Universities enrol to meet demand

UG commencers are up 7 per cent (11 000 people) according to “early data” from universities

Federal education minister Alan Tudge says the biggest increases are in courses where fees are reduced.

“This year more first year students are enrolling in science, agriculture, IT, education and engineering – areas where the jobs of the future will be.”

He’s right, ag and environment courses, has the biggest increase (13.6 per cent) and the largest drop in fees, from $9 600 to $3 900. But starts in “society and culture” courses also went up, 5.8 per cent, despite a nearly $8000 fee hike, to $14 500. And “management and commerce” which now also costs $14 500 a year was stable, down 0.5 per cent.

It’s early data (for 25 out of 38 universities it seems from Senate Estimates yesterday) but the evidence and its implications for university funding clearly means whatever anybody in politics will want it to.

However, Learned Readers emerge from deep in the policy weeds to suggest that universities are happy to enrol-up, because some Commonwealth funding for student places is better than none and that some have recruited strategically in IT and engineering, to compensate for the absence of internationals.