‘[The] benefits [of attending university] are not limited to the learners; the narratives…point to a more collective benefit for students and family members, with attendance at university frequently being the realisation of a collective ambition.’

(O’Shea, Stone, Delahunty & May, forthcoming)

Recognising the particular challenges for first-in-family students has been a focus of my research activities and projects over the last decade (O’Shea 2007O’ Shea, 2014O’Shea, 2015)

However, this is not to assume that first-in-family students can be treated as one collective group but rather these learners are each unique, intersected by a diversity of social, cultural and economic factors. Additionally, those students that are older or who have caring responsibilities have significantly different experiences and needs than the younger school age cohort. Developing resources and approaches to first-in-family learners that are contextualised to their particular characteristics is one of the focuses of this OLT Fellowship work. For example, I have recently worked on an article directed at younger school age students who are also first-in family.

Similarly, our website page includes links that focus on older students who also have caring responsibilities. However, developing more targeted resources is a work in progress and so I hope to seek further collaboration during the STARS conference at the end of June.

During the conference I have been asked to lead a new special interest group (SIG) on first-in-family learners. This inaugural SIG meeting will both provide a forum to explore how various institutions are variously engaging with this student cohort. All attendees will be encouraged to come prepared to reflect upon their personal interest in (or passion for) this student group and also to share current practices or initiatives designed to support and engage these learners.

I look forward to sharing the discussion points highlighted during this SIG in future postings.


sarah faceUntil next time








Building Knowledge

This new STARS Special Interest Group (SIG) in 2016 seeks to develop a community of practise for those who are interested in both supporting and engaging first-in-family students. 

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