Australia is often characterised as having a mass higher education system. In fact, it could be called near-universal. According to the 2016 Census, 56% of Australians aged 15 years and over – 9.6 million people – hold a post-school qualification, up from 46% in 2006.
Universal education does not mean every Australian should attain a higher education or tertiary qualification. It means every Australian should be given the opportunity to get one if they want.
The distinction between “mass” and “universal” is not just an academic one. Viewing higher and tertiary education as universal could help an incoming government better design policy. All Australians need to be prepared for, informed about and able to make a choice that is right for them about whether or not to pursue post-school education.