What’s going on with science applications?

Back in October, early Victorian university applications suggested that demand for science was well down, despite the government cutting the cost of science courses. But reports in today’s media say that science applications finished 19% up on last year. With overall applications up only 6%, that endangers my prediction that a price change would have little effect. The history of applications data is that it is rare for a discipline to gain or lose more than 1% of market share in a year.

The complicating factor this year is that several University of Melbourne undergraduate courses that draw on science-related interests and aptitudes – computer science, information systems, dental science and medicine – were offered for the last time in 2008, and we would expect that people aiming for those professions would now enrol in the new science or biomedicine undergraduate courses. And both show significant increases in applicants.

My other prediction of little supply-side response is also complicated by changes at the U of M, but without Melbourne offers are up 4% on last year. That is consistent with normal year-to-year movement.

ENTER scores are stable at Monash and Melbourne, the two big Victorian players in undergraduate science. Monash’s clearly-in ENTER was up 0.2 to 75.2, and Melbourne’s was stable on 85. So added demand is not doing much to push up the ‘price’ in ENTER scores of science courses.

I think my prediction that final science commencing enrolments will fluctuate within the normal range is looking ok. But if we see a similar pattern of increasing demand for science in other states, which do not have the U of M complication, then maybe the cut in price did affect demand.