A paper by the Higher Education Standards Panel released today also re-affirms that media coverage of attrition rates has been “alarmist” and claims of a crisis unfounded.
Universities Australia Chief Executive Designate Catriona Jackson welcomed the Government’s decision to adopt the report’s 18 recommendations.
“These recommendations build on the incredible work undertaken by universities to keep attrition low at a time where there are more students than ever in higher education,” said Ms Jackson.
“From 2005, university places grew by more than 200,000. Despite this massive increase, the attrition rate hasn’t changed and remains stable at 15 per cent,” she said.
“This is a major achievement. Australians should be proud of the terrific work universities are doing to help students succeed.”
The report also acknowledges that many of the drivers of attrition remain beyond the control of students or universities.
“Work, caring responsibilities, financial hardship, illness — these all play a major role in why a student may choose to leave.”
“The Government’s largest survey shows the most common reasons students cite for thinking about leaving are to do with personal circumstances.”
“Our job as universities is to continue to ensure that students always know they can come back.”
Universities Australia advocated for a number of changes that are included in the recommendations, including, improved reporting of attrition data and expanding the National Career Education Strategy to mature-age students.
UA has made a major contribution to the joint Government and higher education sector work on admissions transparency to make better information available to prospective students.
“These recommendations build on the work that Universities Australia has led on behalf of our member universities for many years,” Ms Jackson said.
“We look forward to working with the Government to implement these recommendations and to safeguard an already strong system,” she said.
“Universities Australia thanks the Higher Education Standards Panel for putting together such a comprehensive report and for taking the sector’s views on board.”
Ms Jackson did, however, point to future risk under the Government’s proposed performance funding regime.
“Linking funding to attrition may have a perverse impact on access and opportunity, by driving universities to play it safe and limit opportunities for non-traditional students.”