The Aspirations: Supporting Students' Futures course draws on a significant program of research involving more than 15,000 surveys and 1000 interviews/focus groups with students, teachers and their parents/carers. The image below provides an overview of research. Details of each of the projects and links to published research are listed after the image below.
Overview of projects:
The Aspirations Longitudinal Study is a significant research project which sought to provide comprehensive insight into the factors that shape the career and educational aspirations of Australian school students. The project attracted more than $1m in funding from the Australian Research Council and the NSW Department of Education and Communities (DEC).
A number of follow-up studies have drawn on the data collected for the Aspirations Longitudinal Study to further understand student aspirations. These are detailed below.
Choosing university: The impact of schools and schooling
Choosing university sought to identify factors associated with schools and schooling that impact on students’ aspirations to attend university. The aim was to better understand barriers and enabling conditions over which schools have some control in order to provide insight into possible ways of improving the higher education participation and success of low socioeconomic status (SES) and other marginalised students. This project was funded by the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (NCSEHE).
Choosing VET: Investigating the VET aspirations of school students
Choosing VET investigated the post-school aspirations of NSW primary and secondary school students. It explored when VET begins to feature in students’ thinking about their futures, the kinds of students who think about VET, and under what conditions. The study informs how teachers, schools and VET providers might enrich the information available to students and their parents/carers and address current gaps and misunderstandings in students’ knowledge about VET. This project was funded by the National Centre for Vocational Education Research.
Guiding futures: The role of teachers in the formation of students’ aspirations for higher education
The project investigated the impact of school teachers and other educators on the aspirations of higher education of students in Years 3-12. A second objective was to test the idea that under-representation of students from low SES backgrounds and other disadvantaged groups in universities may in part be a function of the explicit and implicit guidance students receive from teachers. The project was funded by the Australian Department of Education and Training through the Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program (HEPPP).
Locating aspirations: Evidence to support participation in higher education of low SES students from regional and remote Australia
Locating Aspirations examined the educational and career aspirations of regional and remote students from low socioeconomic status backgrounds. Existing longitudinal data were combined with additional quantitative and qualitative data collected through surveys of, and interviews with, students, teachers and parents. The project produced robust evidence on regional and remote student aspirations, demonstrating how heterogeneity within areas and communities provides varying experiences and shapes diverse aspirations. The project was funded by the Australian Department of Education of Education and Training through the Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program (HEPPP).
Unlocking capacity and empowering choices: Indigenous students’ aspirations for higher education
This project explored the educational intentions and occupational interests of Indigenous school students from Years 3–12 as well as their understanding of the path from school to higher education. Quantitative and qualitative analysis of data from the Aspirations Longitudinal Study, focus groups and interviews, indicated major enablers and barriers to higher education achievement that were identified by Indigenous students, their parents and teachers. The project was funded by the Australian Department of Education of Education and Training through the Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program (HEPPP).
Who seeks access to what, when and why? Interrogating the pivotal role of student aspirations in higher education participation
This project addressed low socioeconomic status student under-representation in higher education, particularly in high-status degrees. Data from surveys and focus groups were mapped to indicate the specific occupational interests and educational aspirations of school students from Years 3–12 to inform targeted university outreach activities. The project was funded by the Australian Department of Education of Education and Training through the Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program (HEPPP).
Girls in Maths
This project sought to better understand the decision-making processes surrounding girls’ participation in mathematics and to identify any factors that encourage or discourage interested girls from participating in high level mathematics. This research project was commissioned by John Bowers to honour the memory of his late wife Margaret, a dedicated teacher of mathematics to girls.
Community influence on university aspirations: Does it take a village?
This project investigated the impact of local communities on school students’ aspirations for higher education. Drawing on multiple datasets involving students in Years 3–12 and augmented by rich, detailed case studies, the researchers explored the role of communities in shaping post-school aspirations among students from targeted equity groups. By foregrounding the role of communities in shaping student aspirations, including variance within and between communities, the project contributed to building the evidence base for equity policy and practice. This project was funded by the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (NCSEHE).
