More regional Australians1 are going to university when they finish school, and they are increasingly moving to the city to study.
Fewer than a third of regional students commencing university in 2005 made the move to a city. By 2010, that number had risen to half, and by 2015 it was 57 per cent.
Regional students with high ATARs move to the city at higher rates
High-achieving regional students tend to move to the city to study. More than two-thirds of students with an ATAR of 90 or higher made the move between 2005 and 2015, compared to only one-third of students with an ATAR between 60 and 70.
This trend could reflect the fact that the large city-based universities offer a greater choice of courses, including more courses with high-ATAR cut-offs.
Proximity is also a factor. Grattan Institute research found only about half of regional students who moved to the city had a university campus within an hour’s drive of their home postcode. For the other half – if they decide to study on-campus instead of online – there is no choice but to move.
Regional students who move are unlikely to return
The recently-released 2006-2016 Australian Census Longitudinal Dataset (ACLD) allows us to look at young regional school students in 2006;2 see if and where they were studying university in 2011; and examine where they ended up five years later in 2016.3
Of the regional students who moved to the city for university in 2011, fewer than one-in-five were living in regional areas in 2016. The story was reversed for students who stayed in regional areas to study: three-quarters were living in regional areas five years later.4