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Higher Education Statistics

'The overall objective for equity in higher education is to ensure that Australians from all groups in society have the opportunity to participate successfully in higher education. This will be achieved by changing the balance of the student population to reflect more closely the composition of the society as a whole.1

Disability is a normal part of the human experience, with some form of disability affecting 18.3 per cent of the population, or approximately 4.3 million people in Australia. Yet students with disability continue to be disadvantaged in terms of their access to and participation in higher education in Australia. Within the 15-65 years age group, only 17 per cent of people with disability have a bachelor degree or higher, compared to 30 per cent for individuals without disability. People with disability are more likely to have attained a Certificate level qualification (28.4 per cent) than those without disability (22.5 per cent).2

At university, students with disability represented 6.8 per cent of all domestic undergraduates in 2017, up from 6.4 per cent the previous year.3 In fact there has been a growth in enrolment share of students with disability by 53.6 per cent over the last five years in comparison with general growth in the sector nationally (17.7 per cent) (Figure 1).4 Actual enrolments rose from 33,706 in 2012 to 51,773 in 2017.4 The geographical dispersal of overall enrolment is also noteworthy. Participation rates on a state and territory basis show a very wide divergence, with Tasmania (7.3 per cent) and South Australia (8.7 per cent) approaching and exceeding the national target of 8 per cent respectively, in contrast to Queensland, which has an enrolment rate of 5.4 per cent (Table 1).4 

Figure 1: Growth in domestic undergraduate enrolments in higher education, 2012-2017 4

National enrolments 2013 5.3%, 2014 9.5%, 2015 12.9%, 2016 15.2%, 2017 17.7% Disability enrolments 2013 9.9%, 2014 20.7%, 2015 33.1%, 2016 42.3%, 2017 53.6%

 
Figure 1. data 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
National enrolments 644,784 679,222  706,278  727,786  743,030  759,151
Disability enrolments 33,706  37,032  40,679 44,856  47,970  51,773

 

Table 1: Participation rates (%) for all domestic students with disability by state, 2012-2017 4

Table 1. 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
National 5.0 5.2 5.5 5.8 6.1 6.5

New South Wales

4.6 4.9 5.3 5.9 6.2 6.6
Victoria 4.8 5.0 5.2 5.6 6.0 6.5
Queensland 4.2 4.4 4.7 4.9 5.1 5.4
Western Australia 5.3 5.3 5.5 5.9 6.1 6.2
South Australia 7.3 7.3 7.5 8.1 8.6 8.7
Tasmania 8.2 8.7 8.7 7.6 7.5 7.3
Northern Territory 5.8 5.7 5.3 5.1 5.2 5.7
Australian Capital Territory 6.3 6.4 6.6 6.9 7.3 8.6

Success

Student success rates measure academic performance by determining the number of units passed out of all units attempted.3 For students with disability, the success rate is divided by the success rate of students without disability to create a success ratio.  If the success ratio equals 1.00 or greater it means that students with disability are performing as well as or better than their peers (without a reported disability).

Table 2: Disability success ratios for domestic students in higher education by state, 2012-20173

Table 2. 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
National 0.94 0.93 0.94

0.93

0.94 0.93

New South Wales

0.94 0.93 0.93 0.92 0.93 0.93
Victoria 0.95 0.95 0.95 0.94 0.94 0.94
Queensland 0.93 0.93 0.92 0.91 0.92 0.92
Western Australia 0.94 0.94 0.95 0.94 0.94 0.91
South Australia 0.93 0.92 0.92 0.92 0.93 0.94
Tasmania 0.90 0.88 0.90 0.92 0.92 0.94
Northern Territory 0.80 0.86 0.82 0.84 0.87 0.83
Australian Capital Territory 0.97 0.96 0.95 0.94 0.94 0.95

Disability success ratios are below parity (1.00) across the country meaning that students with disability are less successful than students without disability.  There is some variability by state however the success of students with disability is generally between 5 and 10 per cent lower than students without any reported disability.3

Retention

Student retention rates measure the proportion of students who continue their studies from the previous year.  As with success, a retention ratio is created for students with disability to compare their performance with other students.3

Table 3: Disability retention ratios for domestic students in higher education by state, 2011-2016 3

Table 3. 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
National 0.96 0.96 0.96 0.96 0.96 0.96

New South Wales

0.96 0.97 0.96 0.95 0.95 0.95
Victoria 0.96 0.96 0.97 0.98 0.96 0.97
Queensland 0.96 0.94 0.94 0.94 0.94 0.95
Western Australia 0.96 0.96 0.96 0.96 0.96 0.95
South Australia 0.97

