The latest data found more than 73 per cent of students who started university in 2005 and 2006 had completed their degree nine years after enrolling, including those who changed courses.
OECD figures show that Australia’s completion rates for bachelor degrees were 82 per cent, the third highest in the OECD – ahead of the United States and the United Kingdom.
Australia’s rate was also well ahead of the OECD average of 70 per cent.
The completion rates at the four-year mark have also been relatively stable despite the huge expansion of access to university education over the past decade.
“Despite welcoming hundreds of thousands more students, university completion rates have remained remarkably stable, dipping by around two percentage points,” said Universities Australia Deputy Chief Executive Catriona Jackson.
“This is a remarkable achievement given the opening up of university to a large number of students who would not have otherwise had the opportunities of a university education,” Ms Jackson said.
The groups most likely not to have completed their degree within nine years include part-time, mature age and distance education students. These factors were shown to be a better predictor of completion rates than a student’s ATAR score.
“It’s no surprise that students who are more likely to be juggling work and family responsibilities are also most likely not to complete. We know that for some of those students, life simply gets in the way – at least for a time. But many of them will return to complete their studies further down the track.”
In the 2016 federal Budget, the Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program, which supports students from disadvantaged backgrounds to pursue a university education, was cut by $152 million.
“Universities have made serious efforts over many years to help students who are at higher risk of not completing. But of course, these efforts need be built upon, with support from Government.”