ACER News | 17 December 2013
Analysis by the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) reveals that, while there has been a substantial decline in the proportion of university deferrals in Victoria since student financial support has been increased, location and socioeconomic status continue to play a role in restricting access to higher education.
In the latest ACER Joining the Dots research briefing, Principal Research Fellows Drs Sheldon Rothman and Daniel Edwards use data from Victoria’s annual post-school transitions survey to explore the extent to which deferral rates have changed since 2008, and the influence policy changes to financial support may have had on deferral decisions.
Their analysis reveals Year 12 completers from Victoria’s non-metropolitan schools are twice as likely to defer compared to students from metropolitan schools. Edwards said
Deferral is often thought of as a way for ‘rich kids’ to head off around the world on a gap year, but in reality this is not always the case. For young people from non-metropolitan areas in particular, deferral is often necessary in order to save and prepare for the costs related to accessing university.
While the deferral rate of metropolitan school completers remained stable from 2008 to 2012 – at around 8% of those who received a university offer – the trend for non-metropolitan students was substantially different, falling from a peak of 22% in 2009 to 15% in 2010.
This shift coincides with the introduction in 2010 of a Relocation Scholarship for outer regional and remote students, and the easing of Youth Allowance eligibility criteria for workforce participation and parental income. In 2009, waiting to qualify for Youth Allowance was the most commonly cited reason for deferral among regional students, before falling by around 20 percentage points in 2010.
The researchers suggest that the variation between Victoria’s five non-metropolitan regions suggests that changes to financial support alone do not explain the decline in deferral rates. Year 12 completers who attended schools in the Gippsland and Hume regions were more likely to have deferred study than those who attended schools in the Barwon South Western, Grampians and Loddon Mallee regions, suggesting that proximity to a large ‘local’ university campus may be a continuing influence on both deferral and enrolment.
The analysis also highlighted the effect of policy changes to financial support by socioeconomic background. The deferral rate among outer regional students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds declined from 24% in 2009 to 15% in 2010, while the decline for outer regional students from higher socioeconomic backgrounds declined from 18% in 2009 to 16% in 2010.
For a system that has been trying to increase the representation of students from low socioeconomic areas, resolving issues around accessibility is fundamental to increasing the likelihood of a university offer translating into an enrolment.