Supporting younger military veterans to succeed in Australian higher education

June, 2018

This paper explores how military veterans are accessing and succeeding in higher education.


Military veterans are largely invisible within Australian higher education. There remains little national evidence to confirm how many veterans are accessing and succeeding in higher education, who they are, and what universities could do to improve their access, success, and outcomes. Moreover, postsecondary outcomes for Australian military veterans are relatively poor, with high unemployment rates and mental health risks. Higher education provides an important pathway for veterans to transition successfully to civilian life, and to harness the skills gained through serving in the Australian Defence Force (ADF). In this research project we sought the voices of younger military veterans who had enrolled in Australian higher education after completing full separation from the ADF. We developed a national survey, informed by members of the Australian Student Veterans Association (ASVA), which was complemented by broader evidence and international research. The researchers sought to answer three research questions: What barriers do younger veterans face in accessing higher education? What are the experiences of younger veterans enrolled in higher education, including their strengths and challenges? How can universities better support younger veterans to access, and succeed in, higher education? The provision of support to military veterans in higher education in the US is used for comparative purposes. Findings reveal challenges and opportunities for both the higher education and defence sectors. Barriers to university aspiration and access remain considerable. Our analysis of policy revealed the nature and extent of many such barriers. ADF experience is not consistently recognised or rewarded in university admissions processes, and only a minority of student veterans obtain credit for prior learning on the basis of qualifications earned during service. Once enrolled, existing university support services were not perceived to meet the needs of many student veterans, and very little veteran-specific support is available in higher education in Australia. Our findings have implications for both the Department of Veterans' Affairs and higher education institutions. Further research is required to determine the geo-demographics, course profiles, and graduate outcomes of student veterans, and to explore identified issues within campus climate and university pedagogy.

Full Reference

Harvey, A., Andrewartha, L., Sharp, M. and Wyatt-Smith, M., 2018. Supporting younger military veterans to succeed in Australian higher education. Journal of Veterans Studies.

Report a problem with this article