AUSTRALIA needs places for an additional 10,000 university students a year — or an extra 200,000 by 2026 — to cope with the probable demand from record levels of fertility and immigration, the Group of Eight says.
In a finding that will put even greater pressure on efforts to address the looming academic shortage, the Go8 paper uses the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics data to challenge the faltering growth scenarios on which recent policy-making is based.
The paper Demographic Impacts on Higher Education Enrolments was released as Australian National University vice-chancellor Ian Chubb told the National Press Club last week that Australia’s educational attainment was considerably below that of the world’s leading universities.
“Two-thirds of the Australian workforce over 25 have no post secondary qualifications; one-third have achieved less than upper secondary education; only 70 per cent of women and 68 per cent of men aged19 have completed Year 12 or equivalent,” Professor Chubb said.
He said to bring Australia up to the educated population equivalent of the world’s leaders would involve an additional one million people aged 25 to 44 getting a tertiary education.
“That’s a big ask, a big challenge, a big demand and we need the infrastructure and support to be able to do that,” he said in the televised address.
The Go8 paper is the second in recent weeks to challenge the steady-state outlook of the Bradley review, the discussion paper for which noted little sign of unmet demand among school-leavers.
As the Bradley review finalises its report to Education Minister Julia Gillard, due next month, a Go8 spokesman told the HES the group aimed to highlight the upwardly revised ABS population projections.
“Our analysis of the latest ABS population projections shows that Australia will face significant increases in demand for post-school education options as a result of predicted population growth in the key 15-29 age group,” the spokesman said. “We believe our estimates of demand for tertiary education are conservative as they are based on the bureau’s mid-range forecast and don’t take account of the anticipated increases as a result of the increased participation rate.”
ABS demography director Patrick Corr told the HES that the previously projected dip in the key 15 to 17-year-old age group almost disappeared under the latest projections.
Mr Corr said he had extended the top end of the 2006 chart to plot the almost one million 15 to 17-year-olds now expected about 2026.
“If enrolments remain constant, then the number of anticipated new applicants (is) projected to remain relatively stable until 2020 and after 2020 will start to increase.”
The numbers of 15 to 29-year-olds are projected to increase from 4,290,993 in 2006 to 4,669,570 by 2011 and 4,841,818 by 2016. In the longer term, the paper says, an additional 460,000 places will be needed by 2041: nearly 170,000 in Queensland, more than 70,000 in Western Australia, about 100,000 in Victoria and 95,000 in NSW.
The paper notes warnings by University of Adelaide geographer Graeme Hugo that universities are likely to lose one-fifth to one-third of their staff in the next decade or so.
With the projected loss of 8500 to 14,000 academic staff, the Go8 said the development, renewal and expansion of the academic workforce would need careful strategic attention from universities and government.
Demand for university places in Australia to surge by 2026
Guy Healy | November 05, 2008 | The Australian