Participation in Higher Education

Essay Question and Instructions
Essay Question

It is often suggested that Australia, and especially higher (i.e. university) education in Australia, is meritocratic. Using the statistics, identify a pattern in one demographic that seems to challenge this. Using academic sources, explain some theories and academic research that has sought to explain this pattern.

Demographics you may choose are:

Socio-economic Status
Rural / urban

Patterns you may identify may be:

Overall numbers of enrolments
Type of university
Type of course


SES, ethnicity (indigenous only), rural / urban statistics:

Gender statistics:

Suggested Readings and References

Some readings are linked here to get you started, mostly journal articles. However, you will be expected to do further library research to find more academic references to back up your exact answer to the question. These are just a start

Further Guidance

In essay 1 we want you to demonstrate that you can make an informed, academic argument. This is the marking criteria which your essay will be marked against and this is similar to the criteria expected for most academic essays: Marking Rubric – Essay 1 (Assignment 2).docx

This short essay should be around 1500 words (please do your best to keep within 10% of this either way. Failure to do so may impact on your grade. This 1500 does not include references but does include citations). Please make your essay is a word document, with size 12 font Times New Roman or Arial, 1.5 or double line spaced, and please make the first page of your essay this cover sheet linked here

Please do not change the essay question / title and there is no need to use subheadings in a short essay, clear paragraphs and ‘signposting’ should do this for you.

Please note that your essay will need to have appropriate referencing for every claim / point you make, there should be no unsubstantiated claims. We are reluctant to dictate the number of references, but you will probably need 5 or 6 references to develop your argument. You can choose from either the list provided below and / or from your own independent library research (using the library skills outlined in week 3). We will have discussed the different types of sources in week 3 and what constitutes an ‘academic’ source, and finding independent resources which directly support or evidence the points that you are making will strengthen your work.

In this essay you must:

Use the statistics from the Australian Government report Undergraduate Applications, Offers and Acceptances, linked here (please note that in lesson 2 I discuss an old version of this report, it makes more sense for you to use the statistics from the most recent report – 2014 – for your essay).
Use sociological or psychological theory relevant to analysing the phenomenon (some are discussed in lesson 2, and in lessons 4 and 5),
Use at least one empirical study (secondary source, probably a journal article) which has researched the exact case you are looking at, preferably in Australia,
Use at least 5 or 6 academic references (to clarify what constitutes an academic source see Lessons 3 and 4, websites and newspapers do not count).
Follow the conventions of an academic essay in terms of structure, evidence and referencing which will all be covered in the first 6 lessons of this unit. Use correct referencing.

Remember that there is no right or wrong answer, we want to see you draw the material together to make a reasoned judgement which explains and evidences your answers

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