Australian universities continue to post strong student growth, with recent statistics showing student enrolments have increased across major population groups. Released earlier this month, the Department of Education and Training data indicates a settling of the growth in the university sector after the highs of several years ago. The very vigorous growth rate of 9.6% posted in 2012, was seen as a reaction to market demand when university places were initially uncapped.
Most recently the number of domestic students starting an undergraduate degree increased at a sustainable rate of 1.5% between 2014 and 2015. Over the same period the number of international students choosing to study at Australia’s very well-respected universities rose by a healthy 7%. Interestingly, over half (55.4%) of all enrolled students were female.
Local universities are also continuing to retain the majority of commencing students. Despite university student numbers having increased significantly over the past decade - the rate of attrition amongst students has remained virtually unchanged since 2005. This would seem to indicate that the sector continues to successfully adapt to the challenges of changing student demands and expectations.
Indeed, the sector continues to meet the needs of a wide range of student and populations groups and most importantly, the figures show enrolments for under-represented groups is slowly increasing over time. A heartening increase of 7.1% was recorded in indigenous enrolments for 2015, taking the total for domestic enrolments to 1.5%. However while this represents a 1.2% increase, it is still not reflective of the overall indigenous population share of 2.7% per cent.
Students from both regional areas and low socio-economic backgrounds also remain under represented across the university population. However they did post small enrolment increases of 1.8% and 3.2% respectively, with more initiatives clearly needed to boost these figures into the future.
While the statistics represent varied results across the board, the overriding verdict is that the Australian university sector remains financially sustainable, with strong overall demand.