Higher education commencement, attrition, and completion rates
University component | Time series, cohort analyses - 4, 6 and 9 years
Data tables appear under figures
Number of people commencing university courses
Nationally in 2021, 5460 Aboriginal and Torres Strait people commenced a domestic bachelor degree at an Australian university. Over the past 12 years, this number has more than doubled (from 2376 in 2008) (figure SE6a.1).
Rate of Attrition
Of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students who commenced a bachelor degree nationally in 2020, 22.5 per cent did not return to study the following year (and had not completed their degree). Following an increase in the first year attrition rate in 2017, the rate has since decreased annually and remains below the 2016 baseline of 24.2 per cent (figure SE6a.2).
Proportion of people commencing university courses who complete, continue or leave over time
University completion is measured over 4 year, 6 year and 9 year periods, as while some students may study continuously full time and complete a degree within 4 years others may study part time and/or with breaks, hence longer time periods are also reported.
Nationally in 2021, the completion rate increased as it was measured over longer time periods, with the most substantial increase between the 4 year and 6 year periods. For those who commenced in 2018, 26.3 per cent had completed their degree in 2021; this increased to 41.3 and 50.0 per cent for those who commenced in 2016 and 2013 respectively. The differences in continuation (still enrolled) and leaving (at first year or later years) rates mirror those for completion, in that the largest percentage point differences were between the 4 year and 6 year periods, with smaller differences between the 6 year and 9 year periods (figure SE6a.3).
Indicator data specifications
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students reach their full potential through further education pathways.
By 2031, increase the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 25-34 years who have completed a tertiary qualification (Certificate level III and above) to 70 per cent.
Higher education commencement (university component), attrition, and completion rates (time series, cohort analyses - 4, 6 and 9 years)
Three measures defined as follows:
Measure 1: Number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people commencing university courses defined as:
Numerator − total number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people commencing a domestic bachelor degree at an Australian university
and is presented as a number.
Measure 2: The attrition rate, defined as:
Numerator — number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students who commenced a course in year(x) who neither complete in year(x) or year(x+1) nor return in year(x+1)
Denominator — total number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people commencing a domestic bachelor degree at an Australian university in year(x)
and is presented as a rate.
Measure 3: Proportion of people commencing university courses who complete, continue or leave over time, defined as:
Numerator — number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who:
after 4 years, 6 years and 9 years since commencing a domestic bachelor degree at an Australian university
Denominator — total number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people commencing a domestic bachelor degree at an Australian university 4 years, 6 years and 9 years ago
and is presented as a percentage.
National Agreement on Closing the Gap July 2020
Latest dashboard update for the indicator:
8 March 2023
Interpretation of change:
A high or increasing number is desirable.
A low or decreasing rate is desirable.
A high or increasing proportion of people completing or continuing is desirable.
A low or decreasing proportion of people dropping out or not returning is desirable.
Name: Higher Education Statistics Collection
Frequency: Annual (Revised data across multiple years and measures is included in the March 2023 Dashboard update)
Documentation (links): https://www.dese.gov.au/higher-education-statistics
Provider name: Department of Education, Skills and Employment
Provider area: Analysis and Data Division
Measure 1: 2016 (data reported back to 2008, to support Measure 3)
Measure 2: 2016
Measure 3: 2013–2016 (4 year cohort), 2011–2016 (6 year cohort), 2008–2016 (9 year cohort)
Latest reporting period:
Measure 1: 2021
Measure 2: 2020
Measure 3: 2018–2021, 2016–2021, 2013–2021
State and territory and Australia, by Indigenous status
Measure 1: Numerator
Measure 2: Numerator divided by Denominator multiplied by 100
Measure 3: Numerator divided by Denominator multiplied by 100, by completion status
Data are for all domestic bachelor students attending a higher education provider (university component) (Tables A and B providers only in the Higher Education Statistics Collection).
A domestic student is a student who is an Australian citizen, a New Zealand citizen or the holder of a permanent visa.
A commencing student is a student who has enrolled in the course for the first time at the higher education institution between 1 January and 31 December of the collection year.
Geographical variables are based on the location of the student (postcode or permanent home residence).
Includes (Measure 3)
Excludes (both numerator and denominator)
Data quality considerations:
Student cohort analysis is based on the institution where the student commenced their course. Therefore, if a student commenced at a university and change to a non-university they will be counted in the university scope.
The attrition rate calculation and cohort analysis is based on a matching process using both the StudentID and the Commonwealth Higher Education Student Support Number (CHESSN). If a student moves from one institution to another in the following year, he or she would be counted as retained. It is only those students who left the higher education system entirely (that is, they were no longer at any institution) that are counted as attrited.
The attrition rate counts students who commenced in year 1 and neither re-enrolled in year, nor completed in years 1 or 2. The attrition rates are typically higher than the cohort analysis (‘Never came back after first year’) which counts students who commenced in year 1 then never had a re-enrolment or completion over the cohort period (for example,in years 2, 3 or 4 for the 4-cohort analysis).
The count of commencing students used as the denominator for Measure 2 is different to the count of commencing students reported in Measures 1 and 3.
Additional disaggregations required for future reporting: