Gross enrolments at tertiary level

Education is a key driver of economic, cultural and social development, and an important determinant of international competitiveness.

The latest data from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) show that in 2011, Australia's tertiary gross enrolment ratio was one of the highest in the world, supported by the large number of international students who choose to study here. 

The OECD's Education at a Glance 2013 report shows Australia ranks well above the OECD average for the percentage of the 25-34 year-old population that has attained tertiary education.  

Universities, Technical and Further Education (TAFE) colleges and other vocational education and training institutes are the main providers of formal tertiary education in Australia. 

There are 39 accredited universities operating in Australia, with 11 of those based in New South Wales. Additionally, there are a further 90 or so institutions across Australia that are classified as higher education providers, with 35 of these based in New South Wales.  

In 2012, total student enrolment in Australia's higher education providers was around 1.26 million, with New South Wales accounting for 391,000 or 31% of this figure. There were a further 599,000 enrolments in New South Wales vocational education and training institutes in 2012, accounting for 31% of the national total.

Gross Enrolment Ratio at Tertiary Level1, 2011 (%)
Country Ratio
Korea 101
United States 95
Australia 83
New Zealand 81
United Kingdom 61
Japan 60
Hong Kong SAR 60
France 57
Germany 57
Thailand 53
Malaysia 36
Philippines2 28
Indonesia 27
China 24
India 23


  1. The Gross Enrolment Ratio in tertiary education is the number of students enrolled in tertiary education, regardless of age, expressed as a percentage of the population in the five-year age group following on from the official secondary school leaving age. Tertiary education is classified as International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) levels 5 and 6. ISCED 5A programs generally equate to university undergraduate degrees, while ISCED 5B programs tend to be more vocationally-oriented.  ISCED 6 programs lead to the award of an advanced research qualification and are not solely based on course-work.
  2. Data are for 2009

Source: UNESCO Institute for Statistics, Public Reports: Education Statistics, 2013.