How Mass Public Transportation Influences the Retention Intentions of Australian Regional and Remote University Students | UniSC | University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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How Mass Public Transportation Influences the Retention Intentions of Australian Regional and Remote University Students

For regional and remote (RR) university students in Australia, the transition to university life is influenced by the accessibility and reliability of mass public transportation (MPT). This recent study by Joshua Dale, Maria Raciti, and Aaron Tham, published in Rural Society (2023), sheds light on the intricate relationship between MPT and the retention of RR students.

The study begins by acknowledging a fundamental aspect of university life often taken for granted - the journey to and from campus. For RR students, many of whom have relocated for their studies, MPT becomes an important factor influencing their retention intentions. The research aims to unravel the complexities surrounding MPT,  examining its impact on participation, study time, relocation anxieties, and parental concerns. The findings, drawn from interviews with equity practitioners from three Australian universities, show that limited access can impede students' ability to attend classes, engage in campus activities, and fully integrate into the university community. On a positive note, MPT provides a time benefit where RR students can utilise their commuting time for study, transforming what would otherwise be downtime into valuable learning opportunities.

The study reveals a complex interaction between relocation anxieties and MPT. As students choose accommodations further from campus, they rely more heavily on MPT, amplifying the challenges associated with living away from home. The research also notes that parental concerns about MPT access and accessibility contribute to a set of "mixed messages" that can affect students' participation in university life.

Investing in reliable and convenient transportation options can break down barriers, fostering greater university participation among RR students. Acknowledging the time benefits of MPT, universities can explore innovative ways to support students in utilising their commuting time productively, contributing to their academic success. By addressing parental concerns and providing clear communication, universities can establish a supportive network that encourages RR students in their academic pursuits. It is essential for educational institutions and policymakers to consider these findings, working collaboratively to create environments that empower RR students to thrive academically, socially, and personally. In doing so, we can foster a more inclusive and supportive higher education landscape.