2 March 2009

We're not snobs - UC

| johnboy
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The ABC has a piece on some hoo haa with the University of Canberra copping stick in a recent study for not enough “students from low socioeconomic backgrounds”.

The university makes a very good point that the only thing the research has measured is postcodes.

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Considering that our tertiary education system is such a bureaucratic mess (made only worse by the Howard Govt’s 2004 ‘reforms’), UC couldn’t do anything about this if they tried.

…except for some lame ‘come to us poor people’ advertising campaign I suppose.

At least UC has a great success story to offer: its colourful pro vice chancellor is prone to boasting that she was raised in the slums of Redfern by her “criminal smuggler” Lebanese father, a wharfie …

It’s because Canberra postcodes are generally high SES postcodes. People do not tend to come from all that far away to go to UC. As someone else mentioned, postcode is a pretty crap way of measuring SES, but at this stage there isn’t much better in the DEEWR dataset. It would be interesting to see maps showing the SEIFA scores of the areas closest to each university. Holy shit – Uni of Tasmania and Central Queensland University have a lot of low SES students? That’s because they are in low SES regions. 1) NOT ROCKET SCIENCE. 2) MEDIA BEATUP.

It was an interesting choice to use the Index of Education and Occupation as their SES measure. I probably would have used one of the others.

The main thrust of the article is about articulation from VET to higher education, yet that doesn’t get a mention at all in the media.

Sorry for the typing. Need…more…coffeee….

The point that is completely missed in all this is that people from a low-SES background (however defined) do less well at school, so this is automatically goind to translate to fewer lower-SES students at uni.

Really, UC is no worse than the sandstones, and possibly quite a lot better due to other snobbery issues not of its own making.

That UC is upset about it says more about UC’s standing in its own eyes, and if I wanted to be mischievous, I would suggest that proposective students could take note and maybe look to a uni with some self-confidence.

Pommy bastard5:28 pm 02 Mar 09

I await the campaign (naked bicycle lecture non-attendance?) to send underqualified youth from deprived areas to the Uni with some snag froid…

Postcode is nonsense. Look at Red Hill: slum guvvie flats full of derros and ice addicts – and Mugga Way.

proofpositive3:45 pm 02 Mar 09

Skidbladnir said :

Using postcode centroids as a replacement for actual data is a pretty shitty way of calculating things.

Works for the ABS and all their data

What has happened here is quite a normal combination of a journalist not fully understanding a piece of research, and a bunch of people then further misinterpreting what the journalist said.

NickD is right, often postcodes are the only reliable way of determining SES (socio-economic status). And they’re not as bad an indicator as you might think. However, the journo who wrote that piece obviously didn’t understand (or chose to ignore) the difference between “person from low SE background” and “person from region defined as having a low-SE profile”. Additionally, in mentioning UC the journo failed to note that Canberran universities would be expected to have a lower rate of enrolment from low-SES areas since there are very few low-SES areas nearby (unlike in a city like Sydney or Melbourne, which both contain a relative abundance of such areas).

The PVC of UC has justifiably hit back to defend her institution, but has used figures generated on a completely different basis: A student survey (reliability of responses unknown), and the figure quoted is about Centrelink and health care cards – quite different to SES. No wonder you can’t reconcile the figures Ms. Kayrooz! A better defence (read: one actually addresses the statistical issue, rather than the PR issue) would’ve been an argument based on the SES of areas in and around Canberra.

Finally, and slightly tangentially, from the article alone you can’t actually tell whether 3.8% low-SES enrolment is really all that bad. You can only read that it’s the lowest which does not necessarily indicate that it’s bad. In order to make that judgement the figure for the nationwide percentage of school-leavers in low-SES areas would need to have been provided. If that figure happens to be 20% then 3.8% is certainly bad, ignoring differences between different areas. However if that figure is 2% then 3.8% is darn good! Without that context the figures quoted are practically meaningless.

Skidbladnir said :

Using postcode centroids as a replacement for actual data is a pretty shitty way of calculating things.

Yep, but there’s often nothing better.

I don’t actually think UC could afford to be snobby – they need all the students they can get.

And the ‘research’ came from Griffith anyway – not one of Australia’s premier research institutions…….

Using postcode centroids as a replacement for actual data is a pretty shitty way of calculating things.

p1 said :

Would be interesting to see where my post code falls. I am curious as to weather I am rich or not…

I presume that the researchers used the ABS’ SEIFA classification, which can be downloaded at: http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/Lookup/2033.0.55.001Main+Features12006?OpenDocument

I don’t see how UC could turn away students from low SES backgrounds even if it wanted to – aren’t uni places still allocated on the basis of UAI scores?

There’s nothing particularly wrong with using postcodes as a proxy for SES when better data isn’t available, by the way, and this is widely used by researchers as well as the government when allocating funding. I imagine that the researchers would have liked to use internal university data, but it seems safe to assume that a) consistent data isn’t available for all unis and b) even if it was the unis are unlikely to hand it over.

Madame Workalot2:34 pm 02 Mar 09

With that spelling, you couldn’t be a snob p1 😛

(Sorry, after all the grammar nazis I thought I may as well jump on the bandwagon!)

Would be interesting to see where my post code falls. I am curious as to weather I am rich or not…

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