This report details a research project to explore the experiences of younger military veterans within higher education, including their university aspirations and perceived barriers to university access.
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. This evidence gap is particularly problematic since international research suggests that veterans are likely to bring unique strengths to the classroom, but also to face specific challenges and barriers in accessing university. 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 the Australian Defence Force. 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 Australian Defence Force. We asked them to outline their university aspirations and any perceived barriers to university access, the strengths they brought to their studies, their experiences on campus, and the ways in which universities might improve processes to enrol and graduate student veterans. We developed a national survey, informed by members of the Australian Student Veterans Association (ASVA), which was complemented by broader evidence and international research. Findings reveal challenges and opportunities for both the higher education and defence sectors. For many military veterans, accessing university can be difficult and even demoralising. Few institutions explicitly recognise military service during the admissions process, many universities do not recognise qualifications gained during military service, and most state-based tertiary admissions centres do not account for military service in their application processes. A notable exception is Queensland, where the tertiary admissions centre provides a framework for equating service to an Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR), which is accepted by all Queensland universities. We outline how universities and admissions centres could better recognise the experience of veterans in both admissions and credit policies.
Harvey, A., Andrewartha, L., Sharp, M. and Wyatt-Smith, M., 2018. Supporting younger military veterans to succeed in Australian higher education. Final report. Melbourne: La Trobe University.