Release type: Media Release


Record number of Australian students at university


Senator the Hon Chris Evans
Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations
Leader of the Government in the Senate

More Australian students than ever before have the opportunity of a university education as a result of the Government’s landmark higher education reforms.

The Minister for Tertiary Education, Senator Chris Evans, today welcomed data showing an estimated 50 000 additional undergraduate students are enrolled at Australian universities compared to 2009.

“Labor’s major reforms have opened the doors of Australia’s universities to more students than ever before,” Senator Evans said.

“In 2011, more than 480 000 undergraduate places are being funded – an increase of 10 per cent since 2009. Regional universities taken together also have 10 per cent more student places than in 2009.”

As a result of this growth, more than 200 000 students are estimated to have commenced undergraduate studies in public universities this year.

“This is great news for our economy. It means that more Australians will have the chance to gain the qualifications they need to access the high skilled jobs of the future,” Senator Evans said.

“Skills Australia has forecast that by 2025 a third of all jobs will require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree qualification. To meet that demand for highly skilled workers, Labor is ensuring everyone who is eligible can access a place at Australian universities.”

Under the Government’s demand-driven system for domestic undergraduate student places to be implemented from 2012, universities will be able to enjoy sustainable growth and diversity in response to student needs.

“Our universities have responded strongly during the transitional years to the opportunities of this significant reform,” Senator Evans said.

“Increases in university enrolments will make a major contribution to the Government’s national target that by 2025, 40 per cent of all 25 to 34-year-olds will hold a qualification at bachelor’s degree level or above. In 2010, 34.2 per cent of this age group held such qualifications.

“To reach the target, universities will need to reach out to a broader range of prospective students.

“In this next generation of students, there will be many people who will be the first in their family to have the opportunities that a university education can offer.”

Applications and offers data shows universities are already attracting a broader range of students, particularly those from low socio-economic status (SES) backgrounds.

Between 2009 and 2010, university offers to low SES applicants also increased faster (8.8 per cent) than offers to medium SES applicants (7.8 per cent) and high SES applicants (5.8 per cent).

Preliminary data for 2011 suggests these trends have continued.

The strong increase in low SES offers will significantly contribute to achieving the Government’s target that by 2020, 20 per cent of higher education undergraduate enrolments will be people from a low SES background. In 2009, just 14.1 per cent of undergraduate students were from a low SES background.

The data also shows that between 2009 and 2011, applications for undergraduate nursing courses have increased strongly by more than 18 per cent and demand for science degrees also grew by around 23 per cent.