We’re still the ‘smart state’.
According to Bond University Vice Chancellor Robert Stable, Queensland has still got it upstairs, despite a big question mark looming over the ability of our universities to handle the influx of education-seekers.
“I’m very comfortable with the vision of Queensland being the smart state. There are many things happening in Queensland and at Bond that are consistent with that,” says Stable.
Despite Stable’s conviction, Queensland Tertiary Admission Centre (QTAC) figures released last month show that 20 per cent of school leavers seeking university placement are turned away, more than 4 per cent up on last year.
Gold Coast universities in particular are tipped to struggle with the city’s booming population.
A Gold Coast City Council-commissioned analysis predicts university positions will need to increase by around 130 per cent by 2027 to keep up with the burgeoning workforce.
Stable says such figures can be a ‘misleading representation’ of the tertiary education sector due to the many variables.
“Kids leaving school in modern times now have some high paying options to compete with university, such as working in the mining industry in central Queensland,” he says.
“While this may guarantee more short-term financial success, the evidence is that those with a university education are more successful over the course of their entire career.”
Stable is seeing a controlled growth in domestic university applicants now outweighing the once large percentage of international students.
“There is no doubt the growing population requires growth in the education sector, however currently growth is responding to the demand,” he says.
“There are many universities that are left with vacant positions in some courses. It comes down to the nature of the program, location and the prospect of travel.
“For instance in the United States, 90 per cent of students leave home to go to university whereas in Australia that figure is much lower. Another factor is that school leavers must apply for courses they are eligible for.”
While companies were reluctant to invest in new employees during the GFC, many state universities recorded an influx of mature-age students returning to sharpen their competitive edge.
Stable believes the imminent recovery doesn’t mean the golden opportunity to upskill has passed and the quality of evolving university degrees and the value of tertiary education will see student numbers in both undergraduate and postgraduate degrees continue to grow.
“History shows, going right back to the 1930s, that people value education more in times of economic hardship,” says Stable.
“The evidence is that in slow economies jobs don’t just jump out at you, and qualifications make you more competitive. On the success of the university and the newly revised degree, our MBA, which in definition is a mature-age course, has increased its numbers substantially.”