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Contact person: James Vickers

Project Summary:

The Campus research program is a sub-study of the larger, Island Study Linking Ageing and Neurodegenerative Disease (ISLAND) , a prospective, cohort-based study of dementia risk in the Tasmanian population.

In the ISLAND Campus sub-study, we propose that engagement with formal education in later life may stimulate cognitive activity and  change dementia risk behaviours through cultivating higher health literacy and general self-efficacy. Testing these hypotheses is the first objective of ISLAND Campus.

Whether cognitive decline can be prevented by increasing cognitive stimulation is of considerable interest in dementia research. Low engagement with cognitively stimulating activities is accepted as a modifiable dementia risk factor and emerging evidence from the Tasmanian Healthy Brain Project (THBP) suggests a degree of protection in the trajectory for age-related cognitive decline in people who undertake university studies in retirement. The THBP findings indicate that cognitive activity in mid-to later life is associated with higher cognitive reserve which is understood to be protective of dementia symptoms, even in the presence of dementia pathology. The second objective of ISLAND Campus is to test whether the THBP findings, that formal late-life education increases cognitive reserve, can be replicated.

ISLAND participants were provided the opportunity to enrol in a bachelor’s degree or diploma program at the University of Tasmania, with a full fee waiver, in return for participating in the Campus research program. This involves providing survey data each year relating to self-efficacy, health literacy and stress, as well as the main ISLAND surveys and cognitive tests. Taking into account the influence of demographic factors (e.g. age, sex, prior education, occupational status) and procedural variables (stress, self-efficacy and health literacy), the short and long-term influence of mid-to-late-life university education on dementia risk knowledge, motivations and behaviours, and cognitive performance will be investigated.


The ISLAND Campus has been established to:

  • Determine the acceptability and feasibility of undertaking university education in middle to later life;
  • Establish whether dementia risk knowledge, motivations and behaviours improve among people undertaking university education in middle to later life; and
  • Identify whether engagement in university education in middle to later life is protective of cognitive decline.

Research Team:


  • Helen Douglas (ISLAND Project Manager)
  • Dr Adam Kane (ISLAND Project Officer, Southern Tasmania)
  • Justine Keay (ISLAND Project Officer, Northern Tasmania)
  • Kerri Magnussen (PhD Candidate, late-life education)


ISLAND is supported through funding from the Australian Government’s Medical Research Futures Fund – Keeping Tasmanians out of Hospital, the University of Tasmania, St Lukes Health and the Masonic Centenary Medical Research Foundation. The ISLAND Campus study is also supported by the University of Tasmania, through its generous waiver of student fees for research participants.