Publication Details

O'Shea, S., Southgate, E., Jardine, A., Smith, S. & Delahunty, J. (2019). Shifts in space and self: Moving from community to university.


University enrolments have grown at an unprecedented rate over the last decade and this participation is only set to increase (Kemp & Norton, 2014; Universities Australia, 2015). However, rates of completion during the same period have remained relatively static, and the numbers of students who depart university remains significant, consistently hovering between 15-18 per cent of the total Australian student population (Higher Education Standards Panel, 2018). Disproportionate numbers of these early leavers are from rural and remote areas, so exploring how regional and remote learners consider their post-schooling futures can provide some insight into the fundamental issues behind this attrition. In addressing the rates of attrition from university, a better understanding of the 'lived experiences' of learners is required (West, 1996; O'Shea, 2007, 2014). This research project employed a digital storytelling methodology to foreground the cognitive, affective and embodied nature of this university experience (O'Shea, Harwood, Kervin, & Humphry, 2013). For students from regional and remote regions the movement into higher education requires not only a geographic shift but also changes to both identity and relationships (Holt, 2008). Drawing upon a combination of interviews, focus groups and also digital storytelling, this project sought to deeply investigate two key areas. The first relates to how young people from rural and remote areas contemplate post-schooling options and the second area of exploration was the subjective experience of both considering and actually moving into the university space. Our research points to the deeply embodied nature of this shift and how young people themselves reconcile the changes and adaptations such movements require. Interviews and focus groups complemented the digital stories, which enabled participants to narrate their own experiences incorporating a range of media including oral, written and pictorial representation. This audio-visual genre is produced via accessible software and in a diversity of formats ranging from voice-over PowerPoint photos to edited videos, interview style (iMovie) to light-weight animations with voice-overs.