More than 4.1 million Australians now have a Bachelor’s degree or higher, up from almost 3.3 million in 2011, according to the latest Census data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).
The largest gains were in postgraduate degrees, with the number of people at this level of education rising by 46 per cent to more than 921,000 in 2016.
Universities Australia Chief Executive Belinda Robinson said the latest numbers mirrored the increasing demand for graduate skills in the economy.
“It is no coincidence that we’re seeing this growth in the number of Australians with higher qualifications at the same time as the employer demand for university graduates is growing strongly,” Ms Robinson said.
“There are currently 65,000 job vacancies across Australia that require a Bachelor degree or higher – and that number is going up. A bigger share of job vacancies now require a university qualification,” she said.
The gap in post-school educational attainment between men and women also narrowed considerably in 2016 to 58 per cent for men and 54 per cent for women. It was 51 per cent for men and 42 per cent for women in 2006.
The new statistics also show Indigenous students studying at a university or tertiary institution were at record numbers, more than doubling over the last ten years to 15,400 in 2016. There were 7,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander tertiary students in 2006.
“University education provides new opportunities to economically disadvantaged groups,” Ms Robinson said.
“But despite this good news, the data also shows that there’s more work to do – with degree attainment twice as high in the cities as in the regions,” she said.
“This is why we really need to maintain our investment in higher education to ensure that no Australian is left behind as the economy changes.”