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National Higher Education Data Sets

There are two significant national higher education data sets Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) should be aware of:

Higher Education Statistics

What are these large data Higher Education data sets?

Higher Education Statistics are available to Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) through the Australian Government’s Department of Education. They are commonly used by universities and researchers to monitor access, participation retention and success of students. The data includes a wide range of parameters such as:

  • courses provided by higher education institutions
  • numbers and characteristics of students undertaking courses
  • student load
  • completion of units of study and courses
  • student liability status
  • numbers and characteristics of staff in higher education institutions
  • income and expenditure for higher education institutions
  • research activity
  • undergraduate applications, offers and acceptances
  • equity performance data.

The data is provided as Excel tables, Pivot tables and visual analytics and is released annually.

It is useful to explore the data sets and familiarise yourself with the data related to your own institution but to also look at the sector as a whole, other institutions, and state-based data.

Higher Education Statistics - Department of Education, Australian Government This link takes you away from the ADCET page

Or visit our page Current HE Data Analysis for a snapshot.

How is this data collected?

The data is gathered from multiple resources but is primarily enrolment data. Some additional categories in enrolment questions are mapped later to this enrolment data e.g., additional demographic data such as ethnicity, indigeneity and disability.) See survey results

This information is reported to the Department by every institution but there is no set release data but it is generally released once data is verified in the following year. This means there can be some considerable lag time. The Introduction of Tertiary Collection of Student Information (TCSI) has contributed to some delays (and potentially inaccuracies) in past couple of years.

Some of the challenges with this data include:

  • we know they are not complete or accurate
  • students choose not to disclose information e.g., disability, cultural background
  • not often updated.

The value dilemma for this data is weighing up the pros and cons for the data in order to glean important insights about the increasing numbers and performance of students, and in particular awareness around the types of people with disability.

How do I find and navigate it?

ADCET has recently revised data information including these fact sheets to support disability practitioners (see Current HE Data Analysis).

You can also go straight to the source via the Higher Education Statistics - Department of Education, website. Common data sets that people look at include:

  • Selected Higher Education student data by year
  • Selected Higher Education student data, Section 11: Equity groups which provides current year headcount by equity group, state and institution
  • Selected Higher Education student data, Section 16: Equity performance data which looks at access, participation, retention and success for equity groups including time series.

When looking at the data ensure you are:

  • looking at the contents and explanatory notes around how the data is collected
  • understanding the difference between access, participation, retention and success data
  • comparing ‘like for like’ – some data is disaggregated by commencing vs all students, domestic vs overseas, levels of study, table A and B providers, modes of study etc
  • checking your own data against the Department’s data
  • look at trends – both in the sector and your own institution
  • compare with other ‘like’ institutions
  • utilising the visual analytics as well as downloading Excel and Pivot tables
  • don’t be afraid to ask questions.

How can planning units assist?

If you don’t already have a good relationship with your planning and data area/s then it is worthwhile. They can help you to:

  • better understand sector and institutional data and how to understand inputs and outputs
  • assist you to understand what senior leaders are concerned with
  • assist you to streamline data requests through reporting processes or dashboards
  • create reports and data analysis which is meaningful
  • improve your comfort levels with the data
  • assist you to streamline or drive service improvements.

Some initial questions to ask your planning/data team might be:

  • what do you have dashboards set up to do?
  • How can my area improve student disclosure of disability on enrolment?
  • How can I utilise the student disclosure information to better inform our service provision?
  • What are the trends in the data e.g., types of disability, intersectional considerations, which disciplines students with disability are studying, what is their mode of attendance etc
  • how can we benchmark? How does your institution compare with others in your state or nationally, proportion of enrolments, retention and success rates etc?

What is the value of this data, and how it can be used?

These large data sets are utilised by a variety of stakeholders including:

  • Federal and State Government Departments for the purposes of funding and service provision. For example, enrolment numbers impact the Higher Education Disability Support Program funding (double check and include link to legislation)
  • Higher education institutions for benchmarking and reporting
  • Peak bodies working with people with specific disability 
  • Disability Managers and Practitioners
  • Researchers
  • Individuals in the community

National Survey Data (QILT)

What is being surveyed?

National Survey Data is primarily gathered via QILT – Quality Indicators in Learning and Teaching surveys. QILT is a Department of Education initiative to manage the quality of teaching and learning delivered across 41 Australian Universities. There are three main surveys which are sent to students across Australia to determine particular outcomes of their journey. These surveys include:                                                          

  • Student Experience Survey (SES) - survey of current higher education students. Information collected in the SES helps higher education institutions and the government improve teaching and learning outcomes for students.
  • Graduate Outcomes Survey (GOS) - is completed by graduates of Australian higher education institutions approximately four to six months after finishing their studies. The GOS measures short-term employment outcomes including skills utilisation, further study activities, and graduate satisfaction.
  • Graduate Outcomes Survey – Longitudinal (GOS-L) – a repeat of the GOS completed approximately 3 years after completing studies.

How is this data collected?

National survey campaigns are run by the Social Research Centre (SRC) which is contracted by the Federal Government. Awareness campaigns and reminders to complete are run by individual HEIs.

For more information visit  This link takes you away from the ADCET page or visit our page Current HE Data Analysis for a snapshot.

What is the value of this data and how it can be used?

Because this is a large data set and is commissioned by the Federal Government there are several benefits to reviewing it:

  • Nationally consistent measures recorded over time
  • Data is available in multiple formats and additional data can be requested with support from your planning team
  • enables benchmarking and more detailed institutional data to be scrutinised e.g., course, Faculty, or study area level. Also using disability and other equity datasets to be looked
  • provides info for planning and research.