Higher education can overcome social inequity, but it takes time

Tertiary institutions and other organisations could do more to give university graduates an equal start in the job market, according to a new report led by Dr Wojtek Tomaszewski from The University of Queensland. The research, funded by the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (NCSEHE) and supported by the Life Course Centre, drew on 15 years of data. It found that higher education could overcome social inequity in time, but outcomes for Indigenous graduates and those with disabilities often lagged. “The findings illustrate that disadvantage is not easily alleviated by a degree alone,” Dr Tomaszewski said. He stressed that the research was based on a small sample and probably reflected broader underlying disadvantage for Indigenous people and those with disabilities. “Regardless, a sustained policy effort is required within and beyond the higher education sector, with a significant focus on graduates’ physical and mental health and wellbeing.” The research drew on Census data and the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey. “The trajectories of equity and non-equity students converged over seven or eight years on average, so there was little difference in the longer term,” Dr Tomaszewski said. “While these trends are very positive, perhaps more could be done to prevent this seven- or eight-year-long catch-up period to give an equal start to all graduates, regardless of their backgrounds.”

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