to improving retention according to a new e-book released this month.

The book “Indigenous Pathways, Transitions and Participation in Higher Education: From Policy to Practice” points to building evidence for policy development as a crucial factor in enhancing Indigenous participation, success and retention in higher education.

Co-editor Charles Darwin University Associate Professor James Smith said Australia needed to develop more sophisticated evaluation models to reflect rigorous and nuanced understandings of Indigenous higher education trajectories.

“It is promising to see the sector starting to rise to this challenge,” he said.

Dr Smith said the research, funded by the Australian Government through the Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program, helped collate a previously scattered evidence base and was aimed at educators and policy-makers.

“We know the experience of Indigenous students can be quite different to non-Indigenous students depending on their backgrounds and motivations to study,” he said. 

“It is important that we work towards designing and implementing evidence-based strategies in Australian universities that build on lessons learned from both past and recent Indigenous student successes.” 

Dr Smith worked on the project with University of Newcastle Pro Vice-Chancellor Indigenous Education and Research Professor Steve Larkin and University of Sydney National Centre for Cultural Competence Academic Leader Dr Jack Frawley. 

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