Friday, April 23Asatya Mochan

Higher Education Research In Australia

If you’re an educator, you may have wondered who conducts research on higher education in Australia, and how. Where can you read the latest statistics, and which research journals are reliable? We’re here to share that information with you.

First off, the Department of Education Research and Economic Group is responsible for statistics on higher education in Australia. This institution collects and disseminates data relating to the provision of higher education at all Australian institutions.

The department’s Higher Education Statistics Collection includes information relating to the following:

  • courses provided by higher education institutions;
  • numbers and characteristics of students undertaking courses;
  • student load;
  • completion of units of study and courses;
  • student liability status;
  • numbers and characteristics of staff in higher education institutions;
  • income and expenditure for higher education institutions;
  • research activity; and
  • undergraduate applications, offers and acceptances.

The student data collection covers enrolments, equivalent full-time student load (unit of study data) and completions, and includes all higher education institutions that have been approved under the Higher Education Support Act 2003. Data includes the following:

  • Course information including level, field of education and special course flag;
  • Age (date of birth);
  • Gender;
  • Citizenship;
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander indicator;
  • Location of term residence;
  • Location of permanent home residence;
  • Basis for admission to course;
  • Type of attendance (full-time / part-time);
  • Mode of attendance (internal, external, multi-modal);
  • Country of birth;
  • Language spoken at home;
  • Year of arrival in Australia;
  • Language spoken at home;
  • Tertiary entrance score;
  • Equity data (Disability, Low-SES, NESB, Women in non-traditional areas, Regional/Remote);
  • Highest educational attainment prior to commencement; and
  • Award course completions

The staff data collection includes statistics on the numbers and full-time equivalence (FTE) of staff employed by public universities and Table B providers. Some of these stats include the following:

  • Gender;
  • Work contract;
  • Function (teaching, research, teaching & research, other);
  • Current duties classification; and
  • Academic or Non-Academic Organisational Unit

After collecting this data, the department then shares it with the public in the form of statistics publications, datasets, tabulations, extracts, and analyses prepared for clients.

From the Department’s webpage: “Many reports and monographs produced by the department and other agencies contain data from the collection. The data are widely used by the department, other Commonwealth and State/Territory agencies, higher education institutions, researchers and individuals in the community as a whole.”

In addition, the Higher Education Data Committee offers advice to the department in order to improve higher education data collections and dissemination. The Higher Education Data Committee is made up of representatives from the department, TEQSA, the Australian Research Council, Universities Australia, the Australian Council for Private Education and Training, the Council of Private Higher Education, the Australian Network of University Planners, and the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

As stated on the committee webpage, the goal is to “create a higher education datamart. This will provide a single point of access to various higher education data collections and enable the government to implement several recommendations from the Review of Reporting Requirements for Universities.” The committee also manages awards for excellence in research across Australia.

Higher Education Research Journals

Higher Education Research and Development

HERDSA’s journal Higher Education Research & Development (HERD) was established in 1982. The journal publishes seven issues a year, including one Special Issue on a theme decided by the editorial team. Occasional Symposia and Virtual Issues will also be published. HERD is published by Taylor & Francis.

HERD is a leading journal in the field of higher education (and was given an A ranking in the 2010 Australian Research Council Journal Rankings). HERD’s reputation as a leading journal in higher education has continued to grow. HERD’s articles are indexed by the ISI social science citation index, and in 2017, the journal’s Impact Factor was 2.006. In July 2016, Google Scholar Metrics ranked the journal 6th on their list of the top 20 higher education publications. You can access HERD’s current impact factor and browse the latest articles at

“HERD contributes to HERDSA’s purpose of continuously improving higher education by informing and challenging researchers, teachers, administrators and others concerned with the past, present and future of higher education. The journal publishes scholarly articles that make a significant and original contribution to the theory, practice or research of higher education. We welcome theoretical, philosophical and historical articles and essays that address higher education in any of its dimensions. Equally, we welcome empirical higher education studies, which employ qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methodologies including big data.”

All published articles propose fresh critical insights into the area being addressed and are appropriately framed for an international audience. They have also undergone rigorous, double-blind peer review by at least two internationally recognised peers.

The Australian Education Researcher

The Australian Educational Researcher (AER) provides a forum for education researchers to debate internationally relevant issues across all levels of education, including:

  • early childhood,
  • primary and secondary school education,
  • alternative education,
  • adult education,
  • vocational education and training, and
  • university education

The journal includes contributions from local and international researchers, representing a variety of relevant disciplinary perspectives.

Contents include original research articles employing quantitative, qualitative or mixed-methods, scholarly essays, methodological and theoretical discussion papers and education policy analyses.

Australian Journal of Education

The Australian Journal of Education, established in 1957, is an international peer-reviewed journal publishing research conducted in Australia and internationally to inform educational researchers, as well as educators, administrators and policy-makers, about issues of contemporary concern in education. In giving their advice to the editor, reviewers judge the merit of the research on the significance of its findings and the rigour with which the research is conducted and reported. Preference will be given to studies using well designed and implemented quantitative methodologies. Articles that are based on the author’s personal experiences, reflections or small case studies that have limited generalisability are unlikely to be considered for publication.

Australasian Journal of Educational Technology

Interested in edtech integration? The Australasian Journal of Educational Technology (AJET) is the journal of ascilite, the Australasian Society for Computers in Learning in Tertiary Education. It aims to promote research and scholarship on the integration of technology in tertiary education, promote effective practice, and inform policy.

These are just a few of the many resources available if you’re interested in learning more about higher education research in Australia. There’s no need to feel like you’re in the dark as an educator focused on improving your craft or an administrator working to improve school outcomes. Information abounds; it’s only a matter of knowing where to find it.

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