The Coalition Government has overseen the biggest jump in Indigenous higher education enrolments in nearly a decade according to new student data released today that also highlights record overall enrolment numbers and increases in enrolments of regional and low socio-economic students. 
Minister for Education and Training Simon Birmingham said despite the Labor Party’s fear campaign about the cost of university degrees, the new data shows more than 1.2 million students were enrolled in higher education in the first half of 2015, up 3.1 per cent on the same period last year.
Minister Birmingham said the Turnbull Government is committed to seeing more students enjoying the benefits of high quality tertiary education, while ensuring the higher education sector remains fair and affordable.
“This data shows Australians are continuing to enrol in record numbers in higher education institutions, despite the Labor Party’s best efforts to scare students about the costs of higher education,” Minister Birmingham said.
“Instead we’re seeing more students enrol than ever before, with strong growth in enrolments from Indigenous students and students from regional areas – who together make up nearly one in five of all domestic enrolments. 
“The value of higher education is clear as the new stats show university graduates have an unemployment rate of 3.4 per cent, compared with an overall rate of 5.9 per cent.”
Minister Birmingham said it was encouraging that the number of Australians who had attained a job in the first four months out of education had risen to 68.8 per cent, but the report still highlighted that one third of those finishing an education did not immediately get a job.
“Australians must think carefully about the courses they enrol in to ensure they are entering a course that they are not only passionate about but that has a job at the end,” Minister Birmingham said.
“We also must ensure that the record number of students who are enrolling are being encouraged and supported to complete their degrees – and not just another number on a seat.
“Recent attrition rates show that almost 15 per cent of these Australians do not progress to their second year. Universities must take responsibility for those students they choose to enrol and ensure they have the capabilities and support to succeed. 
“The Turnbull Government is committed to ensuring our innovative institutions are delivering the world-class higher education that students want and to produce the skilled, job-ready graduates that Australian industry and business needs.
“I am currently consulting with the higher education sector, my parliamentary colleagues, students and their families about how to not only ensure higher education remains sustainable in the long term but how to ensure more Australians who start a course, finish and end up in the workforce.”
Minister Birmingham said Higher Education annual funding had increased over the past five years from $12.5 billion to over $16 billion today.  
“While the demand driven system has provided unprecedented access and must continue to be protected it has come at a significantly higher cost to the taxpayer,” Minister Birmingham said.
“The Turnbull Government is committed to ensuring the system remains sustainable while continuing to support excellence, diversity and opportunity for all Australian students.”
Key findings from the new data include:
• growth in Indigenous students up 7.6 per cent 
• growth in regional student enrolments up 2.6 per cent, representing 18.6 per cent (nearly one-in-five) of the total domestic student population (up from 16.7 per cent in 2006)
• increase in students from low socio-economic backgrounds up 3.8 per cent 
• strong continued growth in health-related courses, up 7.3 per cent on the same period in 2014, and up 81.7 per cent on same period in 2006 
• mixed outcomes in students participating in STEM subjects – engineering and related technology studies up 0.9 per cent while IT down 0.4 per cent.
Minister Birmingham said the Turnbull Government was committed to ensuring students graduating from secondary school and university had the skills to succeed in a more competitive, globalised world.
“The lack of growth in the number of students studying science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) in this publication highlights the importance of the Turnbull Government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda,” Minister Birmingham said.
“That’s why we are investing more than $112 million in the education components of our National Innovation and Science Agenda to drive interest in digital literacy and STEM subjects so Australians are prepared for the challenges and opportunities ahead.”

For a copy of Selected Higher Education Statistics 2015 Student Data click here and for a copy of Selected Higher Education Statistics 2015 Staff Data click here.

Senator Birmingham’s media contact:         James Murphy, 0478 333 974

                                                                          Nick Creevey, 0477 644 957

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