This capabilities persistence framework has emerged from research conducted under the auspices of an Australian Research Council Discovery Project entitled: “Capitals and Capabilities: Rethinking higher education persistence”.

This project worked with final year students across 9 Australian universities and also current students located in Ireland, the UK and Austria. In total 570 students were either surveyed or interviewed to explore the range of capitals and capabilities that assisted them to continue their journey through university. Within Australia a total of 375 interviews and surveys were collected and these have formed the basis for the first draft of the capabilities framework. Once this is finalised, the international data set (n= 195) will be analysed to consider whether the framework has international resonance across the first-in-family cohort.

Photo by Thanos Pal on Unsplash

The stories told by participants were ones of enduring persistence, which incorporated a range of motivations and rationales. Each of the narratives and responses were analysed utilizing a line-by-line coding technique to unpack the commonalities and the differences. The result is a capabilities framework which is underpinned by 8 key capabilities and a further 6 conversion factors, as follows:

However, lists or tables do not do justice to the stories and narratives that, in combination, underpinned the development of the ultimate findings. To explain how this list emerged from the data, a series of short overviews of each stage of the process has been developed which can be downloaded in full here or according to each of the key sections. The document is designed for readers to dip in and out of, but equally seeks to ground the findings not only within the relevant theories (Capabilities Approach: Sen and Capital Theory: Bourdieu) but also in relation to the experiences of the students themselves. Each of the links below takes you to another section of the document which you can either read on screen or download as a pdf.

Sections of the Capabilities Document: 

Introduction and Background to the study

Research Design and Methods

Defining the Capabilities and Cultural Strengths

Overarching Elements of the Framework

Summative Overview of the Framework and examples from the data

Considering Conversation factors

Pragmatic capabilities matrix

Critical Reference group and consultation


Complete document in PDF version