The persistence of health and education students

I recently received some new data on completion and attrition rates by ATAR, a surprisingly under-examined topic in Australian higher education. My Mapping Australian higher education publication summarises research suggesting a weak relationship between ATAR and average marks. However, data on 2005 commencing students shows a quite strong relationship beween ATAR and completion – the higher the ATAR, the higher the chance of completion. The whole cohort data is in this article.

We also have the data by field of education. Most disciplines have the same general pattern. But two, health and education, have higher persistence at lower ATARs, as can be seen below.

health ed atar completion

The same two broad fields of study also have graduates with high rates of retention in jobs related to their field of study, as seen in the chart below.

Degree job relevance

I’m inclined to think that the main reason is that people who choose these degrees have a relatively high degree of commitment to the end occupation from day one. A colleague notes that this may in part be because students in these fields don’t necessarily have many attractive alternatives. For people with lowish ATARs who don’t want to do voc ed, teaching and nursing have been paths to relatively secure and reasonably paid careers.

2 thoughts on “The persistence of health and education students

  1. I guess that’s why the government is thinking of ways to directly increase the proportion of higher-ATAR students studying teaching. Unfortunately, the new national standards requiring graduates from other fields to spend two years doing a masters to obtain teacher registration will simply increase the barriers to entry for mid-career professionals, who are likely to perform much better in the classroom than the average 70-75 ATAR education undergraduate. Any able teacher I have spoken to tells me that post grad education courses are pretty useless, except for the practicum component.


  2. Imagine a simple case: degree X has students whose ATARs range from 80-100 and degree Y has students with ATARs between 60-79. If X&Y are both in the same discpline you could expect completions to be higher for the students who have ATARs of 79. Could this sort of modality be the cause in the case you point out? You’d have to look at completion rates by course by university to answer the question properly.


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