, Volume 35, Issue 4, pp 399-422

Social and economic influences on graduation rates from higher education in Australia

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This paper presents an examination of national survey data on the graduation rates of young people who enter higher education in Australia. Two cohorts of young people were surveyed – those born in 1961 and those born in 1965. Of interest is the influence of gender and of selected social and economic background characteristics on graduation rates. The results for both cohorts provide further evidence of the gains made by young females during the 1980s in terms of educational participation and attainment. The results for the first cohort show also there were some signs of lower graduation rates being associated with socioeconomic disadvantage, at least as indicated by parent'`s occupational status and family wealth. For the second cohort, however, there was little evidence of any effect in the same direction. This suggests that attempts to deal with equity which have focussed on performance within higher education have either been quite effective or might be better directed towards the selection processes which lead to higher education.