Expenditure on education and training in Australia: analysis and background paper

15 Oct 2014

Education and training is a continuum, from early childhood, through schooling, to tertiary study and training. Yet our public policy and funding settings continue to reflect a piecemeal approach. This analysis and background paper shows that Australian governments are prioritising their investment in some aspects of education over others - with schools and universities the beneficiaries and vocational education and training (VET) in real decline. Further, this is occurring in the absence of an explicit, or even apparent, policy logic or rationale. 

The analysis was previewed at the TAFE Directors Australia Conference on 2 September 2014 by one of the report authors, Mitchell Professorial Fellow Peter Noonan.

Summary of key findings:

  • Comparative analysis of expenditure on education across the three sectors shows a clear trend – while spending on schools and universities has risen significantly over the last decade, there has been a much lower rate of growth in VET spending.
  • Total expenditure grew only 15 per cent for VET over the ten years to 2012‐13, while schools and higher education experienced growth of 23 and 40 per cent respectively over the same period.
  • Expenditure on VET amongst the states and territories is uneven. In Victoria, expenditure on VET grew at an average of 4.2 per cent per year over the ten years to 2012‐13, whereas New South Wales and Queensland averaged zero and negative growth over the same period.
  • Analysis of expenditure per student also saw VET falling short. In higher education, expenditure per student has been relatively stable, while spending per student in government secondary and primary schools has increased 20 per cent 30 per cent respectively. Meanwhile expenditure per hour of training in VET actually decreased around 25 per cent over the same period.
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