Research Database

Labour Market Outcomes of Australian University Graduates from Equity Groups

Type of Publication: Research report

Lead Organisation: NCSEHE

Year Published: 2016

Lead Researcher: Ian W. Li

Written by Assistant Professor Ian W. Li (The University of Western Australia), Dr Stephané Mahuteau (National Institute of Labour Studies (NILS), Flinders University), Associate Professor Alfred Michael Dockery (Curtin University), Emeritus Professor P.N. (Raja) Junankar (UNSW Australia) & Professor Kostas Mavromaras (NILS)


The Australian higher education sector has had a number of changes in the recent past. Notably, the Bradley (2008) Review of Australian Higher Education had recommended an increase in higher education access and completion by individuals from equity groups or backgrounds. Since the Bradley Review, there have been increases in the higher education participation of individuals from equity groups. Recently, a report by Koshy (2014) reported that the share of students from equity groups in higher education has been increasing. That report looked at trends in higher education student enrolment over 2007-2012, for individuals from six key equity groups. These are students who:

(i) are from low socioeconomic status (SES);

(ii) have disabilities;

(iii) are Indigenous;

(iv) are from regional locations;

(v) are from remote locations; and

(vi) have non-English speaking backgrounds (NESB).

Koshy (2014) reported that the growth in higher education enrolments of individuals from these equity groups during the period, expressed as a proportion of all higher education enrolments, have all been positive. For instance, the share of low SES students had increased from 16.3 percent in 2007 to 17.3 percent in 2012.

Another development in the higher education sector lies in the uncapping of Commonwealth funded university student places under the student demand-driven system of 2012. Under the demand-driven system, higher education student enrolments have been increasing, which has led to doubts about maintaining academic standards and calls for university students places to be capped, or for a minimum Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) for university admission to be imposed. Yet, as Norton (2013) points out, imposing minimum ATARs would impact negatively on low SES students most. At the same time, a study by Li and Dockery (2015) indicated that low SES first-year university students perform relatively better in comparison to their peers from more privileged backgrounds, while a study by Pitman, Koshy and Phillimore (2015) showed that Australia’s higher education expansion has not led to any decline in educational quality and standards. The findings from these two studies thus favour higher education policies that maintain access for underprivileged individuals. Another study by Lim (2015) examined the probability of completing university degree courses for various equity groups using data from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Youth. Some key findings from Lim’s (2015) study are that students with low SES are less likely to complete their course compared to students with high SES, as are students from regional locations. Students from an Asian language background are more likely to complete their university course, compared to those from ‘other’ language backgrounds.

Previous studies on outcomes of Australian university students from equity groups have been limited in terms of the scope of the outcomes analysed, concentrating mainly on university academic outcomes. For example, Win and Miller (2005), Birch and Miller (2007) Mills et al. (2009) and Li and Dockery (2015) assessed first-year students’ university academic outcomes from one single university each in their studies, while Lim (2015) examines university course completion rates. There are relatively few studies looking at the labour market outcomes of university graduates from equity groups. Further information on labour market outcomes for students from equity groups would be beneficial in informing higher education policy. In particular, it would inform policies to help disadvantaged groups at particular stages of their academic life.

The current study widens the evidence base in that it assesses a range of employment outcomes of disadvantaged students, and further, utilises data from multiple universities from one Australian state. Outcomes assessed include the probability of employment, qualification-job match, job quality, and earnings. Hence, the assessment of the graduates’ labour market performance contributes by examining key outcomes which are primary motivating factors behind higher education access and equity policies. In addition, individuals in the key equity groups tend to belong to groups who face labour market disadvantage.

The paper is structured in the following manner. Section 2 reviews the literature on graduate labour market outcomes in Australia, with a focus on the studies on the various equity groups. Section 3 discusses the data and variables that will be used for the study, and presents descriptive statistics for selected variables. The methodological approach and estimating equations are discussed in section 4. Empirical results are presented and discussed in section 5, and structured around the various equity groups. Section 6 concludes.

Read more: Labour Market Outcomes of Australian University Graduates from Equity Groups

Li, I. W., Mahuteau, S., Dockery, A. M., Junankar, P. N. & Mavromaras, K. (2016.) Labour Market Outcomes of Australian University Graduates from Equity Groups. Report submitted to the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (NCSEHE), Curtin University: Perth.

Posted 8 March 2016