Australians pursuing higher education in record numbers

   Page tools: Print Print Page Print all pages in this productPrint All RSS Feed RSS Bookmark and Share Search this Product
MEDIA RELEASE
23 October 2017
131/2017

Australians pursuing higher education in record numbers


The 2016 Census of Population and Housing has recorded that Australians are upskilling like never before, with 56 per cent of Australians aged 15 years and over – 9.6 million people – now holding a post-school qualification, up from 46 per cent in 2006.

Census Program Manager, Bindi Kindermann said attaining a university qualification remains an achievement Australians strive for, with close to one quarter (24 per cent) of youths and adults in the 2016 Census having completed a Bachelor Degree or above, up from 18 per cent a decade ago.

“The Census has also revealed that those who go on to study at university aren’t necessarily stopping with just a Bachelor Degree, with more people than ever achieving Postgraduate qualifications,” Ms Kindermann said.

“The number of people with Postgraduate Degree qualifications increased from 631,000 in 2011 to 921,000 in 2016, a jump of 46 per cent. The past five years have also seen significant increases in the number of people with Graduate Diplomas or Graduate Certificates as their highest level of qualification (27 per cent). Almost 10 per cent of Australia’s youth and adults had attained an Advanced Diploma or Diploma, while just under 21 per cent had completed a Certificate level qualification.”

Geographically speaking, 2016 represented the first time that the Census reported more than half the population aged 15 and over in each state and territory has held a post-school qualification, with the Australian Capital Territory leading the way with the highest proportion of qualified people (65 per cent). Tasmania had the lowest proportion with 51 per cent.

Residents of Australia's capital cities (30 per cent) were almost twice as likely as residents in regional areas (16 per cent) to hold a Bachelor Degree or higher qualification, while people in capital cities were also more than 2.5 times as likely to hold a Postgraduate Degree level qualification (7.0 per cent in capital cities vs 2.7 per cent outside). However, 23 per cent of people in regional areas hold a Certificate III & IV level qualification, compared to just 16 per cent of people in capital cities.

The Census also showed that the gap in educational attainment between men and women has narrowed over the past 10 years. In 2006, 51 per cent of men and 42 per cent of women reported holding a post-school qualification; in 2016 this gap was smaller, with 58 per cent for men and 54 per cent for women.

However, there are still some noticeable gender differences in the professions of our educated workforce. The most common occupations in 2016 for men with a Bachelor Degree or above were Accountants and Software Applications Programmers, whereas women were more likely to be Registered Nurses or Primary School Teachers.

Management and Commerce remained the most popular field of study across Australia (2.1 million people, an increase of 23 per cent since 2011) ahead of Engineering and Related Technologies (1.7 million people, an increase of 11 per cent).

Encompassing fields of study including Political Science, Law and Economics, the Society and Culture field was the fastest growing area of study, seeing growth of 29 per cent since the 2011 Census.

The latest release of 2016 Census data marked an important time for the ABS and Australia, Ms Kindermann said.

“2016 Census data released earlier this year has already provided excellent insight into who we are, how we live, what we do and where we’re headed.

“The latest Census release shows how and where we work, as well as important information relating to internal migration, education and method of travel to work.

“This data will prove to be an incredibly valuable resource for Australia moving forward over the next five years and beyond.”

Census data is available free online. Use one of our easy tools such as QuickStats or Community Profiles to access the latest data for your area or topic of interest.

Note: In this media release, the term 'post-school qualifications' is used to refer to non-school qualifications. These are qualifications awarded for educational attainments other than those of pre-primary, primary or secondary education. Examples of non-school qualifications include Bachelor Degree, Diploma and Certificate Level IV. Some non-school qualifications may be attained by school students.


HIGHER EDUCATION


Total persons with non-school qualifications – by Level of Education

2016
2011
Growth (%)

Postgraduate Degree Level
921,029
631,121
45.9%
Graduate Diploma and Graduate Certificate Level
377,539
297,280
27.0%
Bachelor Degree Level
2,882,838
2,340,509
23.2%
Advanced Diploma and Diploma Level
1,687,893
1,393,046
21.2%
Certificate III & IV Level
2,995,150
2,653,127
12.9%
Certificate I & II Level
215,505
211,972
1.7%

* Excludes “Certificate, not further defined”


Total persons with qualifications – by Field of Study
2016
2011
Growth (%)

Management and Commerce
2,149,808
1,744,947
23.2%
Engineering and Related Technologies
1,675,632
1,509,939
11.0%
Society and Culture
1,290,481
999,396
29.1%
Health
1,076,430
873,497
23.2%
Education
845,774
714,086
18.4%
Architecture and Building
634,774
546,495
16.2%
Food, Hospitality and Personal Services
556,774
486,133
14.5%
Creative Arts
402,354
324,951
23.8%
Information Technology
345,724
277,924
24.4%
Natural and Physical Sciences
331,522
272,963
21.5%
Agriculture, Environmental and Related Studies
222,831
196,246
13.5%



Highest growth sub-categories (6 digit level)
2016
2011
Growth

Accounting
408,572
344,383
64,189
General Nursing
453,279
389,257
64,022
Business Management
227,628
166,166
61,462
Care for the Aged
97,024
60,702
36,322
Children’s Services
153,891
121,016
32,875

* Excludes “not further defined” and “not elsewhere classified” categories and categories with fewer than 1000 people in 2016


Educational attainment – Capital Cities vs Regional
Capital Cities
Regional

Certificate III & IV Level
15.7%
23.0%
Bachelor Degree Level or Higher
29.6%
16.3%
Postgraduate Degree Level
7.0%
2.7%

* Based on Greater Capital City Statistical Areas and Highest Educational Attainment

* Excludes Not stated, Inadequately described and Not applicable