Are Australian students reluctant to choose?

The visiting boss of Universities UK, their Universities Australia equivalent, says that Australian students are used to studying near their home. It means student choice here will take longer to evolve than in the UK, where leaving home to study is common (they are getting a very partial demand-driven system).

That Australian students are stay-at-homes is a commonly held view, but there is not much research on how often Australians move to study. The DEEWR student statistics show that about 11% of students are enrolled outside their home state. But the 2006 census showed that about 40% of 18-19 year old university students were not living with their parents.

Of course many of these are likely to still be fairly close to the family home; living in a share house in Fitzroy is more fun than living with your parents in Camberwell. But it shows a capacity and willingness to move.

There are signs of national marketing. Both Bond and James Cook universities have been advertising on Melbourne TV in the last few weeks (admittedly SBS). This suggests that at least some universities think that students can be persuaded to travel long distances.

All the other mobility statistics – jobs, houses, travel – suggest that Australians are happy to go somewhere new or do something new. If student mobility to study is lower than in other countries I doubt it is anything deep in the culture. It is a pragmatic decision that Australian universities are quite similar, and that therefore there is not much point in moving to study. If universities differentiate themselves more, I would expect more mobility.

9 thoughts on “Are Australian students reluctant to choose?

  1. Anecdotal: University of Tasmania has advertised fairly heavily in Melbourne, Geelong, Ballarat in each of the last few years. The demographics are against them on home turf.

    I wonder if this advertising works?


  2. How easy is to for a high school graduate to get accepted into a university in another jurisdiction? In my day it was tricky with Anderson scores, but is it easier now with TERs? I agree with last observation though – there is little point in moving interstate for undergraduate study. If anything, there can be a bit of a big fish in a small pond benefit, as well as a cost of living benefit, from studying in a smaller State.


  3. Mookster – There were 1,055 Victorians at the University of Tasmania in 2010, but that is little changed on the past so not much evidence the advertising is having a big effect.

    Rajat – It’s now called the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank, which tells you the policy intent. Except for QLD, it has been easy to compare results for many years. For 2011, there were 3,842 interstate current year 12 applicants for Victorian universities.


  4. “living in a share house in Fitzroy is more fun than living with your parents in Camberwell.”

    It’s easy to see which generation you come from. How about:”living with someone that provides free rent, free money, a car, cleans up after you….is more fun that struggling in a dirty share-house”. That’s the new reality for many. As it happens, I wouldn’t have dreamed of getting drunk or stoned, picking up, coming home and then screwing on the couch etc. when I lived with my parents, but that’s quite acceptable these days.

    Incidentally, I guess we need real data, but I’m not so convinced that it is a pragmatic decision. Australians seem to move about very little in general (excluding retirement), and many people want to live close to their families for one reason or another. Part of the reason for young kids at least is obvious — Australian cities are very expensive, and so if something goes wrong it’s easier to live close to a backup solution (i.e., parents). I think on this note that you’ll find a lot of people move in and out of home for one reason or another during university (it’s common for 4th years to move back in with their parents so they can do well). It’s also the case that even at the postgraduate level where students have scholarships, students tend to stay in the same place (almost no-one does in the US), so there are definitely other factors also.


  5. Andrew, agree that differentiation is the key. When I worked with prospective students there were always reasonable numbers interested in moving for the right course or university (and institutions promoting themselves) but state based admissions systems and cost structures including student support encourage people to think locally.

    As in much of higher ed, the lack of quality data is problematic – even the out of state percentages are skewed by students living in rural, particularly border areas, where a move to a city university can be based on distance rather than state boundaries.


  6. Perhaps also difficulty covering moving and living expenses? I guess not such an issue for those who have moved out of home already.


  7. In addition to the differentiation point, Australia has also never developed a privately run student loan market of the same scale as the US or UK models. If you want to move away from home, then its very expensive. If students wish, a loan extending to tuition, living expenses etc enables students to broaden their horizons.

    In contrast, American and UK lenders are able to fund students going to different parts of each country but they will also support overseas study.

    Other than the very wealthy and the very gifted who win scholarships, Australian students don’t have this kind of private support.


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