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Edition 540, 10 February 2014

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Students choosing private higher education in record numbers

Monday, February 10 2014

The Department of Education has released its 2013 higher education student data (first half year).  This data reveals that there was a 3.8 per cent increase in students enrolled in higher education, across the entire sector, when compared to the corresponding period in 2012. There was an 11 per cent rise in enrolment in private providers over the period.

The data includes enrolments from both domestic and international students. The growth in enrolments (as a percentage) in private providers was fairly evenly split between the domestic and international students – however domestic students make up about 73 per cent of the total student cohort in private providers.

Private provider enrolments have been rising for a number of years in addition to the rise of 11 per cent over from 2012 to 2103, the  2011 to 2012 period saw an increase of 1.8 per cent and the 2010 to 2011 period saw an increased by 5.8 per cent.

What does the rise in private provider enrolments mean for higher education policy?

Presently, students that want to study with non-university higher education providers face distorted choices: either accept a cheaper Commonwealth Supported Place at a public university or pay for a full fee place at a provider that might better meet their needs. The data shows that an increasing number of students are effectively being penalised because their preferred choice of course or provider happens to be a non-university higher education institution.

ACPET’s position is that students should be able to use federally-funded Student Learning Entitlements, including credits for special needs, and HECS-HELP access, with any TEQSA registered higher education provider. Allocation of funding should reward educational quality and outcomes without distinctions between public and private institutions. ACPET’s view is that higher education policy must look beyond reputation, size and history. It must look forward in order to set a more flexible and innovative framework that ensures Australia can compete globally as a highly skilled, diverse and productive economy.

The review of the Demand Driven Funding system being conducted by Dr David Kemp and Mr Andrew Norton is due to report to the Minister for Education in the coming weeks.  ACPET met with Dr Kemp and Mr Norton as part of this review and also provided a submission to them as part of the process. The submission outlines ACPET’s position on higher education funding policy and can be accessed on the ACPET website.  We look forward to their recommendations of Dr Kemp and Mr Norton on reform for higher education funding.

Members wishing to discuss higher education policy can contact me by email or by phone on 03 9412 5912.

Ben Vivekanandan
General Manager Policy and Research


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