The puzzle of high Victorian unmet demand for university places

In an article for yesterday’s Education Age, I had a go at explaining why the prospects of Victorian applicants for university are worse than those of applicants in other states.

The unmet demand statistics consistently show that it is higher in Victoria than elsewhere; using other data sources I found that this has been true since 1993 at least.

It will surprise none of my regular readers that the unmet demand culprit is the centralised system of distributing university places, which until fairly recently aimed at equalising higher education participation between the states, rather than meeting actual demand as revealed in applications to attend university. Though Victoria has not relative to its population been under-supplied with places compared to other states, because demand there is higher than the national average more of it is ‘unmet’.

But identifying the culprit still leaves a puzzle: why is demand higher in Victoria than elsewhere? The main reason seems to be that school retention is higher in Victoria than in other states. With a higher percentage of young people finishing Year 12 in Victoria than elsewhere, more people have the basic qualification needed for university entry.

A couple of people have asked me whether Victoria’s private schools might have something to do with the story. The ABS schools data suggest that indeed this could be the case.
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