First-in-Family Students, University Experience and Family Life: Motivations, Transitions and Participation
Universities attract students from a diversity of backgrounds, but access and participation are not equal for all student cohorts. Indeed, when we consider access and participation rates across countries, inequality of access is pronounced (Abbott-Chapman 2006; James 2008; Forsyth and Furlong 2003; Schuetze and Slowey 2002). For students who are first-in-family (FiF) to come to university these statistics are particularly negative, with poorer educational outcomes recorded internationally (ABS 2013; Harrell and Forney 2003; Lehmann 2009). This group is statistically less likely to attend university and even after enrolment perform poorly when compared to their second- or third-generation peers (HEFCE 2010). Within Australia, 26 per cent of this cohort is reported as considering leaving university in the first year of university study, a figure that increases to 34 per cent for later-year students (Coates and Ransom 2011). These results have been explained in general terms, for example, the FiF students in Coates and Ransom's Australian study who reported departure intentions, perceived the university as unsupportive or failing to 'help them cope with non-academic responsibilities' (p. 14). Despite policy initiatives designed to increase university participation, these types of explanations tell us little about what is needed to improve educational outcomes for FiF students.