Beyond cultural capital: Understanding the strengths of new migrants within higher education Academic Article uri icon


  • This paper explores the experiences of new migrants in Australian higher education, based on interviews conducted across two regional university campuses in 2017. New migrants, particularly from refugee backgrounds, often have limited university access and face specific challenges throughout and beyond their university experiences. Under-representation has led to a focus on what new migrants lack, in particular their putative paucity of cultural capital required to navigate and succeed in higher education. It is institutions, however, which frequently lack the willingness or capacity to recognise various strengths and forms of capital possessed by ethnically diverse students. Adopting a critical race theory lens enables identification of those forms of student capital, along with the barriers that may prevent capital from being widely recognised within the academy and/or being fully realised for students in their navigation of work, study, and life. Specifically, this article examines the value of resistant, familial and linguistic capital. New migrant students face specific challenges when their cultural strengths meet institutional and broader structural barriers. It is critical for institutions that the diverse and complex perspectives of under-represented students be harnessed to increase the quality of learning for all students. Compositional diversity on campus is necessary but insufficient to promote deep learning and a positive student experience.

publication date

  • 2019