8th July, 2010 Abstract



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Demographics
32 persons answered the on-line survey. Year of Enrolment by Age, Age Distribution, Faculty Distribution and Highest Level of Education Achieved information was obtained from survey results. Out of 32 respondents for the enrolment years 2006, 2008 – 2010 there were 14 enrolments for 2010, 6 for 2009 and 10 for 2008, prior to that there were no participants in 2007 and 1 from 2006. The highest number of students was enrolled in Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences 65.65%. 43.75% of the students stated Year 12 matriculation as being their highest qualification prior to enrolment and 35.48% of the students were aged 21-29.


Figure 1: Age by Year of Enrolment




2006 or prior

2007

2008

2009

2010

21-29

0

No observations

2

3

6

0.00%

20.00%

50.00%

42.86%

30-39

1

2

1

1

100.00%

20.00%

16.67%

7.14%

40-49

0

3

1

5

0.00%

30.00%

16.67%

35.71%

50-59

0

2

0

1

0.00%

20.00%

0.00%

7.14%

60+

0

1

1

1

0.00%

10.00%

16.67%

7.14%

Totals

1

N/A

10

6

14

One 2010 observation did not provide their age and were hence excluded.




Figure 2a

Highest Level of Education Achieved




Year 10 equivalent

Year 12 – matriculation

TAFE or equivalent (College)

Other (see text box)

Total

4

14

10

4

Percentage

12.50%

43.75%

31.25%

12.50%


Figure 3a

Faculty Distribution




Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences

Life and Physical Sciences

Business School

Architecture, Landscape and Visual Arts

Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences

Law

Total

21

1

2

6

1

1

Percentage

65.63%

3.13%

6.25%

18.75%

3.13%

3.13%

While work histories were too diverse to reasonably compare statistically, work hours provided an insight into why work so easily conflicts with study.




Figure 5a

Hours per Week (Work)

 

.<10

.10-14

15-21

22-29

30-37

38+

Total

2

0

6

1

7

3

Percentage

10.53%

0.00%

31.58%

5.26%

36.84%

15.79%

2 participants were not working at all and were not included in this statistic. 11 other participants did not answer and were excluded from this statistic

As to the attendance of support groups1 such as MAP and UniSkills/StudySmarter, 55.17% of participants either attended UniSkills or StudySmart, and 48.28% attended at least one MAP event while of 37.5% participants attended neither. Of those who did not attend any programs, 66.67% gave indication of needing further help, compared to 20% of those who attended at least one of the aforementioned programs. 34.48% of participants gave answers that were ambiguous as to further support needs.




Figure 6

Session Attendance

 

Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences

Life and Physical Sciences

Business School

Architecture, Landscape and Visual Arts

Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences

Law

Total

2UniSkills & StudySmarter

8

1

1

5

1

0

16

50.00%

6.25%

6.25%

31.25%

6.25%

0.00%

61.54%

3Mature-age Access Program (MAP)

11

0

0

3

0

0

14

78.57%

0.00%

0.00%

21.43%

0.00%

0.00%

50.00%

Total

19

1

1

8

1

0

30

An interesting relationship occurred whilst processing the survey results: Mature Age students who praised the UniSkills and StudySmarter sessions did not want of further academic preparation for the most part.




Figure 7

Indications of Needing Further Assistance

 

While not attending anything

While Attending MAP

While Attending UniSkills/StudySmarter

While Attending Both

Total

Requires Further Assistance

6

1

1

2

10

66.67%

25.00%

16.67%

20.00%

34.48%

Does not Require Further Assistance

0

1

3

5

9

0.00%

25.00%

50.00%

50.00%

31.03%

Not Applicable

3

2

2

3

10

33.33%

50.00%

33.33%

30.00%

34.48%

Total

9

4

6

10

29

Three participant who provided no answer as to whether they attended either session were excluded. Four non-answers (three in 'MAP', one in UniSkills) were turned into 'No' for the purpose of this statistic.

As part of the survey participants were required to rank their concern over six different issues on a scale of 1 to 54. ‘Social’ ranked an average of 2.414, ‘Family’ an average of 3.107, ‘Financial’ an average of 3.6897, ‘Academic’ and average of 4.393, ‘Personal’ an average of 3.2069, and ‘Other’5 an average of 3.375; making ‘Finance’ and ‘Academic’ the areas of greatest concern, with ‘Social’ being the lowest.



This is in line with findings within both the surveys and the interviews, describing that most Mature Ages already have a circle of off-campus friends, feel no need to socialize and that any friends they do make are a “bonus”. The following pie chart was attained by totalling the level of concern allocated to each factor and then establishing it as a percentage of total concern.


