The Changing University System

When going to university, many of us studied one course where everyone in the course studied the same units and graduated with a degree that set us up for jobs within one career pathway for life. Fees for university education were introduced in 1986 ($250) and I was a student in my final year of university when HECS fees ($1800) per year were introduced.

In 2019, most university degrees cost approximately $30,000. How things have changed from the era of free university education!

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant effect on universities and has led to a number of changes for our Year 12 students wishing to enrol at university in 2021 and beyond.

Some of these changes include:

  • demand for places
  • focus on future skills
  • changes to fee structures
  • early offers

Demand for places

Demand for 2021 university places is likely to increase as a result of the many students, who usually defer each year to travel or take a Gap year now enrolling in courses, due to COVID restrictions on overseas travel. The rising unemployment rate will also drive demand for places because, in an economic downturn, unemployed people often retrain, upskill or return to further study. 

However, to counteract this demand, the new fee structure as launched recently by Federal Minister for Education, Dan Tehan, aims to provide funding for an additional 39,000 university places by 2023 and up to 100 000 by 2030 nationally. Given the current absence of international students, more places at Western Australian universities are likely to go to local students, so for our students more places are likely to be on offer.

Focus on future skills

The government has promoted the importance of providing graduates who are ‘job ready’. Jobs of the future will call for broad knowledge and multi-disciplinary skills, which the World Economic Forum has identified as being: complex problem-solving, critical thinking and creativity. These skills needed to thrive in the fourth industrial revolution and already a focus at the College, through our Connecting Learning To Life attributes, need to be embedded in university courses.

Hence the structure of course choices are also changing to be broader, with a greater focus on skills in addition to knowledge. The new costings are based on unit level rather than course level to encourage students to select more widely and to be able to choose cheaper units if this is more financially viable for them. This aims to promote greater diversity among graduates.

The focus on rebuilding universities to target development in areas where future jobs are likely to be is one of the most controversial aspects of this new model. As a school, we encourage girls to focus on their passion, not just on their employment prospects. While the greatest growth in the job market, in the next five years, is expected to be in the areas of:

  • healthcare
  • science and technology
  • education
  • construction

There is much unrest about the inequality shown for the different disciplines. Humanities is one area where a significant increase in student costs is likely to impact on our students.

As a College, we highly value our Humanities courses, Economics, Politics & Law, Geography and History and feel they make a significant contribution to the future of Australia. Our concern is for students who have chosen Year 12 subjects leading into Humanities courses at university level. We will continue to encourage girls who are passionate about these pathways while also encouraging them to consider other units which may reduce costs and broaden their course of study.

Change to fee structures

University courses are funded by student fees and government grants. The changes in student contributions going forward are summarised as follows.

Decrease in Student Fees

Clinical Psychology
Environmental Science
Information Technology

Student Fees Remain the Same

Veterinary Science

Increase in Student Fees

Creative Arts

The Minister for Education  has said that 60% of students would expect to see a reduction or no change in their student contribution as a result of the changes. However, this also means 40% of students will see an increase in cost which, is not ideal.

Our boarders may benefit from the introduction of $5,000 grants for regional students to assist with relocation costs, ensuring that rural students are not disadvantaged in pursuing further educational opportunities.

Early offers

A recent initiative has seen universities in WA provide many early offers to current Year 12 students. At the College, 74 students have applied for early offers with many already receiving an offer. This enables students to gain a conditional offer and for some non-conditional offer based on Year 11 or Semester 1, Year 12 results mid-year, rather than waiting until later in the year or until final results are released.

This gives Year 12s some security, however, we are hopeful that this is a motivating factor for students to continue their dedication to their studies rather than being too comfortable that they already have a place.

In our changing world, there will be some positives and some challenges, which will come from the challenges thrust upon us so as a school we must be agile and work to ensure the best outcomes for all our students.

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