Currently, university places for Indigenous students from regional and remote areas are uncapped, allowing universities to meet demand. This was a very welcome change, offering the transformative opportunity of a university education to more regional students from Indigenous backgrounds.
The policy does not, however, cover the 75 per cent of Indigenous Australians living in urban areas.
Universities Australia Chief Executive Catriona Jackson said ensuring universities have sufficient resources to meet demand for all Indigenous students will create more opportunities to maximise the skills of more Australians, regardless of their postcode.
“Indigenous Australians are much less likely to have a degree than non-Indigenous Australians, with a completion rate of 47 per cent compared to 74 per cent in 2019,” Ms Jackson said.
“This needs to change. Your postcode should not be a barrier to opportunity and a university education is one of the greatest opportunities you can have in life, opening more career options and greater possibilities.
“We have made great strides to improve Indigenous peoples’ access to university, most notably when university places were demand driven between 2012 and 2017 and Indigenous enrolments doubled.
“Uncapping places for those living in metropolitan areas is a practical measure that would help bridge the attainment gap and address decades of disadvantage that has held back Indigenous Australians.
“This would complement the Government’s allocation of 20,000 additional places for people from under-represented backgrounds and help make university more accessible to all.”
Ms Jackson said Indigenous graduates experienced strong employment outcomes.
“We know that a university degree sets people up for a fulfilling career with greater job security and higher pay,” Ms Jackson said.
“Last year’s data shows nearly 77 per cent of Indigenous undergraduates found full-time jobs within four months of graduating, while the figure for non-Indigenous undergraduates securing work in that period was 69 per cent.
“Indigenous undergraduates also tend to earn more than non-Indigenous undergraduates immediately upon graduation, with a median full-time salary of $65,800 compared to $62,000.
“Uncapping places for Indigenous students everywhere is a sensible change that ensures Indigenous Australians will have the opportunities a world-class university education offers.”