The results accord with a 15-nation study of OECD data published last year, which found students who had not completed a university degree still enjoyed a strong advantage in the jobs market.
Universities Australia Chief Executive Belinda Robinson said the share of students leaving university without completing a degree is around where it was a decade ago — despite the expansion of university access to students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
“That’s a real achievement given there are more students at Australian universities than ever before,” Ms Robinson said.
“The reasons why some students do not complete their degrees are complex and often beyond the control of those students and their universities.”
“It can include everything from sudden ill health and financial difficulties through to the challenge of juggling work, study and family life,” she said.
“It wouldn’t be fair or sensible to force students facing major stresses outside of university to stay enrolled no matter if that takes a toll on them or their families in those sorts of situations.”
“Australian universities work hard to help students choose the right course in the first place and to access support to complete their degree when life gets in the way.”
Three in five students with an incomplete degree surveyed for the report believed their course had still taught them useful skills.
“Even when students don’t complete their degree, they see clear benefits from their studies — including expanded networks, more defined career goals and even employment.”
Key findings from the report include:
- nearly eight in ten commencing bachelor’s degree students had completed their qualification within eight years or were still enrolled;
- most students who left their qualification before completing think they would be better off in their lives with a degree than without; and
- the majority of students who exit the system do so within the first year.