2008.0 - Census of Population and Housing: Nature and Content, Australia, 2016  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 20/08/2015   
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Information collected on this topic provides information about the field and level of study of the person's highest completed non-school qualification. This is an important input into determining the level of highest educational attainment. Data gathered during the Census about non-school qualifications is used to support planning and policy development in the areas of education, training and employment.


An education question in which respondents reported their highest level of attainment was included in the 1911 Census. However, a question directly asking about educational qualifications was not included until 1966 when respondents were asked to provide their qualification name and the institution from which it was obtained. Since 1971, people aged 15 years or over have been asked whether they have obtained a non-school qualification and, if so, the level of the highest qualification they have obtained, the field of study and the year in which it was obtained.

Specific year information was collected prior to the 2006 Census, but since that time respondents have been asked to indicate whether their qualification was completed prior to 1998, or from 1998 onwards. These three items enable data on the highest non-school qualification to be coded to a detailed classification incorporating both level and field of study.

Qualifications data collected in both the 1991 and 1996 Censuses was classified to the Australian Bureau of Statistics Classification of Qualifications (ABSCQ) (cat. no. 1262.0). Following developments in education and training and the introduction of the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) (see the Information Paper Measuring Learning in Australia - A Framework for Education and Training Statistics, cat. no. 4213.0), the Australian Standard Classification of Education, (ASCED) (cat. no. 1272.0) was introduced in 2001. ASCED comprises two components: level of education and field of education. For the 2001 Census, question wording, instructions and examples were modified to accommodate the AQF and the introduction of the ASCED.

For the 2006 Census, the question about the year in which the qualification was completed was reworded to determine if the qualification was obtained before 1998 or from 1998 onward. It was considered that by 1998 the AQF would have been in place long enough to account for a sufficient number of certificates to make this distinction meaningful. The distinction between certificates awarded pre 1998 and from 1998 onwards is also used to assist in coding some qualifications to a finer level of the ASCED classification.

A question asking for the name of the institution at which the person's highest non-school qualification was completed has not been included since the 2006 Census. In previous Censuses, this data was used to assist in coding the person's highest non-school qualification but it has been found that its removal had minimal impact on the quality of the coding.


Questions on qualifications generally have a relatively high level of non-response. However, analysis shows that non-response to this question is mostly from those without qualifications and therefore the Census data remain relevant to the users. There are also problems with interpreting level and main field of highest non-school qualification responses, particularly for qualifications gained overseas, qualifications obtained some time ago, and where inadequate descriptions are provided by respondents.


The following questions are from the paper 2016 Census Household Form.

Image: questions 28, 29, 30 and 31 from the paper 2016 Census Household Form.

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