Figure 8

Total Concern

 

Social

Family

Financial

Academic

Personal

Other

Aggregate

70

87

107

127

93

27

Percentage

13.70%

17.03%

20.94%

24.85%

18.20%

5.28%



The only concern I had was about my ability to mix and match work with uni.... Not much time left for social activities during semesters, but that is fine with me. When one studies, time has to be found and other things have to go for a while. I knew that.”




6 Figure 9

2008 (from Figures 2 and 3, Attachment E)

2010

 

incomplete secondary

year 12 or equivalent

TAFE Cert 3, 4

Year 10 equivalent

Year 12 – matriculation

TAFE or equivalent (College)

Other (see text box)

Number of Students

14.00

16.00

16.00

4.00

14.00

10.00

4.00

Total Units

36.00

41.00

32.00

9.50

37.50

25.50

12.00

Units Dropped

23.00

11.00

13.00

1.00

6.00

1.00

2.00

Percentage of Units Dropped

63.89

26.83

40.63

10.53

16.00

3.92

16.67

Of the survey participants 31.25% had dropped a subject or were thinking about it. 20% of these dropped a unit for medical reasons, 10% because lack of confidence, and another 10% for “work load and life balance”. One of those who dropped a unit said they re-enrolled in it the following year, and another participant dropped a unit because they had disagreements with the course material. An answer that is mirrored in the replies of those who didn’t drop out is “I wish I had not left it too late to withdraw from one unit. For someone in my position to start with 3 units was very ambitious. I feel maybe it should be compulsory that MAP students can only commence with a maximum of 2 units”.


13.64% of those who did not drop a unit cited the fact that they were only studying part time as the reason they did not drop a unit. 9.09% credited their determination with their persistence, though one did disclose to switching out of one unit and into another. 4.55% expressed regret over not dropping a unit they had difficulties with as they ended up failing it.
This would tend to indicate that some students were unaware of the work required for each unit. The same issue was stated in Betts 2008 were 43.12% of units were withdrawn during Semester 2, 2008.

Feedback
A suggestion that came up in both the second interview and during the survey were that “more real and detailed” information should be provided as to unit requirements, such as the “amount of time needed realistically per unit”. One participant even recommended that new students should be given a chance to speak to someone who had done the unit previously. It was also recommended that pre-semester courses on essay writing (and mathematics for certain units) be held.
Participants who mentioned the support services at UWA did so in a positive light, calling it “invaluable” with only one complaint about tutorials. “I felt UWA was brilliant with support, I got more support than I expected, from many areas - Study Smarter, Arts Lecture Series, tutors and other students”.

I was most concerned about my ability to cope with the academic requirements of university studies. It is nearly 30 years since I finished high school and I was more than a little worried.. I am feeling more confident now as a result of the support that is available to mature age students.”


The overall student body was viewed in a positive and friendly light with the exception of being a little too boisterous in tutorials and making some people “feel old”. One participant recommended having a Mature Age only tutorial.
One survey participant stated that “team projects with ambitious intemperate inconsiderate team members” had detracted from their first year experience. This was reflected in the first interview where the interviewee revealed that many Mature Age students (even the 21-29 year olds) found themselves having to adopt the role of “parent” in group assignments without volunteering or agreeing to it.
Attitudes toward the staff were positive with the great majority of participants stating that they were all very helpful and supportive. One participant responded that they were “too intimidated” by lecturers but was “getting braver”: this same participant stated that one of the things that helped them through their first year were “friendly older… lecturers who took the time to listen, encourage and point in the right direction”. “I'm very impressed with the University staff who have always been extremely helpful and patient”
Information should be more available. For example, one participant requested an introduction to the library, a service that is already offered.

A pamphlet on encouraging mothers/carers (who have been child rearing for a while) specifically about who to go and ask questions too.”

This is further reflected in confusion about administrative processes and how there is very little information as to how to cope with them.

Some of the different rules and systems- procedures that differ so much from faculty to faculty.”


In the interviews the issue of differentiating yourself in degrees such as Arts, which has many core units, came up with the disclosure that Mature Age students desire more flexibility in their courses. This brings us to the changes that UWA wishes to undergo.
Both the interviews and the survey revealed that some Mature Age students have concerns over UWA’s development, with Interview one stating that the consensus on the upcoming change in degree structure is that “it sucks” and UWA’s reputation will suffer for it causing future students to go to Curtin instead.
... I understand the past reputation of UWA is one of being the top uni in WA however I am concerned that the drive towards profits by management is (and even me a first year can see this) at to greater cost to the academic function of the organisation.”


