Australian Government Aims for 40 Per Cent Degree-Qualified Workforce

March 7, 2012 Updated: March 8, 2012

The Federal Government has uncapped the number of university places and is aiming for a 40 per cent degree-qualified workforce in a shift from limited enrollments to a demand-driven system.

In his keynote address at the Universities Australia Conference in Canberra on March 6, Tertiary Education Minister Chris Evans spoke about the vision for universities to attract a broader range of students.

“For the first time in history, public universities will be funded for undergraduate student places based on student demand.” he said.

“By 2025, we will be in a position to reach the national target of 40 per cent of all 25- to 34-year-olds holding a qualification at bachelor’s degree level or above.”

As a large number of new students are likely to be unprepared for tertiary studies, universities will implement strong support programs and intensive teaching methods to help these students meet the standard to complete their degrees.

The Group of Eight, a coalition representing Australia’s top research universities, says it is too early to assess the impact of the forthcoming expansion on the higher education system.

“More open access to higher education will require a sharper focus on learning outcomes and exit standards than has yet been in evidence,” it said.

However, the Government is confident that a funding system dependent on enrollments is a positive step for Australian universities.

“The new demand-driven system will free up universities more to make the right strategic choices to better deliver on their unique goals and to better meet the needs of their student body,” said Senator Evans during his address.

While the Government has invested more than $37 billion over the last four years, Senator Evans made it quite clear that universities will need to be accountable.

“And, like students, I too will be asking questions about the value for money the Commonwealth is getting from the range of programs that we have in place to support higher education,” he added.

October’s Base Funding Review Report acknowledges that, “Universities are likely to face new challenges in meeting the educational needs of low SES students as the proportion of low SES students enrolling in higher education increases.”

The Government will hold targeted consultations with stakeholders during March.