ISSR was commissioned by the Australian Government to review the equity groups that are used to identify and support people who face systemic barriers to participating and succeeding in higher education. Our approach centred on our awareness that educational equity and disadvantage are subject to interpretation, depending on the lens or viewpoint. We adopted a data-driven approach in order to test the contemporary relevance of equity groups in an objective way, with stakeholder consultation used to ground-truth the findings.

Our ISSR team conducted secondary data analysis of datasets including the Higher Education Information Management System, the ABS Census, and the Longitudinal Surveys of Australian Youth to produce evidence-based recommendations on student equity categories that best captured those who face disadvantage in Higher Education participation and attainment. We then engaged stakeholders to critically review the recommendations and to provide feedback on the likely impacts associated with potential changes to the current equity group structure.

The outcomes of the review will inform ongoing development of equity policy and programmes by government and equity practice in the higher education sector.


  • Review the six identified equity groups currently in scope for equity policy and programmes to determine relevance
  • Consider whether new or changed equity groups should be applied


  • Consultation Paper for stakeholder engagement
  • Written Report to inform government decision-making

Project team

  • Dr Wojtek Tomaszewski - Project leader
  • Mr Matthias Kubler
  • Dr Francisco Perales
  • Dr Tina Rampino
  • Professor Mark Western
  • Dr Ning Xiang

Project details

Duration: November 2016–February 2018

Partner: Australian Department of Education and Training

Funding: Australian Department of Education and Training

Contact: Dr Wojtek Tomaszewski (

ISSR ref: ISSR011257

Final Report