“More than 50 per cent of Australian tertiary education students are the first in their family to go to university and that number is increasing.”

(O’Shea, 2015)

In February 2015, we ran a very successful forum entitled Breaking the Barriers Forum on First in Family Students in Higher Education. The forum was very well received and generated much feedback.

For detailed practitioner feedback please see this Twitter Feed or use the next link to access a detailed report on the forum.

Participants were asked to contribute to a set of Draft Principles for Supporting and Engaging First in Family Students. A copy of these Draft Principles is provided below and I would welcome your feedback and insights on the relevancy of these. Please feel free to contribute your own principles or ideas in this regard.



Draft Principles for Supporting and Engaging First in Family Students

PRINCIPLE 1: Foreground student contact that is face to face, that engages with students and their families in a meaningful sense and that occurs both on campus and in the community.
PRINCIPLE 2: Utilise a variety of multi-modal technological strategies to engage with this group, this needs to be ‘multi-channelled’; ‘relevant and targeted’; ‘two-way’; ‘student centered – computer says yes!’ ; ‘just in time’ and ‘reflective of the student life cycle’.

PRINCIPLE 3: Build a sense of community on campus by:

  • Acknowledging students and their particular journeys to higher education
  • Maintaining the approachability of staff
  • Providing ‘informal’ opportunities for families to come on campus
  • Providing space for first-in-family student ‘voices’ to be heard via marketing, literature and policy documents.
PRINCIPLE 4: Adopt a strengths based approach to university outreach that seeks to empower students by recognising what they bring to the university environment and also, encourages students to reflect upon the support that exists outside the university environment.
PRINCIPLE 5: Recognise the diversity of this cohort rather than assuming first in family is a ‘generic’ category – can include a diversity of ages / cultural backgrounds / socio-economic states etc. Don’t label in a negative sense rather this should be supportive.
PRINCIPLE 6: Make people feel welcome and comfortable on campus by decoding the university landscape through a variety of strategies including ‘family open days’, real ‘go to’ people and ‘peer support’.
PRINCIPLE 7: Actively work towards changing university culture and myths for example ‘university is for young people’ or ‘ students that lack certain skills / life experiences need to be changed or acted upon’. Remain mindful that you need to avoid implying (in any way) that these students are deficit.
PRINCIPLE 8: Strive to make the university part of the local community rather than separate from it.
PRINCIPLE 9: Build on technology to create relationships that are meaningful and supportive, these relationships need to be proactive, authentic and diverse but also involve real people and face-to-face encounters.

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