Unis attracting more low SES students

Data released by Minister Chris Evans early May is optimistic that the numbers of students from low socio-economic status (SES) backgrounds enrolled at university is on track to meet the government's target that 20% of undergraduate students be from disadvantaged backgrounds by 2020.

Students-at-work-standardThe figures show a breakdown by university of the number of additional university places offered to students from low SES backgrounds. Overall, for these students the total number of offers have increased from 33,803 in 2009 to 40,203 in 2012 - an additional 6,400 offers and a growth of 18.9 percent.

However, the variation amongst university groupings in terms of their low SES enrolment remains marked. The Group of Eight continues to struggle to increase their numbers of low SES students with the group's average place offerings only increasing by 11 percent. Raw numbers of offers for the group also appeared very low with the Australian National University only making 16 additional offers to low SES students from 2009-2012 and the University of Melbourne 77.
La Trobe University led the IRU group of universities with an increase of 35% of low SES places from 2009 to 2012. The University of Adelaide was top of the Group of Eight with an increase of low SES places of 24% and Curtin University of Technology headed the ATN Universities with an increase of 49%. Of the non-aligned universities, Australian Catholic University increased its low SES enrolments by an impressive 64%, although this accounted for only an additional 373 offers.

In Victoria, La Trobe University made the highest number of offers to low SES students at 1,705, with a growth of 443 offers since 2009. R.M.I.T and Deakin University were a tie for second with just over 1,400 low SES student offers in 2012, also growing by approximately 440 offers.

A full picture on low SES participation will only become clear once further information is released about whether these offers turn into actual student enrolments over the following few years.  Certainly the sector still has a long way to go in achieving the estimated additional 55,000 new low SES enrolments to reach the government's target by 2020. To reach this target, universities need to practically double their current access rates of low SES students. In the push to grow the numbers however, newer universities seem to have the competitive edge.