This paper presents the findings of a qualitative research project, part of a doctoral thesis, which examines the impact of university study on a group of 20 female and male mature-age students at the University of Newcastle, Australia, who have entered university via a non-traditional pathway. These students are in the second to final years of their undergraduate degree programs and have all faced significant hurdles in gaining university entrance and continuing with their studies. The majority have come from lower socio-economic backgrounds, with little, if any, family history of higher education and little positive experience of prior study. This paper gives voice to their stories – their triumphs and achievements as well as their struggles – and highlights the important role that publicly funded institutions can play, not only in widening access to higher education, but also in encouraging and assisting students from a diverse range of backgrounds to participate fully in higher education and achieve their goals.
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