The second chance journey ... or ... 'How did these oldies get to be uni students?'

Doctoral Studies Completed Theses - 2009 Archive

Page archived at: Mon, 14 December 2009 09:19:02 +1000

Catherine Stone

DSW thesis, conferred 2009

This doctoral thesis presents the findings of a qualitative research project that examined the impact of university study on a group of 20 female and male mature-age students at the University of Newcastle, Australia, who entered university via a non-traditional pathway. Postmodern feminist theory has primarily informed this research, which used a narrative method to gather the data, analyse the results and present the findings.

The students, all of whom had completed at least the first year of their undergraduate-degree programs, overcame significant hurdles in gaining university entrance and persevering with their studies. The majority came from lower socioeconomic backgrounds with little, if any, family history of higher education and little positive experience of prior study.

This thesis describes the experiences of the 20 individuals, derived from their individual narratives. As such, it gives voice to their stories: their triumphs and achievements as well as their struggles. It examines the gender issues that helped shape their experiences, including the ways in which gender affected the type and extent of help and support on which they could rely.

The narrative form also highlights the transformative nature of each student's experiences individually, as well as the potential of these experiences to affect the next generation, and allows for some tentative generalisations about the experiences of the wider mature-age university student population.

Because narratives by individuals are socially and culturally located, it is likely that the experiences of these 20 students reflect, at least to some extent, the experiences of other mature-age students within a similar culture. The findings of this research also highlight the important role higher-education institutions can play, not only in widening access to higher education, but also in encouraging and assisting students from diverse backgrounds to participate fully and achieve their goals.

Supervisor: Dr Zita Weber