Australian universities see a spike in domestic student enrolment
Australian universities are seeing an uptick in domestic postgraduate student enrolment amid the pandemic, especially in health-related courses.
Demand for postgraduate courses are bolstered by several factors including a combination of more year 12 school leavers, fewer students on gap years, and people returning to study because of the recession, reported the Guardian.
Postgraduate enrolments are even higher than undergraduates, and their fees are much higher; many local postgraduate students pay the full cost of their degree without government funding.
Postgraduate students in Australian universities, however, can pay their fees through the fee-help system, a loan scheme that helps eligible students enrolled in a fee paying place to pay their tuition fees.
The report notes that data on fee-help lending for 2021 compiled by the education department, full-fee paying loans have doubled or tripled at some universities this year.
Quoting Heims online institution payment information, the Guardian said fee-help loan amounts were up 11% across 36 public universities, from AU$1 billion to AU$1.11 billion.
For instance, total fee-help loans are forecast to increase from AU$11.4 million to AU$21.9 million at the University of Adelaide. Central Queensland University was projected to rise from AU$10.46 million to AU$20.41 million, and Charles Darwin University will rise an estimated 193%, from AU$470,00 to AU$1.38 million.
Popular postgraduate courses at Australian universities
A Charles Darwin University (CDU) spokesman said applications for postgraduate courses had spiked by almost 60%, and health-related degrees had “more than doubled as healthcare professionals seek to upskill in niche areas”.
Courses in social work, nursing, midwifery and research are popular postgraduate teaching degrees.
“In terms of course level, applications for postgraduate graduate certificates have risen by more than 70%. These are six- to 12-month postgraduate short courses, many of which are offered 100% online, allowing industry professionals to gain specialised skills,” he said.
The University of Newcastle’s spokeswoman said its most popular masters programmes were “mental health nursing, midwifery, teaching, the MBA, juris doctor and business psychology”.
Education pundits have said that people traditionally go back to school during an economic downturn.
Speaking to ABC News, Australian National University researcher Professor Andrew Norton said enrolments historically rose when the economy suffered. “In recessions more people look for education because it’s harder to find a job,” Norton was quoted saying.
Norton expected university enrolments to hit record highs in 2021, adding: “People with postgraduate qualifications generally do better than those with bachelor degrees, regardless of their subject areas.”