Challenges and enablers for study success for students over the age of 25 living in regional Victoria

Mr Jim Young1, Ms Shannon Kerrigan1

1Manager – Student Counselling, La Trobe University, Bendigo, VIC

Mature age students (MAS) make up approximately 41 % of the national student population but only 58% complete their degrees. Students over the age of 25 are three times more likely to drop out of their first year of university than school leavers. In addition, MAS studying part time, living in rural and remote Australia and who are indigenous are at higher risk of drop out from university. This study identifies both risk factors for early withdrawal and enablers for study success for students over the age of 25, living in regional Victoria.  Findings of the study revealed that university related risks for early drop out included poor adjustment to university culture and difficulty navigating university systems. Conversely, timely access to lecturers and provision of preparative resources prior to commencing university study enabled success. Personal factors most cited as barriers to success were balancing work and family demands with study commitments and negotiating finances. Loneliness and isolation were compounding factors. This data raises significant issues for retention of MAS in Australia. The findings of this study indicate a need for targeted arrangements to meet the special needs of MAS on Australian university campuses.

Participants will be provided with practical strategies that can increase the likelihood of study retention and success.


Jim currently works as the Regional Manager of Student Counselling at Latrobe University Victoria. Jim has worked in health, higher education and management including various Senior Clinical roles in both public and private organisations. Jim holds a Masters of Social Work degree from the University of Melbourne and post graduate qualifications in Mental Health Sciences and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy from Flinders University. Jim has a special interest in lifestyle based approaches to managing mental illness.

Shannon currently works as the manager of Equity and Diversity at La Trobe University. Shannon has worked in the Disability and Inclusion space for many years. She has experience working on diversity and inclusion programs for women, the LGBTIQ community, people with a disability and those from diverse cultural and religious backgrounds. She was responsible for establishing the ALLY program at La Trobe University and is currently working on the development of an LGBTI strategy at La Trobe University which will encompass staff, students, the community and research.


The Australian and New Zealand Student Services Association Inc. (ANZSSA) is a professional association for people with an interest in the role of support services in post secondary education.

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ISANA International Education Association is the representative body for professionals in Australia and New Zealand who work in international student services, advocacy, teaching and policy development in international education.

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