August 2017

Senate Education and Employment Legislation Committee

Enquiry into the Higher Education Support Legislation Amendment (A More Sustainable, Responsive and Transparent Higher Education System) Bill 2017

Hearing at Wodonga, Vic., Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Q1. What are Universities Australia’s views on the Deloitte Access Economics report on the public and private benefits of higher education, released by the Department of Education and Training on 24 July?

The Deloitte Access Economics report to the Department of Education and Training (DET) finds that the public benefit from higher education is bigger than the private benefit.

As others, such as Andrew Norton, have noted, the study does not consider ‘non-market’ benefits of higher education (i.e. broader benefits that cannot be quantified). It may therefore underestimate the public benefit.

While the study attempts to estimate the relative public and private benefits by field of education, it notes that ‘the range of private and public benefits may in fact be narrower than is implied by this study’s central empirical results’ (p.xi). The report states that estimates of relative public and private benefits by field of education lie within a band of five percentage points’ around the average results. Given the limited spread of results by both field of education and level of study (public benefits differ by a maximum of 11 percentage points), this suggests that any differences are relatively minor.

As Mr Norton has also observed, it is not clear that relative public and private benefit is a sensible (or workable) basis for setting relative public and private contributions to the funding of university places.

Q2. Is there a ‘gain in part-time employment’ for graduates, compared to part-time employment rates for students who are still enrolled?

According to the 2016 Graduate Outcomes Survey, 71 per cent of those who had completed undergraduate degrees four months before (up from 69 per cent in 2015), and who were available for full-time work were in full-time work. A further 15 per cent of this group of graduates were in part-time work. A total of 86 per cent of graduates of undergraduate programs who were available for full-time work were in full-time or part-time work four months after completing their degrees.

In 2011 (Census data), 62 per cent of higher education students were in work while they studied. Around two-thirds of those in work were part-time work.

Find all the questions here (PDF 2.7MB).