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The sphere of influence that university outreach programs have on rural youth aspirations toward tertiary education
journal contributionposted on 09.10.2020, 00:00 by Wesley Heberlein
The CQUni Connect schools outreach program works in regional and rural Queensland schools. The program’s design reflects the need to build capacities for careers through tertiary education that enhance self-awareness and inform decision making. It aims to open access to stories and examples of those from similar backgrounds who have successfully navigated the journey to and through tertiary education. This approach allows space for students to contest the binary notion of rural and urban divides, and to imagine futures enhanced by social and cultural capital. Rural youth are among groups who miss out, fall behind or have less positive dispositions towards education. For rural youth, the rural-urban divide may lead to an extraverted sense of place informing identity and perception of outmigration as the only way to fulfil imagined futures. Post-secondary schooling is a crucial life stage for increased social mobility yet financial pressures and lack of educational preparedness make it difficult to access tertiary education. This project uses an action-research design to ensure practice is informed by research. It was expected that findings would show students residing in remote areas (Australian Statistical Geography Standards Categories 3 and 4) would be most influenced by the program enhancing their attitudes towards the benefits of higher education. However, it was Category 2 students who experienced the biggest shift in their belief that university was a possibility for their future post-program. Evaluation of the data shows that gender plays a role in the perception of university as an option. Rurality factors including community norms, family expectations, perceived ability and awareness impact how young people envision their future.