Australian Tertiary Education Network on Disability

Pathways15: NCSEHE research findings: supporting mental health, academic success and employability of students with disability in Australian universities

Nicole Crawford, David Eckstein and Tim Pitman, National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education

Since 2016, the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (NCSEHE) has supported twelve Equity Fellows to conduct targeted research projects, advancing student equity research, policy and practice. Three of the 2019/20 cohort will share findings from their year-long projects, with specific reference to students with disability and supporting student mental health and wellbeing.

Dr Nicole Crawford (NCSEHE) investigated university students’ mental wellbeing from the perspectives of mature-aged students in regional and remote Australia. In this presentation, Nicole will consider the relationship between mental health conditions, mental health challenges, and efforts to support mental wellbeing, as well as from whom students seek support and why. She’ll explore the complexity from the student perspective and from the perspective of university support provision.

Mr David Eckstein (Swinburne University of Technology) will focus on issues concerning the provision of careers support for university students with disability. David will present findings from a national student survey that provides much needed data about the lived experience of students with disability. His research also sheds light on barriers to the provision of targeted careers support and how they may be addressed using different resources. This discussion will culminate in an introduction to a new national community of practice which will provide open access tools for all universities to use.

A/Prof Tim Pitman (Curtin University) will discuss how universities can better support students with disability in succeeding in their studies. Tim’s fellowship had a specific focus on students with disability studying in regional, rural and remote areas and he will focus on this aspect of his Fellowship.


Nicole Crawford is a Senior Research Fellow in the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (NCSEHE). She was a 2019/20 NCSEHE Equity Fellow and investigated proactive approaches to support the mental wellbeing of mature-aged university students in regional and remote Australia. Prior to the Fellowship, she was a Lecturer in Pre-degree Programs at the University of Tasmania (UTAS) for nearly a decade. Her research focuses on equity and inclusion in higher education. She initiated UTAS’s Social Inclusion Community of Practice, and the National Association of Enabling Educators of Australia (NAEEA) Special Interest Group on Mental Health.

David Eckstein is 2020 Equity Fellow at the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education. His research into careers support for students with disability will result in open-access tools and guidelines for all universities to use. David is a university careers practitioner and established Swinburne University’s AccessAbility Careers Hub – a disability initiative that received the 2019 NAGCAS best practice award and Honorable Mention from the United States’ National Association of Colleges and Employers. His interests include notions of professional self, industry disability confidence, and using narrative methods to help people develop and implement meaningful workforce participation plans.

Associate Professor Tim Pitman is a researcher of higher education policy at Curtin University. His specific interest is in how universities can widen access, participation and success for groups of students historically underrepresented in higher education. This includes persons from low socioeconomic status backgrounds; Indigenous persons; people with disability; people from non-English speaking backgrounds; and people from regional and remote parts of Australia. He is currently undertaking a NCSEHE Equity Fellowship investigating how universities can best support people with disability; particularly those who come from regional, rural and remote Australia, in their higher education studies.