13

Nov 2018

University students taking longer to finish degrees, many fail to find work quickly: reports

Students are taking longer than ever to complete their degrees, according to new figures, and 30 per cent are failing to gain work within four months after graduating.

The Federal Government has released new data that reveals only two-thirds of students are completing their degrees within six years.

The number of students gaining employment in the short and medium-term after graduation has also declined.

Only 71 per cent of graduates secure a job straight out of uni. Fifteen per cent are still unemployed four years after graduating.

But Universities Australia said the figures on graduates gaining full-time jobs after university are at a three-year high.

It said the decline in students completing university within six years has only dropped 1 per cent, and the rate of students completing their degrees within nine years is stable.

The figures are contained in two government reports released today: one based on a 2017 graduate survey and the another which analyses data on student outcomes four, six and nine years after commencing study.

Of all students who began a university degree in 2010, 66 per cent had completed the course after six years. Some universities, however, recorded their highest-ever completion rates, while students at other universities were far more likely to drop out.

Students who study off-campus, are part-time, are mature-age students, have low ATAR scores, or are of low socio-economic status are more likely to fail to finish their degree.

Only half of students with ATARs between 30 and 49 complete their degree within six years.

Students at the University of Sydney, the University of NSW and the Australian National University were the most likely to graduate.

Those studying at the Federation University in Victoria, Charles Darwin University, and the University of Southern Queensland were the least likely to complete their degree.

University graduates fare well in the jobs market, but short-term employment outcomes for graduates have declined in recent years.

The Graduate Outcomes Survey 2017 reported labour market outcomes were broadly similar for men and women, "with the notable exception that female graduates earn considerably less than male graduates".

In 2014, the gender gap in graduate median salaries was $4,000, or 7 per cent. This was partly explained by the fact that females graduated in professions that commanded lower pay, but even in the same field, female graduates still earned less than men.

Those who studied medicine were the most likely to get a job after graduating — almost 98 per cent of graduate doctors gained employment. Those who studied creative arts, hospitality and personal services, and science and mathematics were the least likely to get a job after graduating.

Disconnect between courses and jobs market: minister

Universities Australia chief executive Belinda Robinson said the Federal Government had leaped on the figures and inflated them "as part of a crusade to impose new conditions on university funding".

"The Government has tried to dress up a 1 per cent drop in the percentage of students completing their degrees within six years as an argument for performance funding," Ms Robinson said.

"Yet the nine-year completion rate remains stable."

Ms Robinson said that over the past decades, universities had enrolled record numbers of students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

"Mature age and part-time students may take longer to complete their degrees because many of them are juggling study with full-time jobs, parents and caring responsibilities," she said.

Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham said it was concerning that one in four graduates said the training was not relevant to the employment market.

"Most students do further study to improve their prospects of getting a job, but these numbers plainly show a disconnect between some of the courses universities are offering and the employment market," Mr Birmingham said.