Australian not-for-profit adult and community education (ACE) student numbers re-bounded in 2021, the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic. Latest data sets from the National Centre for Vocational Education and Research (NCVER), Government-funded students and courses 2021 (issued 12 July 2022), show a significant re-bound in student numbers from 2020 (see table below), which indicates that ACE students have re-commenced training, although still down from 2019 pre-pandemic numbers.
Overall, ACE student numbers went up by 7.9% nationally in 2021, and 7.1% in New South Wales and 8.7% in Victoria – the two states where most ACE students are enrolled. Numbers are still down from 2019, by 18.1% nationally, 10.6% in New South Wales and 22.9% in Victoria. This shows that by late 2021 – almost two years into the pandemic – the impact on government-funded VET students in the ACE sector was still significant. Preliminary data indicates these decreases are largely because the ACE sector proportionately caters far more for vulnerable and disadvantaged learners than other sectors; and disadvantaged students have exhibited greater reluctance to recommence training than other students.
Table: Government-Funded VET Students in Australian Community Education Providers, 2017 to 2021
|2017||2018||2019||2020||2021||2020 to 2021 % change||2019 to 2021 % change|
(Table source: https://www.ncver.edu.au/research-and-statistics/publications/all-publications/government-funded-students-and-courses-2021 DataBuilder)
TAFE and Private Providers: By contrast, government-funded VET students enrolled in TAFE in 2021 decreased from 2020 to 2021, nationally by 2.8% and especially in New South Wales by 16%, although TAFE numbers went up in Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania. Government-funded VET students enrolled with private for-profit providers dramatically increased during the pandemic – up 19.5% nationally from 2020 to 2021 – to 434,635 students, the greatest number ever – and up in all states except the ACT.
Total VET student numbers – which includes fee-for-service students – will be released by the NCVER later this month. CCA will analyse the figures then.