Discussion/Conclusion
With respect to the 32 of 112 MAP students who responded to the survey, 42.86% were within the age group of 21-29 and 35.71% and within the age group of 40-49, 16.13% are 30-39, and 50-59 and 60+ each have 9.68 % of the MAP population of which 43.75% of this population have sited Year 12 matriculation as their highest standard of education. There was a 65.63% enrolment in the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences.
The current MAP enrolment figures appear to reflect that 2010 has the largest amount of MAP students to date for a given year.
89.47% of MAP students who responded to the question worked more than 15 hours week and as much as 38+ hours per week, suggesting that many endeavour to work beyond part time. This could be the cause of the heavy reliance that Mature Age students have on Lectopia, as their time for lectures is restricted by the terms of their employment. One survey participant stated that their colleagues were being actively disruptive to their studies.
The reason for such work habits may have been explained in Interview 1, where even a working student with no dependents was even finding trouble keeping ahead. Also, from Question Six’s analysis of concerns, ‘Financial’ accounted for 20.94% or total concern, second only to ‘Academic’ at 24.85%. Of the given concerns, ‘Social’ accounted for the lowest portion with 13.70%, while ‘Family’ (17.03%) and ‘Personal’ (18.20%) were separated by little over 1%. However, one must keep in mind that of these participants, only 28.13% had children as dependents: a fact which could only increase ‘Family’ and ‘Financial’ concern if the percentage was higher.
Of MAP attendance, the data seems to indicate that MAP/UniSkills/StudySmarter attendance is a great assistance towards academic success with only 20% of attendees give indication of requiring further assistance compared to 66.67% of participants who attended neither.
At this stage it does appear that the MAP program with the use of UniSkills and StudySmarter has proved beneficial to the attrition rates of Mature Age Students. Although it must be noted that the figures quoted in the 2008 study by Betts includes all MAP participants, not just a group who agreed to answer survey questions. Hence this outcome could differ substantially.
As the numbers stand in 2008 63.89% of units were dropped by MAP students who had not completed year 12, in June 2010 it is reduced to 10.53%. The unit drop out for Year 12 or equivalent in 2008 was 26.83% in June 2010 16%. TAFE or equivalent 2008 was 40.63% to June 2010 reflects 3.92 % of the students who participated in the survey.
Many MAPs found it difficult to find the information they needed; even those involved in the UniMentor program had difficulties as their school leaver mentors did not have the same issues to deal with. A common recommendation was the introduction of specified Mature Age Mentors, like a “buddy”, someone to "walk me through every step". One participant termed it as “an older person who could just answer general silly questions first to take the intimidation/emotion away”. Participants who requested essay writing courses and time management sessions may be unaware that these services are offered by StudySmarter and UniSkills, or perhaps work and other outside commitments clash with the timing of the sessions. In a couple of isolated observations there were cases of misinformation where the participant directly disagreed with the course content after the unit started.
It was shown that most problems had outside sources such as “uncooperative work colleagues”, “babysitting problems”, and generally the eternal work and uni balance; often causing the forgoing of attendance and lose of marks on behalf of Mature Age students. Suggestions to counteract this were more work friendly times and a list of valid reasons to miss a tutorial/workshop specifically for Mature Age students. Another suggestion was that courses should be “totally homebased” by way of web functions such as Lectopia.
While Mature Age students registered that their financial and academic concerns were still rather high, the great majority praised the support programs and the staff and attributed most of their worries to a lack of confidence in their own ability. Upon the apparent observations an appropriate recommendation would be for essay writing courses to be offered prior to the commencement of semester and a more detailed and “real” guide as to how they are expected to study for their units and how much time they require. This would help lower the number of unit withdrawals as helping Mature Age students realize their strengths and establish their limitations is one of the few concerns that a university can tackle head on as there is nothing they can do to help with uncooperative colleagues and medical conditions.
Despite this the great majority of those surveyed were enjoying their time studying and were “overwhelmed” by the level of support offered. “Still loving it, still walking on air... still learning something every day”.
This research can be a foundation for a lengthier research project to monitor the MAP students at the University of Western Australia over a lengthier time, possibly over a 5 year term as previously carried out by The University of Western Australia in 1986 for the period from 1977-1981 (Anderson 1986).
References
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http://www.stats.uwa.edu.au/StatsOffice/unistats/2010#TotalE


1 Attendance also constitutes the use of web services, orientations and consulting with the staff associated with those programs.

2 Six participants did not give a sufficient answer as to whether they used UniSkills & StudySmarter.

3 Four participants did not give a sufficient answer as to whether they attended MAP.

4 with the option of N/A, which was not used in calculating the averages

5 Was calculated using the averages of participants who chose to list an ‘Other’

6 The 2008 figures include all MAP students, the 2010 figures contain only the MAP students who responded to the survey, hence final results may differ from those produced here.



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