Publication Details

O'Shea, S. (2015). Why first-in-family uni students should receive more support. The Conversation, 20 March 1-3.

Link to publisher version (URL)



Many university students fall into one of the six “equity groups” that receive targeted funding. However, there is one group that has for too long been ignored as a group that needs extra assistance in making it through university.

The six targeted equity groups include those:

  • from lower socioeconomic backgrounds: currently measured by permanent home postcode

  • from rural and isolated areas: measured by permanent postcode, population density data and proximity to cities

  • with a disability (self-identified on enrolment)

  • from a non-English-speaking background (those born overseas and who speak a language other than English)

  • women in non-traditional areas of study; and

  • Indigenous people (self-identified on enrolment).

Accurately identifying those that fall under these categories is necessary for universities as substantial equity funding is based on it. In January 2015, the new Higher Education Participation Programme (HEPP) was announced with a budget of A$487 million (2015-2017).

HEPP provides funding to universities for programs that attract, support and retain students from “disadvantaged” or equity backgrounds. However, the usefulness of defining students into such discrete categories has been questioned. Individual students frequently fall into multiple equity categories, which requires lots of time spent ticking boxes on everyone’s part.