CHARLES Sturt University’s statistics for course completion should be seen in context, according to its deputy vice-chancellor (academic), Professor Toni Downes.
Prof Downes was responding to a Sydney Morning Herald report this week that said a third of Australian students won’t graduate within six years.
The report detailed the statistics for completion rates for NSW universities for students starting in 2006 and completing in 2014, showing CSU’s 61.30 per cent was well below metropolitan universities such as Western Sydney University (73.7pc), the University of NSW (81.9pc) and the University of Sydney (88.6pc).
Prof Downes pointed to CSU’s mix of students as a way to add context to the raw figures.
“The student profile is quite mixed, with about 60 per cent studying part-time online,” she said. “Of those studying on campus, only about 25 per cent are school leavers and many of these are first-in-family students.
“Regionality has an impact on completion statistics. At CSU we encourage a diverse range of students from differing academic and social backgrounds to aspire to complete a degree.”
Prof Downes said it was important to note that in 2015, CSU had the highest number of Indigenous student completions in Australia and the second-highest Indigenous student enrolments.
“For domestic undergraduate on-campus students, our first-year attrition is typically about 15 per cent, with a total attrition of about 30 per cent by the end of the degree, resulting in a completion rate of around 70 per cent,” she said.
“On-campus students tend to complete their degrees more quickly than online students, as they generally study full-time and work less hours to focus on studies.
“In contrast, domestic undergraduate students studying online have a first-year attrition of about 25 per cent, resulting in a completion rate of about 50 per cent.
“On average, it can take online students up to eight to nine years to complete a Bachelor degree.
“The reasons for this are generally lifestyle based. That is, these students are typically adults studying part-time while working full-time and having families and studying around those commitments.”
Prof Downs said CSU “directs considerable resources into supporting students through their university journey – this includes helping them make the transition to university life”.
“We also have teams dedicated to supporting the further development of their academic skills through the provision of supplementary courses and individual support around topics such as essay writing,” she said.
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