Exploring students’ feelings of place

Susan Christine Webb, Elizabeth Knight, Rosalyn Black, Reshmi Roy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Geographically unequal distribution of opportunities for participation in post-school education particularly affects young people in rural and regional areas of Australia. This study contends that the perception of opportunities by young people from low socio-economic status backgrounds should be considered alongside the distribution of opportunities, in order to understand how place and social mobility are intertwined in the reproduction of inequality. Drawing on data about post-school transitions in peri-urban and rural areas of Australia, our study shows that understandings of a sense of belonging to a rural place of origin and the attraction of nature and the outdoors are intrinsic to understanding young people's educational mobilities.

Despite a growing interest in the more emotional aspects of mobility, including the concept of 'emotional topographies' and issues of dislocation and belonging, the spatial contingency of student identities and their effects on participation are only just beginning to be manifested in an ontological shift in scholarship. Educational mobilities and the sense of place have been tested by the impact of the 2020 global pandemic. By deepening understanding of how students from rural areas frame their educational choices, this study offers a progression in thinking about dislocation and belonging in the interactions of post-school transitions. Arguably, a broader emotional geographical sense of belonging is needed to understand the experiences of rural students and their mobility or immobility. This broader conceptualisation may indicate new research directions for urban research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-60
Number of pages18
JournalAustralian and International Journal of Rural Education
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • emotional geographies
  • aspirations
  • rural areas
  • educational choices

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