Private higher education providers growing rapidly

In line with the practice of producing higher education statistics very slowly, DEEWR has recently put first semester 2009 enrolment figures on its website.

These show that the private providers are continuing to grow quickly. After taking out new institutions for comparative purposes, their overall enrolments are up 19% on first semester 2008, with commencing students up 22%. This is fast growth off a modest base, with total domestic enrolments now just over 40,000 and total international enrolments of just under 19,000. These figures understate the actual total, as only those institutions making FEE-HELP loans available to their students report enrolments. (Based on an inquiry, just to clarify that these institutions report all their students, not just FEE-HELP students. The point I was making is that there are a number of higher education providers that receive no Commonwealth money and report nothing to the Commonwealth.)

Public universities are also growing, with their overall numbers up 5% to 919,000, and commencing students up 7%. The ‘pipeline’ effects of high commencements (ie most first years will be there for at least two more) help explain why the student subsidy bill is growing more quickly than forecast. It may also help explain why the government is reluctant to accept the Bradley report recommendation to include private provider students in the public subsidy system. Despite the current government’s anti-full-fee rhetoric, it is fiscally very convenient for them that tens of thousands of students are willing to forgo tuition subsidies.