Blogs and news articles
Earp, J. (2015). What do you want to do when you grow up? Teacher Magazine. Retrieved from https://www.teachermagazine.com.au/articles/students-and-career-aspirations-infographic
Gore, J. (2017) Why many high-achieving Indigenous students are shunning university. The Conversation. Retrieved from
Gore, J., Holmes, K, Smith, M., Fray, L., Wallington, C., Weaver, N. (2017) How children’s aspirations change as they grow up: latest research. EduResearch Matters. Retrieved from
Patfield, S. (2018). Don’t lock the doors on students who are first in their family to go to university. Aspirations matter. EduResearch Matters. Retrieved from: https://www.aare.edu.au/blog/?p=3510
Singhal, P. (2018, September 12). ‘Easy’ HSC subjects growing, one in four girls no longer doing maths. The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved from: https://www.smh.com.au/education/easy-hsc-subjects-growing-one-in-four-girls-no-longer-doing-maths-20180912-p5038s.html
Singhal, P. (2017, June) Year 5 NAPLAN scores could shape career goals: study. The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved from: https://www.smh.com.au/education/year-5-naplan-scores-could-shape-career-goals-study-20170611-gwouf6.html
Smith, A. (2017, March). A ‘dire’ lack of interest in students wanting to pursue maths careers. The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved from: https://www.smh.com.au/education/a-dire-lack-of-interest-in-students-wanting-to-pursue-maths-careers-20170330-gv9pwa.html
Journal articles and reports
Fray, L., Gore, J., Harris, J., & North, B. Key influences on aspirations for higher education of Australian school students in regional and remote locations: a scoping review of empirical research, 1991–2016. The Australian Educational Researcher, 1-33.
Gore, J., Holmes, K., Smith, M., Lyell, A., Ellis, H., & Fray, L. (2015). Choosing university: The impact of schools and schooling. Final report to the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education. Retrieved from
Gore, J., Holmes, K., Smith, M., Southgate, E., Albright, J. (2015). Socio-economic status and the career aspirations of Australian school students: Testing enduring assumptions. Australian Educational Researcher, 42, 155-177. doi:10.1007/s13384-015-0172-5
Gore J., Barron, R. J., Holmes, K., & Smith, M. (2016). Who says we are not attracting the best and brightest? Teacher selection and the aspirations of Australian school students. Australian Educational Researcher, 43, 527–549. doi:10.1007/s13384-016-0221-8
Gore, J., Ellis, H., Fray, L., Smith, M., Holmes, K., Lloyd, A., Berrigan, C., Lyell, A., & Weaver, N. (2017). Choosing VET: Investigating the VET aspirations of school students (Final report for the National Centre for Vocational Education Research). Adelaide, Australia: NCVER.
Gore, J., Fray, L., Wallington, C., Holmes, K., & Smith, M. (2017). Australian school student aspirations for military careers: Traditional perceptions in shifting contexts. Armed Forces & Society, 43, 238–259. doi:10.1177/0095327X16682046
Gore, J., Holmes, K., Smith, M., Fray, L., McElduff, P., Weaver, N., & Wallington, C. (2017). Unpacking the career aspirations of Australian school students: Towards an evidence base for university equity initiatives in schools. Higher Education Research and Development. 36, 1383-1400. doi:10.1080/07294360.2017.1325847
Gore, J., Patfield, S., Holmes, K., & Smith, M. (2017). Widening participation in medicine? New insights from school students’ aspirations. Medical Education. Advance online publication. doi:10.1111/medu.13480
Gore, J., Patfield, S., Holmes, K., Gruppetta, M., Lloyd, A., Smith, M., Fray, L., & Heath, T. (2017). The participation of Australian Indigenous students in higher education: A scoping review of empirical research, 2000–2016. Australian Educational Researcher. 44, 323-355. doi:10.1007/s13384-017-0236-9
Gore, J., Patfield, S., Holmes, K., Smith, M., Lloyd, A., Gruppetta, M., Weaver, N., & Fray, L. (2017). When higher education is possible but not desirable: Widening participation and the aspirations of Australian Indigenous school students. Australian Journal of Education. 61, 164-183. doi:10.1177/0004944117710841
Gore, J., Rickards, B., Fray, L., Holmes, K., & Smith, M. (2017). Profiling Australian school students’ interest in a nursing career: Insights for ensuring the future workforce. Australian Journal of Advanced Nursing. 35, 12-22.
Gore, J., Gibson, S., Fray, L., Holmes, K., & Smith, M. (2018). Fostering diversity in the Creative Arts by addressing students’ capacity to aspire. Journal of Creative Behaviour. Advance online publication doi:10.1002/jocb.232
Holmes, K., Gore, J., Smith, M., & Lloyd, A. (2017). An integrated analysis of school students’ aspirations for STEM careers: Which student and school factors are most predictive? International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education. 16, 655-675 doi:10.1007/s10763-016-9793-z
Jaremus, F., Gore, J., Fray, L., Prieto-Rodriguez, E., (2018). Senior secondary student participation in STEM: Beyond national statistics. Mathematics Education Research Journal. Advance online publication. doi:
Lloyd, A., Gore, J., Holmes, K., Smith, M., & Fray, L., (2018). Parental influences on those seeking a career in STEM: The primacy of gender. International Journal of Gender, Science and Technology. 10, 208-328.
Patfield, S., Gore, J., Fray, L., & Gruppetta, M. (2019). The untold story of middle-class Indigenous Australian school students who aspire to university. Critical Studies in Education, 1-16.