Are maths and science enrolments increasing?

Parliament house flag post

Are maths and science enrolments increasing?

Posted 2/12/2011 by Coral Dow

In the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook the Government announced savings of $403.6 million over three years through a measure to increase the HECS amount for mathematics and science students from 2013. The increase will reverse the 2009 reduction in HECS which aimed at increasing enrolments in the science disciplines.

This post discusses the trends in enrolments following the 2008-2009 Budget measure.

In the 2008-2009 Budget the Rudd Government honoured an election commitment to reduce the HECS HELP fees for mathematics and science disciplines. The measure was implemented with passage of the Higher Education Support Amendment (2008 Budget Measures) Bill 2008.

From 1 January 2009 contributions were reduced from $7260 per year to the lowest level of $4077 equivalent to the national priority places of education and nursing.

Despite many studies that concluded that HECS costs do not deter students, including studies following the introduction of differential HECS rates in 1999, the Government reduced the HECS rate in a belief that more students would enrol in the mathematics and science disciplines.

The effect was immediate, in 2009 undergraduate applications for Natural and Physical Sciences increased by 17.1% on 2008 and increased again in 2010 by 13.1%. The Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) noted that ‘the two years’ growth more than reversed the declines in demand for this field between 2004 and 2008. This growth follows a suite of measures introduced in the 2008-09 Budget to encourage enrolments in Mathematics and Science.’

Increases in applications carried over to increasing enrolments: in 2009 commencing domestic student numbers in the broad discipline of Natural and Physical Sciences increased 13.6% on 2008, compared to the overall increase in commencing domestic students of 9.6%. In 2010 the increase continued with Natural and Physical Sciences enrolments recording the highest increase of any broad discipline: 12.6 % on 2009. In comparison overall commencing domestic students increased by 6.5%.

An alternative statistical source is for commencing bachelor places which also show increases: an increase of 8.7% in 2009 and 19.4% in 2010 on 2008. (see table below). Again these increases were higher than the increase for all commencing places. Application and enrolment statistics for 2011 are not yet publicly available.

Commencing Domestic Bachelor Places20082009Increase 2010Increase on 2008
Mathematical Sciences7 3728 0589.38 32812.9
Physics and Astronomy2 0052 1396.72 26813.1
Chemical Sciences3 5793 9089.24 35321.6
Earth Sciences9571 10715.71 11616.6
Biological Sciences11 16111 9447.013 27819.0
Other Sciences1 2861 48915.82 12865.5
All Science26 36028 6458.731 47119.4
All other disciplines1200051299318.213831915.3

Despite this evidence apparently supporting the 2008 decision, the Government has announced that from 2013 student contributions for mathematics, statistics and science units will return to the Band 2 amount, estimated to be $8353 in 2013. This measure will provide budget savings of $403.6 million over three years.

In a media release the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations, Senator Chris Evans, stated: ‘The reduction in student contributions for mathematics, statistics and science units since 2009 has not been effective in substantially increasing the number of students undertaking maths and science at university. Students are predominantly motivated not by price but by their interests, abilities and career preferences when selecting courses.’


  • 21/01/2014 3:41 PM
    David Barry said:

    The student load data for the narrow discipline groups are not reliable, for reasons I've detailed here. Briefly: most of the students making up the EFTSL numbers in the table are not maths or science students, but rather students from other degrees who are required to do some 1st year maths or physics (say). Excluding non-science students changes the increases over 2008-2009 quite dramatically.

Thank you for your comment. If it does not require moderation, it will appear shortly.
Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Add | Email Print


Flagpost is a blog on current issues of interest to members of the Australian Parliament

