Universities Australia Chief Executive Catriona Jackson said applications to universities from students from all equity groups – and poorer households especially – had also fallen and this was a sad reversal of good progress made in previous years.
“Specifically, cuts that have been made in past years to the Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program (HEPPP) – which funds support programs for those who might be first in their family to attend university – seem to be biting this year,” Ms Jackson said.
The number of applications from Indigenous Australians fell by 5.2 per cent in 2018 – the first recorded fall after growth every single year since 2010.
“This is a setback after a decade of consistent growth in Indigenous applications and we all need to put our shoulders to the wheel to close the gap in university education and transform lives through opportunity,” she said.
“Schemes like the flagship equity program HEPPP must be protected.”
The number of people offered a place in a teacher education degree – the pipeline for the next generation of teachers in our schools – fell by 11.4 per cent in 2018, a possible signpost of a future skilled teacher shortage ahead.
Also the figures showed that a small fraction of students offered a place at university this year had an ATAR below 50, after being assessed as capable despite a high school education that may have been disrupted by illness, tragedy or hardship.
The percentage of students with an ATAR below 50 who received an offer was the same as in 2016 – just 2.9 per cent of all offers of a place at university nationwide.
Universities Australia Chief Executive Catriona Jackson said not everyone has a dream run through Year 12 – but that doesn’t mean they aren’t smart people who can succeed at university.
“The key decision for each admissions officer is whether – with the right support – a student has the raw talent, work ethic and smarts to complete a rigorous university degree.”
“There are many examples across our society of people who may have struggled at high school but went on to great success when given that sort of second chance.”
Also the figures show that since 2005, attrition rates have remained stable at 15 per cent meaning the vast majority of students who enter university go on to successfully complete their studies.
This is despite the largest growth in enrolments in the nation’s history under the uncapped system.