Skip to main content Skip to main navigation menu Skip to site footer

Narratives of Access: A Critical Exploration of How Institutional Interactions with Students Affect Regional Student Participation in Higher Education


This article examines the narratives that drive university staff understanding of the concerns and experiences of regional and remote students at five universities in Australia. Interviews were conducted with thirty university staff members over a period of three months in 2018. Reflexive thematic analysis of the stories told by staff of supporting regional students found that staff used the lens of access to create meaningful stories for themselves and others in how they supported students. Access is defined as a multi-faceted term encompassing access to people, Internet, study materials and equipment and study environments. Access is facilitated by a sense of belonging or identity as a student and limited by the lack of this. Our analysis of “belongingness” draws on Bourdieu’s concepts of habitas to start to unpick the interactions between higher education institutions and the student that develop student identities as scholars and centres the narrative on the student as a person, wrestling to gain many forms of access within complex social situations.

Published: 2020-05-26
Pages:60 to 71
How to Cite
Ostini, J., Partridge, H., Kelly, K., Owen, S., & Jeffries, S. (2020). Narratives of Access: A Critical Exploration of How Institutional Interactions with Students Affect Regional Student Participation in Higher Education. Student Success, 11(2), 60-71.

Author Biographies

University of Southern Queensland
Australia Australia

Jenny Ostini is a qualitative social scientist who is interested in the stories told about power and how these include and exclude people. She takes an inter-disciplinary approach to social impacts of technology and the policies and structures that impact people and communities.

Deakin University
Australia Australia

Helen Partridge is Pro Vice-Chancellor Teaching and Learning at Deakin Unitersity and was previously Professor and Pro Vice-Chancellor (Education) at the University of Southern Queensland (USQ), Australia. She is also an Adjunct Professor at the Queensland University of Technology’s (QUT) Information Systems School. Helen has twice been elected to the Board of Directors of the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA), and was appointed a Fellow of the Association in 2012. Helen’s research interests explore the interplay between information, learning and technology. Helen has been a visiting Fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford (2011) and the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, Harvard University (2014). Follow Helen on Twitter @partridh.

Southern Cross University
Australia Australia

Kathryn Kelly has been the Director of Library Services at Southern Cross University for the past ten years. Kathryn has held positions as diverse as Director of Student Administration Services and Director of Property Services. Kathryn has a degree in Library and Information Sciences and a Masters of Educational Technology and over 30 years’ experience working with university students to enhance their academic journey both in Australia and internationally. Connect with Kathryn via linkedin:

Federation University Australia
Australia Australia

Sue Owen is Director, Library and Learning Spaces at Federation University Australia (FedUni). Sue leads the strategic development of library services, collections, staff and spaces, both online and at five campus libraries across Victoria.

University of the Sunshine Coast
Australia Australia

Sandra Jeffries is Director, Information Services at the University of the Sunshine Coast, responsible for the University Library, Information Management Services, Mail and Print Services and legislative compliance issues such as right to information, information privacy and copyright. Sandra’s professional interests include organisational and staff development, strategic planning and performance evaluation.

Open Access Journal
ISSN 2205-0795