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University now within reach for a broader cohort of Australians

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander enrolments at university grew 7.6 per cent in the first half of 2015 and the number of students from low socio-economic backgrounds rose by 3.8 per cent.

The latest figures, released today, reveal that the removal of enrolment caps on university places for Australian students along with ongoing student support programs continue to drive an expansion of access to higher education for traditionally under-represented groups.

Regional student enrolments are up by 2.6 per cent and female student enrolments are up 2.9 per cent.

"The strong growth in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander student numbers and in regional and low SES background student numbers are great developments," said Universities Australia Chief Executive Belinda Robinson.

"While there is still a long way to go to close the gap, Indigenous students now represent 1.5 per cent of all onshore domestic students, up from 1.1 percent in 2006."

Many universities are also no longer relying solely on ATAR scores in determining a student's ability to pursue and complete a degree - ensuring that students from more diverse backgrounds have the opportunity to transform their future through higher education.

"An ATAR tells you something about a student's ability to succeed but it doesn't tell you everything," Ms Robinson said.

"With multiple entry pathways, mature age enrolments and diversity of backgrounds and experience, university entry processes and requirements have necessarily become more complex.

"A university education is no longer the preserve of the elite. It is more important than ever that indicators of a student's potential to successfully complete a degree are taken into account alongside indicators of past performance at school," said Ms Robinson.

"The key is to ensure that universities, and schools, have in place programs to ensure that those less well prepared and/or those from disadvantaged backgrounds are appropriately and adequately supported."

As anticipated, the new data also shows that the growth in new enrolments has flat-lined.

"This suggests that the initial surge of 'unmet demand' for a university education has been steadily absorbed in the first few years of the shift to a demand-driven system," said Ms Robinson.

"That trend is absolutely consistent with what we've anticipated for some time. This removes the pressure for any further funding cuts being made to the system.

"We wish all commencing students all the best for their studies in one of the best higher education systems in the world," Ms Robinson said.

Universities Australia Media Contacts

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Patrick Pantano
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