2011 Census shows increasing educational attainment of young Australians

3 May 2013 | CO/73

More young Australians are completing Year 12 or an equivalent school or non-school qualification.

The latest in a series of analytical articles based on 2011 Census data, 'Year 12 Achievement and Continuing Education', shows in 2011, 85 per cent of 20-24 year olds had attained this level of qualification – up from 78 per cent in 2001.

The proportions varied considerably across the states and territories, with the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) having the highest proportion (91 per cent) and the Northern Territory the lowest (64 per cent). However, the Northern Territory experienced a large increase – up from 55 per cent in 2001.

The article also looks at participation in further education. In 2011, the ACT had the highest proportion of 20-24 year olds attending university or TAFE (48 per cent) and the Northern Territory the lowest (13 per cent).

In the decade to 2011 attendance at university increased across all states and territories. In 2011, there were 377,000 students aged 20-24 years at university, representing just over one quarter (28 per cent) of the people in this age group – up from 22 per cent (258,000) in 2001. Over the same period, however, the proportion of 20-24 year olds attending TAFE decreased from nine per cent to eight per cent.

Census Director, Sue Taylor said the proportion of young men and women in further education has changed markedly over the last 40 years.

"In 1971, 29 per cent of 20-24 year old students in further education were women but over the last 40 years the proportion has increased to 53 per cent in 2011,” Ms Taylor said.

“A similar trend can be seen at both university and TAFE. In 1971, 13 per cent of 20-24 year olds at TAFE were women, but by 2011 the gap had narrowed considerably with women accounting for 44 per cent of TAFE students.

In 1971, women were in the minority at university, comprising just one third of students aged 20-24 years (33 per cent), but by 2011 they accounted for more than half (55 per cent).”

Further information is available in Year 12 Achievement and Continuing Education. This is one of a series of articles released in Reflecting a Nation: Stories from the 2011 Census (cat. no. 2071.0)

The series and data from the 2011 Census of Population and Housing is now available on the ABS website. Visit www.abs.gov.au/census.