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Enablers and Barriers to an equitable Higher Degree by Research (HDR) learning Environment

Shaw, K. and Picard, M.ORCID: 0000-0002-3087-7407 (2019) Enablers and Barriers to an equitable Higher Degree by Research (HDR) learning Environment. Centre of Excellence for Equity in Higher Education

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The aim of this project is to uncover the enablers and barriers to an equitable Higher Degrees by Research (HDR) learning environment. Increasingly, universities are offering researcher development activities, such as workshops, online courses, industry-based internships and work-integrated learning opportunities, as part of the HDR degree that aim to enhance the employability of research students and help them to become full participants in a rich research community. However, there is concern that these activities are designed around a ‘mythical’ young, full-time PhD student with minimal external responsibilities. Research suggests that those from equity backgrounds are less likely to enrol in HDR study and once enrolled are more likely to drop-out before completing their program. In addition, students often have more than one compounding disadvantage affecting their studies. Completing studies online, by distance or through part-time study often signals that students have significant work and/or carer responsibilities which understandably affects retention and completions in research-based programs. Rather than focussing on retention and completion, we explore the experience of HDR students from recognised (and unrecognised) equity groups within the researcher development environment. Using Shaw’s (2010) journey plot tool, we will seek insights from HDR students of the enablers and barriers to their full participation during their candidature. This will illuminate the students’ personal external enablers and networks and identify which aspects of their learning environment are most helpful to them at different stages of their candidature. We will provide feedback to Australian universities to outline strategies and avenues to assist students from disadvantaged or atypical backgrounds who are experiencing challenges in their PhD journeys. For this small study we will focus on female students in two different contexts, a regional university with an established equity program and a research-intensive capital city G08 University comparing experiences in Science Technology Engineering Mathematics and Medicine (STEMM) disciplines with those in Humanities, Social Sciences, Business and Creative disciplines.

Item Type: Report
Series Name: Excellence in Teaching for Equity in Higher Education Grant Program; UN010
Publisher: Centre of Excellence for Equity in Higher Education
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