Notes on the data: Education

School leavers enrolled in higher education, 2021


Policy context:  Education increases opportunities for choice of occupation and for income and job security, and also equips people with the skills and ability to control many aspects of their lives – key factors that influence wellbeing throughout the life course. Young people who complete Year 12 are more likely to make a successful initial transition to further education, training and work than early leavers [1].

The acquisition of a non-school qualification increases work and employment opportunities and increases the likelihood of a financially secure future. Despite the Global Financial Crisis and the end of the mining boom impacting on the earning of early career graduates, Bachelor degree holders continue to enjoy a significant income premium over Year 12 holders [2]


  1. McMillan J, Marks GN. School leavers in Australia: profiles and pathways. (Research report no. 31). Camberwell, Victoria: Australian Council for Educational Research, 2003.
  2. Norton A, Cherastidtham, I and Mackey W. Mapping Higher Education 2018. Grattan Institute, 2018 [accessed 19 February 2019]. Available from:

Notes:  The data comprise school leavers who are identified as enrolled at an Australian university at 31 March 2021. ‘School leavers’ are students who attained an Australian Year 12 qualification in 2020 in any State/ Territory through the completion of one or more Year 12 courses; may include (unless noted otherwise below) adult students, part time students and students doing one or more subjects to improve their overall score (repeating students).

The Estimated Resident Population is the population aged 17 years in 2020, as this is the age of the majority of Year 12 students at 30 June 2020. As age data at the small geographical area level are not available by single years, the number at age 17 was estimated from the number in the five-year age group 15 to 19 years.

Data have been provided by individual State and Territory tertiary admission centres. As these data were collected from each State and Territory, they may exclude people who live in one State/Territory and were enrolled in another.

Direct enrolments to universities were not included in the data collected. Currently, these represent a small proportion of total enrolments, other than in the ACT. For example, in 2020, there were 3,858 direct offers from universities compared with 65,818 enrolments in the data published here for 2021. An indication of these numbers can be found at University applications and offers; please limit table to 'Current Year 12'.

Variations in data between States

Definitions vary across the States and Territories, however, the impact of any difference is considered to be small.

  • South Australian data represent the number of school leavers that have received and accepted an offer to a university in South Australia and the Northern Territory; however this is not necessarily indicative of the enrolment status as they may not have enrolled at the institution by 31 March 2021.
  • Data for 2021 tertiary enrolments in Victoria are not available.

For more information, please consult the relevant admissions centre as listed in the Source below.


Geography: Data available by Population Health Area, Local Government Area, Primary Health Network, Quintile of socioeconomic disadvantage of area and Remoteness Area


Numerator:  School leavers who are identified as enrolled at an Australian university at 31 March 2021


Denominator:  Estimated Resident Population aged 17 years at 30 June 2020


Detail of analysis:  Per cent


Source:  Compiled by PHIDU based on data from the:

  1. Universities Admissions Centre (NSW & ACT), Queensland Tertiary Admissions Centre (Qld), South Australian Tertiary Admission Centre (SA & NT), Tertiary Institutions Service Centre (WA), The University of Notre Dame Australia (WA & NSW), and the University of Tasmania.
  2. ABS Estimated Resident Population, 30 June 2020.

© PHIDU, Torrens University Australia This content is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Australia licence.