2003 – Out of sight, out of mind? Strategies for supporting external postgraduate students

Attachment: CAPA Paper

Distance education increases access to postgraduate study for students who would not otherwise be able to attend a university campus. This briefing paper discusses the educational experience of external postgraduate students, describing the difficulties they may encounter due to their distance from the university and suggesting strategies for their support. The scope of this paper has been directed by CAPA Action Policy for 2003: The CAPA Research Officer will produce a briefing paper on the educational experience of off-campus and distance postgraduate students.

The paper will discuss the difference between the experience of on-campus and off-campus students, and will discuss the support needs of off-campus students. The briefing paper will also highlight the difficulties faced by distance education students, particularly in terms of access to university resources and facilities, and instances of additional charges levied on off-campus students by their institution. All CAPA constituents will supply information on policies relating to off-campus students at their University to the CAPA Research Officer.

Where appropriate, constituents will also supply examples of additional fees levied on distance education students by their University, or information about off-campus students’ access to university resources and facilities. The paper will make recommendations for university policies to support off-campus and distance education students. These recommendations will be used by postgraduate associations to lobby for more supportive policies for off-campus and distance education students at their universities.

The recommendations will also be used by the CAPA Executive to lobby the Australian Vice-Chancellors’ Committee (AV-CC) and the Deans and Directors of Graduate Study (DDOGS).  Each section of this paper examines a particular area of concern for external students, and provides suggestions to remedy these concerns. The discussion of each issue is informed both by distance education literature and by information provided by postgraduate student associations around the country, often in the form of surveys of their members or policies relating to distance education at their university. Before these issues are examined, the paper defines what is meant by ‘distance education’ and related terms, and briefly identifies the current external postgraduate student cohort.