Influence of entry pathway and equity group status on retention and the student experience in higher education

Ian Li, Denise Jackson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Expansionary policies to widen participation in higher education have led to a growth in alternative entry pathways into university. This study considers the experiences and retention outcomes of those entering Australian universities through different pathways, and how these vary across diverse student groups. Data were drawn from linked student administrative records for 81,874 students from sixteen Australian universities who commenced a Bachelor degree in 2015, with academic enrolment status tracked over five years, as well as data from a national survey of student experience conducted in 2019. Students from alternative pathways were associated with lower retention outcomes in the first year of study and poorer course completion outcomes, except those entering via pathway provider and enabling programs who reported more favourable retention compared to secondary school entrants. Students from equity group backgrounds were also associated with poorer retention outcomes, particularly Indigenous students, mature-age students, and those with disability. Associations between entry pathways, equity group status, and student experience were mixed. For example, equity group students generally had positive assessments of student experience, apart from those with disability, yet were associated with increased probabilities of intention to dropout from study. Social and personal reasons were found to be main drivers of dropout intention across different student groups. Findings highlight the need to address the varying factors that affect students entering through different pathways and from diverse backgrounds, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach. The study’s recommendations inform stakeholders seeking to improve the experience and outcomes of diverse student groups entering higher education.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1411-1431
Number of pages21
JournalHigher Education
Issue number5
Early online date23 Jun 2023
Publication statusPublished - May 2024


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