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"Ghost student" failure among equity cohorts: towards understanding Non-Participating Enrolments (NPE)

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This report investigates the phenomenon of non-participating enrolments (NPEs) at an Australian public university, and further examines the implications of NPE for selected equity cohorts. Also referred to as “ghost students”, these students enrol in university units, remain enrolled post the census date but show no meaningful interaction with the unit’s coursework. NPE represents significant waste: for students, it represents failure on academic transcripts and foregone student fees; for institutions it represents higher failure and attrition rates; and for governments, wasted commonwealth support funding. There is a clear imperative for the sector to pay greater heed to the NPE phenomenon. Our research is aimed at further illuminating the issue of NPE, and for the first time, examine the potential relationship between NPE and longer-term student outcomes, as well as the possible relationship between the risk of NPE and equity group membership.


The authors acknowledge the funding of the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (NCSEHE) that made this research possible.


Publication Date


Commissioning Body

National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education

Type of report

Other research report


National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education, Curtain University

Place of publication

Bentley, Western Australia



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