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4102.0 - Australian Social Trends, 1995  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 20/06/1995   
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Contents >> Education >> Participation in Education: Home-based higher education

Participation in Education: Home-based higher education

11% of higher education students in 1993 were studying from home.

Australia became one of the pioneers of home based study in 1911, when the University of Queensland became the second university in the world to make provision for external studies1. External students do not regularly attend a campus but instead receive materials, assignments etc. at home via the mail or other information channels. In 1993, 64,000 external students enrolled in higher education courses. This represented 11% of all higher education student enrolments.

Since 1982, the number of external students has grown at a similar annual average rate to the number of part-time campus-based students (4% per year compared to 3% respectively). Between 1989 and 1993 the number of external students grew by 32% compared to 39% for part-time students. Besides external study, Open Learning Australia has recently provided a new option in home-based higher education allowing individuals to enter, without prerequisites or quotas, a program that can lead to a degree.

External study and Open Learning Australia allow people disadvantaged by distance, disability, or work or family commitments easier access to higher education. However, external students also have to contend with some disadvantages such as difficulty in accessing the educational resources readily available to campus-based students. These difficulties are reduced by the provision of special services, such as audio-visual and printed study material, telephone tutorials, residential study periods and reciprocal library borrowing rights2. Further, the fields of external study available are limited by the practical problems of providing external courses that require intensive laboratory work, for example, some science subjects.

In 1993 external students were, in general, older than part-time and full-time campus-based students. 83% of external students were aged 25 or more and 38% were aged 30-39. Part-time campus-based students are a mixture of young and older students with 66% aged 25 or more. The dominant age group among part-time students in 1993 was 20-29 year olds (47% of part-time students). Full-time students are mostly younger than part-time and external students. In 1993, 82% of full-time students were under 25.

EXTERNAL AND PART-TIME CAMPUS-BASED STUDENT ENROLMENTS



Source: Department of Employment, Education and Training Selected Higher Education Statistics

EXTERNAL AND PART-TIME CAMPUS-BASED STUDENTS, 1993

External

Part-time


Source: Department of Employment, Education and Training Selected Higher Education Statistics


External students

Students are classified as external students, regardless of student load, when all units of their study involve special delivery arrangements for materials, assignments etc. and any associated attendance at the university is of an incidental, irregular, special or voluntary nature. The general term distance education is sometimes used instead of external studies despite the fact that many external students live in metropolitan areas.

In this review detailed discussion of external students is limited to those who were employed.

Open learning

Open learning is commonly associated with the use of television and radio as a method of presenting educational material. However, the term really relates to the accessibility of education. Institutions which offer qualifications using open learning also use traditional materials, such as text books, notes etc. Open Learning Australia offers degree level courses, some of which use television and radio to present part of the course material, which require no prerequisite qualifications and can be completed from home. Open Learning Australia students are not counted as university external students. They are enrolled with the agency.


Studying at home and working
Many students choose to study externally because of family and/or work commitments and for the convenience and flexibility of external study1. The 1993 Survey of Training and Education targeted people in the labour force, that is, people who were employed or unemployed. Using this survey it is possible to compare the labour force characteristics of part-time campus-based students with those of external higher education students. 72% of external students in the labour force were employed full-time, 20% were employed part-time and about 7% were unemployed. The most notable difference between male and female external students was in the proportion working part-time, 31% of women and about 6% of men. Overall the pattern of labour force status for part-time campus-based students was similar to that of external students.

Among employed external students there were more women than men while among part-time campus-based students there were slightly more men than women. 57% of employed external students were women and 48% of employed part-time students were women.

Most (79%) employed external students were members of families and most of these were a partner in a married couple (67% of employed external students). 59% of these partners had children under 15. Overall, 57% of employed male external students had dependent children compared to 41% of employed female external students. 21% of employed external students were not members of a family, that is, they lived independently.

In comparison, 77% of employed part-time students were members of families, a similar proportion to employed external students, but a smaller percentage were husbands or wives (53%). 60% of these husbands and wives had children aged under 15.