Parliamentary Library Logo showing Information Analysis & Advice




refugees asylum immigration parliament climate change Australian foreign policy elections social security welfare reform women welfare policy school education private health insurance Taxation Indigenous Australians Australian Defence Force health financing higher education emissions trading Australian Bureau of Statistics employment people trafficking statistics Middle East illicit drugs gambling health reform federal election 2010 income management Medicare disability Sport United Nations Asia politics criminal law Afghanistan health forced labour transport aid Australian Sports Anti-Doping Agency World Anti-Doping Agency United States federal budget Industrial Relations Carbon Pricing Mechanism dental health OECD Senate Australian Public Service constitution Australian Electoral Commission WADA child protection environment poker machines Australia in the Asian Century steroids National Disability Insurance Scheme detention aged care 43rd Parliament slavery health system multiculturalism ASADA Law Enforcement Australian Federal Police Fair Work Act governance labour force people smuggling debt international relations New Zealand food Australian Crime Commission pharmaceutical benefits scheme leadership electoral reform Census election results UK Parliament Papua New Guinea banking International Women's Day corruption pensions public service reform children's health Aviation federal election 2013 foreign debt gross debt net debt defence capability parliamentary procedure Senators and Members ALP Newstart Parenting Payment Youth Allowance sea farers domestic violence military history by-election political parties High Court skilled migration voting mental health Federal Court terrorist groups science social media Higher Education Loan Program HECS federal state relations accountability youth paid parental leave same sex relationships coal seam gas customs planning doping crime health risks Gonski Review of Funding for Schooling sex slavery Special Rapporteur Northern Territory Emergency Response social policy Productivity United Kingdom firearms public policy Population violence against women China ADRV terrorism transparency research and development welfare ASIO intelligence community Australian Security Intelligence Organisation carbon tax mining employer employee renewable energy regional unemployment fishing European Union family assistance United Nations Security Council Australian economy forestry food labelling vocational education and training Drugs welfare systems Indonesia children Constitutional reform local government codes of conduct terrorist financing homelessness Parliamentary remuneration money laundering Trafficking in Persons Report energy social inclusion human rights paternalism Ireland election timetable citizenship asylum seekers early childhood education Canada Financial sector national security fuel disability employment Tasmania integrity standards NATO Australian Secret Intelligence Service sexual abuse World Trade Organization Australia public health housing affordability bulk billing water health policy Governor-General US economy trade unions export liquefied natural gas foreign bribery question time speaker superannuation public housing expertise climate Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry regulation Pacific Islands reserved seats new psychoactive substances synthetic drugs UNODC carbon markets animal health middle class welfare Indigenous constitutional recognition of local government referendum consumer laws PISA competition policy royal commission US politics language education baby bonus Leaders of the Opposition citizen engagement policymaking Australia Greens servitude Trafficking Protocol forced marriage rural and regional alcohol entitlements ministries Hung Parliament social citizenship maritime Iran ANZUS regional students school chaplains federal budget 2011-12 salary Medicare Locals primary care Building the Education Revolution family violence government financial advisers financial planners Financial System Inquiry Murray Inquiry China; Economic policy; Southeast Asia; Africa housing Speaker; House of Representatives; Parliament Defence High Court; Indigenous; Indigenous Australians; Native Title ACT Indigenous education Norfolk Island External Territories emissions reduction fund; climate change child care funding refugees immigration asylum procurement Indigenous health e-voting internet voting nsw state elections 44th Parliament 2015 ABS Age Pension Death penalty capital punishment execution Bali nine Bali bombings Trade EU China soft power education Fiji India Disability Support Pension Antarctica Diplomacy by-elections state and territories Bills anti-corruption fraud bribery corporate ownership whistleblower G20 economic reform innovation Members of Parliament Scottish referendum Middle East; national security; terrorism social services Criminal Code Amendment (Misrepresentation of Age to a Minor) Bill 2013 online grooming sexual assault of minors ACT Assembly smoking plain packaging tobacco cigarettes Asia; Japan; international relations Work Health and Safety Migration; asylum seekers; regional processing China; United States; international relations fiscal policy Racial Discrimination Act; social policy; human rights; indigenous Australians Foreign policy Southeast Asia Israel Palestine asylum refugees immigration political finance donations foreign aid Economics efficiency human rights; Racial Discrimination Act employment law bullying Animal law; food copyright Australian Law Reform Commission industry peace keeping contracts workplace policies same-sex marriage disorderly conduct retirement Parliament House standing orders prime ministers sitting days First speech defence budget submarines workers Somalia GDP world heritage political engagement leave loading Trade; tariffs; safeguards; Anti-dumping public interest disclosure whistleblowing Productivity Commission limitation period universities cancer gene patents genetic testing suspension of standing and sessional orders live exports infant mortality honorary citizen railways disciplinary tribunals standard of proof World Health Organisation arts international students skilled graduate visas temporary employment visas apologies roads Italy national heritage NHMRC nutrition anti-dumping Rent Assistance obesity evidence law sacrament of confession US presidential election international days DFAT UN General Assembly deregulation Regulation Impact Statements administrative law small business Breaker Morant regional engagement social determinants of health abortion Members suspension workplace health and safety marine reserves hearing TAFE Victoria astronomy resources sector YMCA youth parliament Korea rebate Australian Greens presidential nomination Racial Discrimination Act political parties preselection solar hot water Financial Action Taskforce Horn of Africa peacekeeping piracy Great Barrier Reef Stronger futures political financing political education Social Inclusion Board early childhood National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education and Care Murray-Darling Basin sanctions Norway hospitals republic President Barack Obama Presidential visits qantas counselling Korean peninsula Work Choices biosecurity hendra environmental law federalism federation preselection therapeutic goods Therapeutic Goods Administration plebiscites computer games pests suicide nuclear COAG Ministerial Councils floods ADHD stimulant medication advertising electricity extradition conscience votes poverty preventative health rural health coastal erosion Parliamentary Budget Office work-life balance

Show all
Show less
Back to top