0.96

0.96

0.96 0.97 0.96
Tasmania 0.99 1.01 1.08 1.07 1.16 1.10
Northern Territory 0.84 0.97 0.93 0.87 0.94 0.95
Australian Capital Territory 0.94 0.97 0.98 0.98 0.96 0.97

The national disability retention ratio has held steady at 0.96 for the past six years.  A retention ratio of 0.96 suggests that students with disability have only slightly lower retention rates than students without disability. Interestingly in Tasmania, the retention rates of students with disability are consistently higher than students without a reported disability as demonstrated by retention ratios greater than 1.00.3

The Student Experience

The Student Experience Survey (SES), originally known as the University Experience Survey (UES), was created to provide a national framework for collecting feedback on the higher education student experience. The SES focuses on aspects of the student experience that are measurable, linked with learning and development outcomes, and potentially able to be influenced by institutions. Focus areas in the SES comprise related items representing feedback from students about their higher education experience, regarding outcomes, behaviours and satisfaction:

  • Skills development
  • Learner engagement
  • Teaching quality
  • Student support
  • Learning resources
  • Overall quality of educational experience

Table 4: The undergraduate student experience for students with disability and their peers, 2018 (% positive rating)

Table 4. Skills development Learner engagement Teaching quality Student support Learning resources Overall quality
Disability reported 78 56 80 75 82 78
No disability 82 60 82 73 85 79

 

Students who reported having a disability were less likely to provide positive ratings than students who did not report any disability, with ratings 4 percentage points lower for Skills Development and Learner Engagement, 3 percentage points lower for Learning Resources, 2 percentage points lower for Teaching Quality, but 2 percentage points higher for Student Support.  The quality of their entire educational experience was 1 percentage point lower for students who reported having a disability.

In addition to the items asking students to rate different aspects of their educational experience, students were also asked to indicate whether they had seriously considered leaving their institution during 2018. Students who reported having a disability were more likely to have considered leaving their institution than students who did not report having a disability, by 7 percentage points (down from 9 percentage points in 2017).5

Graduate Outcomes

The 2018 Graduate Outcomes Survey (GOS) measures the destinations and satisfaction of recent higher education graduates.

Table 5: Undergraduate employment outcomes for students with disability and their peers, 2017-2018 (%)

Table 5. 2017 2018
 

Employed
Full-time

Total
employed
Labour force participation Employed
Full-time
Total
employed
Labour force participation
Disability reported 61.5 78.7 86.5 62.8 80.4 85.9
No disability 72.4 86.9 92.4 73.5 87.4 92.3

 

In 2018, undergraduates with a reported disability had a full-time employment rate of 62.8 per cent, which was 10.7 percentage points lower than the 73.5 per cent for undergraduates who reported no disability.6

As an identified disadvantaged equity group, there has been ongoing focus on increasing the access, participation and success of students with disability in post-secondary education. Internationally, it also continues to be an area of research and focus.

References

1 Dawkins 1990 as cited in Naylor, Baik & James 2013, p. 11

2  Australian Bureau of Statistics 2015. Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia: Summary of Findings 2015. Cat. no. 4430.0. Accessed on 25 June 2019. Sourced from https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/4430.0main+features202015

3 Australian Government Department of Education and Training 2018. Selected Higher Education Statistics – 2017 Student Data, Section 11 – Equity Groups, Section 16 – Equity Performance Data. Accessed on 25 June 2019. Sourced from https://www.education.gov.au/selected-higher-education-statistics-2017-student-data

4 Koshy, P, 2018. Student Equity Participation in Higher Education: 2012-2017. National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (NCSEHE), Perth: Curtin University. Accessed on 25 June 2019. Sourced from https://www.ncsehe.edu.au/publications/equity-student-participation-australian-higher-education-2012-2016/

5 NCVER 2018. Australian Vocational Education and Training Statistics: Total VET students and courses 2017. NCVER, Adelaide. Accessed on 25 June 2019. Sourced from https://www.ncver.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0031/3067384/Total-VET-students-and-courses-2017.pdf

6 QILT 2019. 2018 Student Experience Survey: National Report. The Social Research Centre, Victoria. Accessed on 26 June 2019. Sourced from https://www.qilt.edu.au/about-this-site/student-experience

7 QILT 2019. 2018 Graduate Outcomes Survey: National Report. The Social Research Centre, Victoria. Accessed on 26 June 2019. Sourced from https://www.qilt.edu.au/about-this-site/graduate-employment