5900.0.00.003 - University output measures in the Australian National Accounts: experimental estimates, 2008 to 2017  
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Jason Annabel, Qinghuan Luo (ABS) and Aaron Nicholas (Deakin University)1


This paper describes new experimental indexes for the volume of Australian university output.

The output of public universities is substantial. In 2016/17, services provided by technical, vocational and tertiary education institutions contributed 40% of education industry output.2 In the same year, higher education accounted for 25% of Australia’s exports of services.3

The ABS currently estimates the annual change in the volume of universities output using the change in student enrolments, measured on a full-time equivalent basis.

The experimental output index derived in this paper grows at a similar rate to the current ABS index. However, the proposed index has two main advantages. It uses:

    1. a direct measure of research output; and
    2. applies expenditure weights to enrolment data to implicitly capture some aspects of quality change.

In addition, teaching services provided by universities have continued to evolve, and this evolution is continuing as a result of COVID-19. The output measures proposed in this paper provide greater scope for incorporating future compositional and quality change.

There is little consistent disaggregated data relating to the volume of university output, which is a barrier to measurement. The experimental indexes in this paper are based on datasets published by the Commonwealth Department of Education, Skills and Employment, covering all 37 public universities. The ABS worked closely with Dr Aaron Nicholas of Deakin University on the analysis presented here.

The ABS invites feedback from the public on the experimental methods proposed in this paper. For further discussion of these methods please contact the ABS at economic.research@abs.gov.au.


1 The authors would like to acknowledge the assistance of Amani Elnasri and Kristen Stone in preparing this paper.
2 See https://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/Lookup/5217.0Main+Features12017-18
Estimates from the 2016-17 input-output tables show that tertiary higher education services contributes approximately 27% of total supply of the entire education industry, see https://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/DetailsPage/5215.0.55.0012016-17?OpenDocument
3 https://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/Lookup/5368.0.55.003Main+Features12018-19?OpenDocument

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