58% of employed external students lived in non-metropolitan areas compared to 25% of employed part-time campus-based students. While this suggests that external studies are attractive to people not living in a metropolitan centre, there were still 42% of employed external students who lived in a metropolitan area but chose to study externally.

Employed external students mainly studied for vocational reasons. However, 13% stated that they studied for recreational reasons. In comparison, 9% of employed part-time students studied for recreational reasons.

Employed external students were less likely to be overseas born than employed part-time students. 19% of employed external students and 26% of employed part-time students were overseas born.

EMPLOYED EXTERNAL AND PART-TIME CAMPUS-BASED STUDENTS, 1993

External students
Part-time campus based students


Men
Women
Persons
Men
Women
Persons
Family status
%
%
%
%
%
%

Member of a family
76.1
80.4
78.6
77.6
76.5
77.1
    Husband or wife
68.9
65.7
67.2
56.4
48.8
52.7
      With dependent child(ren)
56.6
40.9
47.6
38.7
30.9
35.0
      With child(ren) aged 0-14 years
48.0
33.1
39.5
35.3
27.9
31.8
    Child of married couple
5.6*
4.2*
4.8*
19.9
18.2
19.1
Not a member of a family
23.9
19.6
21.4
22.4
23.5
22.9
Total
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0

Source: Survey of Training and Education

EMPLOYED EXTERNAL AND PART-TIME CAMPUS-BASED STUDENTS, 1993

External students
Part-time campus-based students


Men
Women
Persons
Men
Women
Persons
Selected characteristics
%
%
%
%
%
%

Lived in a metropolitan area
43.1
41.7
42.4
76.9
73.3
75.2
Lived elsewhere
56.9
58.3
57.6
23.1
26.7
24.8
Born in Australia
81.3
81.1
81.2
73.5
75.3
74.3
Born overseas
18.7*
18.9
18.8
26.5
24.7
25.7
Purpose of study was vocational
87.3
87.5
87.4
88.2
94.2
91.1
Purpose of study was recreational
12.7*
12.5*
12.6
11.8
5.8*
8.9
Total for each characteristic
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0

Source: Survey of Training and Education


Open Learning Australia
Open Learning Australia (OLA) evolved from the successful commonwealth funded TV Open Learning pilot project carried out in 1992. The pilot project was intended to extend access to first year degree courses by delivering them by television in conjunction with traditional education materials. Interested students could participate at three levels: simply watch the programs; purchase additional study materials as well; and finally, pay to be examined. The response to the pilot study was well beyond expectations. It was estimated that the project would attract about 500 students. However, 3,739 students purchased study materials for the first study period1. The success of the project led to the introduction of the commonwealth funded OLA which administers courses offered by 18 provider universities3. The great difference between OLA's courses and traditional enrolment at a university is that OLA requires no educational prerequisites and the courses have no quotas.

Currently the commonwealth is funding the establishment of Open Net, an open learning electronic support service. Open Net will allow OLA students to communicate with their tutors and fellow students by electronic mail3.

In 1994, OLA enrolled a total of 8,909 individual students. Multiple enrolments (there are four study periods in a year) during the year gave a total of 21,771 course enrolments. This is nearly treble the total number of enrolments in 1993 when there were 8,805 course enrolments through the year. In 1994, 55% of OLA students were women and 10% of students spoke a language other than English at home4. 72% of students enrolled in the last study period of 1993 and the first period of 1994 were aged 25 or more.

OPEN LEARNING AUSTRALIA STUDENTS(a)


(a) Based on enrolments in December 1993 and March 1994.

Source: Department of Employment, Education and Training Selected Higher Education Statistics


Endnotes
1 Department of Employment, Education and Training (1993) Evaluation of the First Year of the Open Learning Project, March 1992 to February 1993.

2 University of New England (1994) The Directory: Tertiary Distance Education and Open Learning Courses in Australia, 1994.

3 Department of Employment, Education and Training (1994) Directory of Commonwealth Higher Education Functions, 1994.

4 Open Learning Australia unpublished data.



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