Education Minister Simon Birmingham has called on universities to keep a
Education Minister Simon Birmingham has called on universities to keep a "laser focus” on the outcomes of the students they enrol. Jacob Ammentorp Lund

Degrees taking longer to earn

THE Federal Government has released data revealing university students are taking longer than ever to complete their degrees.

Education Minister Simon Birmingham has called on universities to keep a "laser focus” on the outcomes of the students they enrol following the release of data on graduate completions and job outcomes.

Senator Birmingham said the reports showed the six-year completion rate for university students had dropped to its lowest level recorded at 66 per cent, and that short and medium-term employment were still below the highs of the past decade.

For the period 2010-16, 45.5 per cent of CQUniversity students completed their degrees up from 42.5 per cent in the 2009-15 period.

CQUniversity Professor Helen Huntly said students from CQUni and other regional universities could take longer on average to complete their degrees due to demographic factors.

"For example, they are more likely to have entered tertiary study as adults who are juggling family and work responsibilities and who may have been away from formal study for an extended period,” Prof Huntly said.

"They may be the first in their family to attend university.

"They may be from a low socio-economic background or from an indigenous background.”

CQUniversity Student Council chairman Jamie Mclovin agreed.

"I think not all students come straight out of school and go to university with 100% of their time dedicated to study,” Mr Mclovin said.

"I was in my early 30s when I went back to university and a father of four children.

"With mature-age students with families I can understand that degrees are going to take longer because they have other priorities in their life.”

Analysis of the latest Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching data showed graduates from CQUni undergraduate degrees had a full-time employment rate of 80.6 per cent, well above the national average of 69.5 per cent.

Senator Birmingham said some of the most concerning results were that more than one in four Australian graduates (28.6 per cent) reported their skills and education were not being fully utilised, up from 28.1 per cent last year.

"Most students do further study to improve their prospects of getting a job but these numbers plainly show a disconnect between some of the courses universities are offering and the employment market,” he said.



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