Quality of Australia's higher education graduates declining

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

2 September 2008: The proportion of students from low socio-economic areas and the overall quality of university entrants have declined in recent years, according to a new book by an Australian Catholic University (ACU) economics lecturer, Dr Sarah Wright.

“An investigation into the equity and efficiency of Australia’s higher education system” studies the effect of changes in higher education policy including the impact of the rising level of the cost of higher education since 2004.

Dr Wright found that there was a decline in the quality of university applicants and entrants in the period 2004 to 2007. The number of students with university entrance scores between 50 and 60 has more than doubled during this time. Similarly, the proportion of students with scores of less than 50 receiving and accepting an offer to university has also increased.

The book also showed that there are only a small number of courses where the student contribution to their education actually reflects the true cost of the course. In 2008 students studying both law and business/commerce/economics degrees will pay HECS fees equal to 84 per cent of their total course costs while students becoming doctors and dentists are paying fees equal to 35 per cent of the total course costs and those studying agriculture only 27 per cent.

“Under the current HECS system the Government is contributing relatively more funding to students studying in the areas of agriculture, physical science and visual and performing arts, than to the areas such as teaching, nursing, law and economics, despite the relatively higher unemployment rates in agriculture, physical science and visual and performing arts,” Dr Wright said.

“This in turn encourages universities to offer places in these discipline areas with relatively high unemployment rates. This is not only worsening areas of skills shortage but also inefficiently allocating resources in the higher education sector.

“Overall the study showed that Australia’s higher education system is inefficient and does not cater for the needs of the less-advantaged in society. Through my study, I found that Australia’s higher education system is seriously underfunded compared to other OECD nations and does not reflect the benefits that a quality higher education system could bring to the nation.”

Available for Interview
Dr. Sarah Wright
Lecturer in Economics
ACU Strathfield Campus

“An investigation into the equity and efficiency of Australia’s higher education system” is available for purchase at: http://homepages.ihug.com.au/~gep/gep_prices.htm

Additional information and working papers can be found at: