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Should everyone go to university?

Right now the government caps university places. But until 2017 universities could accept as many students as they liked and the government provided funding for all of these places. It was called the 'demand driven system' and it started in 2010.

The demand driven system saw enrolments rise by one-third and saw around 60% of young Australians attend university at some point by age 22 years.

The Productivity Commission's report The Demand Driven University System: A mixed report card for the first time sheds light on the 'additional' students who went to university as a result of the demand driven system, and tracks their academic and employment outcomes. As the title suggests it found that opening up university places produced mixed results.

On the one hand many more students got the opportunity to attend university and many of these students graduated and went into managerial or professional occupations. On the other hand the drop-out rate for these additional students was much higher than for other students. And people growing up in regional or remote areas far from university campuses saw little improvement in participation.

Many of the additional students also entered university poorly prepared. They had lower literacy and numeracy than other university students, and many struggled academically. Schools have not stepped up to the role needed of them to prepare more young people for a university education, and universities have not stepped up to the role of providing appropriate support for these students.

Of course, not all young people need to go to university. The Productivity Commission's report showed that, though the VET system needs to be strengthened to rebuild public confidence in it, it has served many young people well.

To read the full report go

Watch the panel discussion

The Productivity Commission held a live streamed panel event to launch this report on 17 June 2019.

The Commission was joined by an expert panel to discuss higher education, school achievement, access and performance and potential policy solutions.

  • Michael Brennan - Chair, Productivity Commission
  • Megan O'Connell - Education policy consultant
  • Prof Sue Trinidad - National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education
  • Andrew Norton - Grattan Institute

Transcript of video

A transcript of the video will be available here soon.