The Use of Enabling Programs as a Pathway to Higher Education by Disadvantaged Students in Australia

  • Jade McKay
  • Tim Pitman
  • Marcia Devlin
  • Sue Trinidad
  • Andrew Harvey
  • Matt Brett


This chapter explores the use of enabling programs by Australian universities to improve participation and success for students historically underrepresented in the nation’s higher education system. It draws on empirical evidence from a national research project designed to undertake a review of current enabling programs offered by Australian higher education providers and to examine the effectiveness of these programs in increasing access to, participation in, and subsequent success in undergraduate courses for domestic students from disadvantaged groups. This chapter firstly outlines the rationale for providing enabling programs, their history of use in Australia against the wider context of higher education disadvantage, and a review of previous research. Secondly, it provides a typology of enabling programs in Australia detailing: their design and composition; how they are delivered; their prevalence throughout the sector; how they articulate to tertiary degrees; the types of students targeted; and numbers of students using them. Specific attention is on the representation of disadvantaged students throughout. Thirdly, the chapter provides a statistical analysis of the efficacy of these programs, as defined by retention and success. The fourth section details the findings of a national survey of 980 students who transitioned to higher education studies via an enabling program. This survey explores student perceptions, their experience of the program and their reflections on the extent to which it did or did not prepare them for tertiary studies. Finally, concluding comments are made and suggestions to improve the ongoing tertiary success of disadvantaged students are proposed.


Enabling programs University pathways Higher education Widening participation Non-traditional background students 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jade McKay
    • 1
  • Tim Pitman
    • 2
  • Marcia Devlin
    • 3
  • Sue Trinidad
    • 4
  • Andrew Harvey
    • 5
  • Matt Brett
    • 6
  1. 1.Faculty of Business and LawDeakin UniversityGeelongAustralia
  2. 2.Faculty of Humanities, Humanities Research and Graduate StudiesCurtin UniversityPerthAustralia
  3. 3.Federation UniversityBallaratAustralia
  4. 4.Faculty of Humanities, School of EducationCurtin UniversityPerthAustralia
  5. 5.Centre for Higher Education Equity and Diversity ResearchLa Trobe UniversityMelbourneAustralia
  6. 6.National Centre for Student Equity in Higher EducationLa Trobe UniversityMelbourneAustralia

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