09/01/2008 - 22:00

Mature age enrolments down

09/01/2008 - 22:00

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As student enrolments are finalised for the new academic year, Western Australian universities are on track to meet their targets, despite a continuing decline in the number of applications from mature aged students.

As student enrolments are finalised for the new academic year, Western Australian universities are on track to meet their targets, despite a continuing decline in the number of applications from mature aged students.

Curtin University of Technology expects to meet its target of 14,000 Commonwealth-supported places this year, which would be a 2.6 per cent increase on last year’s student intake.

However, Curtin director of student services and academic registrar, John Rowe, said the state’s buoyant economy had affected enrolments, particularly in the non-TEE or mature age market.

He said this had resulted in a steady increase in deferrals since 2004, when about 450 students deferred their studies.

That figure jumped to 720 last year and is expected to reach about 800 for this year’s intake.

“Only 40 to 50 per cent of students who defer end up coming back, so it has a big impact,” Mr Rowe said.

Edith Cowan University director of student services Glenda Jackson said that while first preferences from school leavers were up by 13 per cent on last year, applications from mature age students were down by 7 per cent.

Murdoch University deputy vice-chancellor (enterprise and international) Professor Gary Martin said the university had also experienced a decline in the number of applications from mature age students.

“The school leaver market has probably stayed the same, but the mature age market has plummeted,” he said.

Data from the Tertiary Institutions Service Centre (TISC) shows that, overall, applications from potential students have declined in recent years.

Since 2005, the number of first preferences received by TISC has fallen significantly, from 20,273 to 17,650 for the 2008 intake.

However, Professor Martin said while applications through TISC were declining, the data did not account for increasing mid-year enrolments.

Murdoch had a record number of mid-year enrolments in 2007, with 1,000 students joining the university for semester two.

This represented a 10-fold increase since 2004.

“What tends to be happening is that students are taking advantage of more flexible entry times, which is not captured through TISC,” Professor Martin said.

Murdoch has increased its student intake in recent years, from 8,947 in 2004, to 10,074 last year.

Despite the decline in mature age applications, universities are experiencing an increase in demand for certain course areas, particularly for mining related disciplines such as engineering.

Murdoch’s first preference applications for engineering increased by a third this year, from 60 to 90, while at Curtin University, engineering courses are on track to meet a growth target for enrolments of 4 per cent.

Curtin’s first preference applications for engineering are up 17 per cent on last year.

Applications for geology at the university are also higher this year, with a 22 per cent increase in first preferences.

At the University of Western Australia, first preferences for engineering courses have also increased, with the university receiving extra funding for an additional 50 places in the discipline this year.

UWA’s admissions centre manager Wayne Betts said the new places had been granted due to an increase in demand over the past few years.

Mr Betts said the university expected to make a record number of offers this year, with enrolments on track to reach 3,200.

While first preferences from school leavers had increased by 2 per cent, mature age applications were down 10 per cent, although Mr Betts said the cohort only made up a quarter of total enrolments.

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