Fostering Indigenous Students’ Participation in Business Education

lcj 17 coverPeter Vitartas, Kurt Ambrose, Hayley Millar & Thi Kim Anh Dang

LCJ: Special Edition: Indigenous Pathways and Transitions into Higher Education, 17, pp. 84-93

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Vitartas, P., Ambrose, K., Millar, H., & Dang, T.K.A. (2015). Fostering Indigenous Students’ Participation in Business Education. Learning Communities: International Journal of Learning in Social Contexts [Special Issue: Indigenous Pathways and Transitions into Higher Education], 17, 84-93. DOI:



In the Australian higher education context Indigenous students have consistently been under-represented in business education compared to other disciplines, such as education and arts, and compared to non-Indigenous students. According to Asmar, Page and Radloff (2011).

“Compared with non-Indigenous students, Indigenous students… were more likely to be studying in the humanities; slightly more likely to be studying education, in a field of health, or in the creative arts; and less likely to be studying science, engineering or business” (p. 4).

Progress on participation rates in business education has been slow as evidenced by Schwab making similar observations of the pattern of Indigenous participation in higher education in 1996 (Schwab 1996). 

The literature has revealed various attempts to increase overall Indigenous commencement and completion rates at universities (see e.g., Asmar et al., 2011; Barney, 2013; Behrendt et al., 2012; Raciti et al., 2014; Rahman, 2013). Nevertheless, little research has been undertaken on the topic of improving the uptake of higher education in business courses in particular (see Behrendt et al., 2012 and Rkein & Norris 2012 for exceptions). Among various measures, fostering Indigenous students’ participation in business education is ‘crucial for [indirectly] fostering [economic] independence’ (Foley, 2013, p. 25) and required if more Indigenous businesses are to be created. 

Against this backdrop, this paper contributes to our understanding of the complex issue of Indigenous students’ participation in business education. It begins by providing a brief review of the literature exploring enrolment and completion rates in business disciplines at the tertiary level. The paper then presents a case study of an innovative intervention developed by an Australian higher educational institution designed to inspire young Indigenous students to consider tertiary business studies as a viable option which would result in a positive disposition toward tertiary education. Drawing on the activities and review of the artefacts generated from the project and in light of the literature, the paper crystalizes key elements of the innovative approach that deemed it successful. Apart from the theoretical contributions, the findings also have implications for other higher education contexts aiming to improve Indigenous participation in business education.


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