University College lecturer Nicole Crawford has been awarded a $215,000 fellowship by the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (NCSEHE) to fund a year-long research project.
She will look at the mental wellbeing of mature age, regional and remote university students with the aim of developing guidelines for students, staff and institutions which address the challenges.
“I want to look at supporting student’s mental wellbeing proactively and holistically — not just putting the onus on students or on counselling staff, but at institutions more broadly,” she said.
Dr Crawford said health and stress was reported in the recent QILT Student Experience Survey as the number one reason why students consider withdrawing from their studies.
“I’m interested in the students’ strengths and challenges that impact on their mental wellbeing. We know psychological distress has a detrimental effect on university students’ capacity to learn and do well in their studies.”
Isolation from other students, the need to juggle work, study and family life can be causes of stress for remote students. A lecturer in pre-degree programs, Dr Crawford said mature age students is an under-researched group with most focus in some major reports being on school leavers.
“Gaining further insights into this group and enhancing their success is vital because of their potential to influence attitudes towards education in their families and communities,” she said.
The fellowship will also allow Dr Crawford to take up a secondment at the Department of Education in Canberra.
“As someone who is teaching at the coalface I have little understanding of policy-making so I’m excited to have the chance to learn about it during the placement in Canberra,” she said.
“I am sure that I will be thinking more about policies and strategies at institution and government levels as the year progresses.”
Dr Crawford has been a lecturer at the University of Tasmania for nearly a decade where she works to smooth the path to university courses for students who don’t meet general entry. She is passionate about equity and inclusion in education.
The fellowship topic is based on her teaching practice, as well as her research on enabling education, student mental wellbeing, and regional and remote students, and on national reports and research.
The NCSEHE has also awarded a fellowship to Dr Katelyn Barney from the University of Queensland who will undertake a year-long project to address a research gap in the area of Indigenous student outreach.
NCSEHE Director Professor Sue Trinidad said it was an exciting time for the Centre as the next two Equity Fellows embarked on their projects.
“The NCSEHE Equity Fellows have been received with unprecedented support and both national and international acclaim,” Professor Trinidad said.
“Their leadership and the dissemination of their research findings is helping us to continue building the evidence base. These emerging leaders follow in the footsteps of the six previous NCSEHE Equity Fellows whose research has had sustained national and international impact.”
Fellowship projects include secondments to the Department, as well as national and international presentations, events, publications and sector engagement.
The Equity Fellows Program is funded by the Australian Government Department of Education under the National Priorities Pool (NPP) program.