Context of Higher Education

    The Importance of Australia’s Universities:

    • Universities have more than one million enrolled students
    • Universities employ over 100,000 staff
    • International education is Australia’s largest service export industry and fourth largest export overall
    • Universities are significant contributors to their local communities by providing local employment opportunities, research, industry collaboration, building vital infrastructure and through local community and sporting grants
    • Australia’s regional universities play a vital role in supporting regional economies
    • University research stimulates innovation and delivers solutions to the economic, social and demographic challenges facing the nation
    • The rate of return on publicly-funded research is generally between 20 and 60 per cent.



    Academic Year: in Australia, the academic year follows the calendar year, rather than split across consecutive years, as is customary in the northern hemisphere. The most common study periods at Australian universities are semester-based: semester 1, February/March to June; semester 2, July/August to November).

    Other study periods are trimesters (e.g. late January to early December) and summer (e.g. November to February). Summer study periods are sometimes used to enable students to catch up or accelerate completion of their degree/award. Universities with international operations may have additional study periods to accommodate teaching delivery at overseas institutions.

    Two sample academic calendars are provided below:

    Student Demographics; in 2014 there were 358,735 higher education students enrolled in the broad field of Management and Commerce education across Australian universities, representing 26.1% of all enrolled students. Of these students 51.8% were domestic and 48.2% were international, either onshore or offshore. Enrolments by courses level were: 62.6% bachelor; 25.8% master by coursework; 0.1% doctoral by coursework; 0.1% master by research; 1.1% doctoral by research; 10.3% non-degree courses such as diplomas and postgraduate courses.

    Source: Tables 2.3 and Table 2.9.

    Common language(s) of instruction: English

    Student Diversity; there were 1,213,403 students enrolled at higher education institutions as of the first half of 2015, with the following demographics:

    • 77% domestic; 23% international (onshore and offshore)
    • 92% public institutions; 8% private
    • 74% full-time; 26% part-time
    • 55.5% female
    • 1.1% of all students were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
    • 16.2% of all domestic students were from low social economic status backgrounds
    • 18.8% of all domestic students were from regional areas

    Academic Staff: in 2014, 68.6% of all academic staff at universities held a doctoral degree and 26.4% a master level degree. 55.6% of the academic workforce were male.