Tuesday, January 29, 2019

University Dropouts Do Okay

Luckman and Harvey (2019) report that those who don't complete their Australian bachelor degree go on to earn more that those who do. This apparent paradox is explained by university dropouts completing some other form of post-school qualification. In particular those completing vocational education, such as at a TAFE, go on to earn more, on average, than degree holders. Also those to don't complete a degree at the first attempt are likely to start studying again later, at another university.

That our education system provides alternatives to a degree, and second attempts, I suggest shows the strength of the system. However, as I suggested to the Australian Senate Committee on the Future of Work and Workers, at Parliament House in Canberra last year, this could be improved with nested qualifications, and standardized curricular.

Nested qualifications would allow someone who can't complete their degree to leave with a sub-degree qualification (such as a certificate, diploma, or advanced diploma). Standardized curricular would allow the student to gain full credit for their incomplete studies at another institution. At present the student who leaves university without completing a degree likely gets no qualification at all, and if they apply elsewhere will have to redo much of what they have already done. The VET sector has applied both these approaches successfully.


Luckman, M., & Harvey, A. (2019). The financial and educational outcomes of Bachelor degree non-completers. Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 41(1), 3-17. URL https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/1360080X.2018.1553106?needAccess=true&

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