The aim of the Australian University Student Finances Survey 2012 is to provide an evidence-based understanding of the financial circumstances of the student population in Australia (both international and domestic) through the collection of quantitative data on: access to income support and scholarships, income from paid employment and the impact of paid work on study, study and living costs and student debt. Its audience is policy makers at the national and institutional level, equity practitioners, researchers and those who work with and support university students – as well as students themselves. It is a survey of some long standing, having been conducted about every five years since the mid-1970s. For the 2012 survey, some key changes were made to methodology to reflect changes in the national policy context and in the student cohort since the survey was last conducted in 2006. In particular, international students have been included in the 2012 survey. Postgraduates were included for the first time in 2006. The 2012 survey was also conducted online rather than paper, reflecting more contemporary practice in survey administration. While the changes mean that some time series information is lost, attention was paid to ensure the main points of comparison with previous years‟ data was maintained. The inclusion of international students now provides a more comprehensive picture of the whole student body.

Invitations to complete the survey were sent to students in late 2012. The sample of 85,476 was drawn, stratified according to institution and broad course level based on 2010 national student enrolment figures from the Department of Education, Employment, and Workplace Relations as it then was. All Indigenous students were included in the sample in order to obtain sufficient responses for analysis. Postgraduate students were also deliberately oversampled for the same reason (see also Table 2.5). The survey, sent to a stratified sample of 83,851 at 37 universities, resulted in 11,761 responses – a response rate of 14.0 per cent (compared with 19.8 per cent for the 2006 survey). About half of all institutions returned response rates of 10-17 per cent. Eight institutions had response rates below 8 per cent, and three had responses above 20 per cent. International students, surveyed for the first time in this series, comprised 38.3 per cent of the total response (compared to 26.7 per cent of the national population), and domestic students 61.7 per cent (compared to 73.3 per cent of the national population).

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