Sarah O’Shea

Sarah O’Shea


  • Associate Professor, Adult, Vocational and Higher Education
  • Head, Postgraduate Studies

Phone: (02) 4221 5838


Dr Sarah O’Shea is an A/Prof in Adult, Vocational and Higher Education in the School of Education, Faculty of Social Sciences. Sarah has over 20 years experience teaching in universities as well as the VET and Adult Education sector, she has also published widely on issues related to educational access and equity.

In 2015, Sarah was awarded a prestigious OLT National Teaching Fellowship in recognition of her work in the educational equity field. This has included working with students from a diversity of backgrounds to explore their transition, engagement and participation in the HE sector. In 2014, Sarah led an OLT Seed Grant entitled Breaking the Barriers: supporting and engaging mature age first-in-family university learners and their families. This was a multi-institutional grant with University of Newcastle and Open Universities Australia. Sarah is also a CI on an ARC Discovery Project (2014 - 2016) that is exploring the role of mentoring within Indigenous higher education in order to understand how university students mentor Indigenous school students. In 2012, Sarah was awarded an OLT Citation for Outstanding Contribution to Student Learning: For sustained commitment to student transition to university and educational equity in order to facilitate a culture of engagement.

UOW Scholars Profile - Sarah O’Shea

Research Interests

Sarah works within a qualitative framework and has drawn upon narrative inquiry and grounded theory in her research activities.

Sarah is interested in conducting research and supervising Higher Degree Research students in the following areas:

  • First year Experience / The student experience in HE & VET
  • Second Chance Learners
  • Equity in Higher Education & VET
  • Cross-sectoral relations in tertiary education / Learner pathways / transitions
  • Student access, participation and engagement in HE & VET
  • Narrative inquiry research situated within social inclusion / social justice agenda

Research Grants

Current National Competitive Research Grants

  • OLT National Teaching Fellowship ($90,000) S. O’Shea
    “Engaging Families to Engage Students”: Exploring how university outreach activities can forge productive partnerships with families to assist first in family students navigate their higher education journey.
  • Australian Research Council Discovery Project ($211,000)
    CIs: V. Harwood, P. Chandler & S. O’Shea
    Mentoring and Indigenous higher education: Understanding how university students mentor Indigenous school students.
  • Office of Learning and Teaching Seed Project Grant ($47,000)
    O’Shea, S., May, J. & Stone, C.
    Breaking the Barriers: supporting and engaging mature age first-in-family university learners and their families.

Internal Grants (2012 - 2014)

  • 2014: O’Shea, S. – Rethinking Capital: Exploring the nature of cultural capital in the context of transition to higher education for first in family university students. University Research Committee (URC) Grant
  • 2013: O’Shea, S. – Exploring the participation of first in family students in university with particular reference to how this impacts upon intergenerational choices around, and perceptions of, higher education. 2013 Educational Strategies Development Fund
  • 2013: O’Shea, S., Harwood, V & Lysaght, P. – Academics’ understandings of social justice and inclusive tertiary pedagogies. 2013 Social Inclusion Projects Scheme
  • 2012: O’Shea, S. – Ustart@UOW: researching the student feedback. Funded by Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program
  • 2012: O’Shea, S. – Pathways to university: Connecting Community Colleges with University of Wollongong. Community Engagement Grant
  • 2012: O’Shea, S. & Stone, C. – Engaging students in on-line environments: A partnership between UOW and OUA. Faculty Collaboration Grant
  • 2012 Harwood, V., Lysaght, P., O’Shea, S., Kiggins, J., & Eady, M. – Academic Connections: Mentoring by academics in the UStart@UOW program. 2012 Social Inclusion Projects Scheme

Professional Activities

Sarah is a member of Early Start Research Institute (ESRI) within the Social Inclusion strand.

She regularly review articles and conference papers including:

  • Australasian Journal of Educational Technology
  • Journal of Australian and New Zealand Student Services Association
  • Higher Education Research and Development
  • AARE International Education Research Conference.


  • 2015: OLT National Teaching Fellowship
  • 2012: Office of Learning and Teaching Citation for Outstanding Contribution to Student Learning
  • 2011: Faculty Teaching Award for a 2011 Vice Chancellor's Award for Outstanding Contribution to Teaching and Learning, University of Wollongong.
  • 2009: Vice Chancellor's Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning
    This citation was awarded: For the development and sustained implementation of a peer-led, student-centred transition strategy that empowers and inspires first year students from diverse backgrounds.
  • 2006: Vice Chancellors Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning
    This citation was awarded: For effectively and innovatively responding to the academic support needs of a diverse student population by providing an integrated model of learner support.
  • 2006: Australian Postgraduate Award, University of Sydney (2006 - 2008)
  • 2006: NSW Institute of Educational Research Award

Future Research Topics

  • Mature Age University students' narratives of arrival / transition
  • The arrival and transition of rural, remote and Indigenous students to the higher education environment

Research Students

  • Thi Thu Hien Nguyen (Doctor of Education): To be confirmed.
  • Andrew Pyke (Doctor of Education): A Study of the Development of English Language Proficiency and the Effectiveness of Stategies on Low Level Undergraduate Nursing Students from University Course Entry through to Graduation and Employment
  • Ashleigh Johnstone (Doctor of Philosophy (Integrated)): Understanding the establishment of the AIME Vibe and mentoring model
  • Christopher Bounds (Doctor of Education): Models of Professional Learning
  • Joanne Jenson (Doctor of Education): Learning Online - A New Direction Or No Direction
  • Theresa Millman (Doctor of Education): Who do you think you are? Exploring the transformative experiences of students transitioning from TAFE to Higher Education
  • Kylie Austin (Doctor of Philosophy): Partnerships in learning: Building a framework for collaboration
  • Jacinta McNamara (Doctor of Education): "Crossing the threshold into Higher Education". In what ways does accessing higher education through an enabling course impact upon male students who follow this pathway?
  • Lynn Jarvis (Doctor of Education): A Leap of faith: the negotiation of risk amongst non traditional students entering higher education via enabling pathways
  • Bradley Parkinson (Doctor of Philosophy): Psychological barriers to participation in higher education
  • Patricia Powers (Doctor of Education): The Light at the End of the Tunnel: Threshold Concepts in Early Online Adult Education
Last reviewed: 27 June, 2016