Higher education research

STEM Pathways: The impact of equity, motivation and prior achievement

Publication Date



STEM education, Pathways, Secondary postsecondary transition, Equal education, Achievement, Student motivation, Disadvantaged, Gender differences, Socioeconomic background, Higher education, Completion rate, Enrolment


Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills are promoted by the Australian Government as pivotal for Australia’s economic prosperity and meeting future workforce requirements (Timms et al., 2018). Whether particular equity groups are able to participate in STEM has implications for the future labour market outcomes of these groups and their contributions in an area seen as vitally important for innovation and prosperity. This study, developed with the support of a National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (NCSEHE) Research Grant, is framed around three core research questions: 1. How do the STEM pathways of equity groups and non-equity groups differ? 2. What factors facilitate equity group students participating in university STEM courses? 3. Do the factors influencing young people’s university STEM participation differ between equity groups and non-equity groups? The study uses data tracking to track a cohort of young people from age 15 to 25 to explore these core questions. This data is drawn from the Longitudinal Surveys of Australian Youth (LSAY) and from the Programme of International Student Assessment (PISA). The study offers new insights into STEM pathways for young people in equity groups as they progress from secondary school, through post-school education and into the workforce. The equity groups of focus in this study are people from Low socioeconomic status (SES) backgrounds, Non-metropolitan areas, First in Family to enrol at university and Women in Non-Traditional Areas (WINTA).

Place of Publication

Perth Australia


National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (NCSEHE)