BY LAURA RUMBEL
New research conducted on accommodation at Australian universities has shown that regional and remote students prioritise social factors when deciding where to study and live when relocating for university.
The research led by Doctor Julia Cook from the University of Newcastle found on-campus accommodation provided a sense of connectedness, however was not always preferred by all students.
The research which was funded by the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (NCSEHE) conducted surveys and interviews indicating students’ choice of university, based on factors including study programs on offer and cost of living.
The research found that students who lived on campus reported higher levels of housing satisfaction and experienced more positive relationships.
The research also found that on-campus accommodation was not always suitable or available to all.
“Students who are a little bit older, those who have dependence, families or those who are living with a disability are simply not wanting to live in a highly social environment,” Dr Cook said.
The research team recommends to student accommodation providers and universities to think about how to bring some of the benefits of social connectedness to students in all kinds of accommodation.
“Some of the things we’ve recommended are orientation activities, social activities and programs that are specific to regional and remote students,” Dr Cook said.
Affordability of accommodation was also an important factor for regional and remote students when determining whether to live on-campus while studying at university.
While students working one to ten hours weekly during the university semester reported little impact on their studies, the degree of impact was shown to increase depending on the number of hours worked.
“Regional, rural and remote students coming from disadvantaged backgrounds are likely to suffer more in their studies, owing to the greater financial and time demands of long working hours,” Dr Cook said.
The potential of the research to shape future decisions and practices around students relocating to study was noted by NCSEHE Director Professor Sarah O’Shea.