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University completion rates won’t be improved by looking at isolated causes

Tim Pitman writes in The Conversation (18.1.17) about how lower completion rates for rural and remote universities are being used by some in government to argue for further capping university admissions.

‘News media are widely reporting on new data released by the government showing that one-third of students starting university in 2009 had not finished their studies within six years.

‘This stat makes a good headline, but oversimplifies the reality, which is detrimental to improving higher education standards.

‘When you drill down into this data, the picture is very different for a number of universities. Completion rates range from 36.9% to 88%.

‘Those in rural and regional areas – in Queensland in particular – struggle the most to retain students, and accounted for seven of the ten lowest-completing institutions. Those based in the city have the highest rates of completion.

‘This is not necessarily a reflection on the quality of the educational experience that rural and regional universities provide, but reflects the demographics of the students they support.’

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