Student-teacher ratios

According to Universities Australia (using data supplied by DEST), student-teacher ratios at Australian universities have risen from 13-14 in 1990 to over 20 by 2005; net numbers of staff have grown slowly over this period, but not nearly as fast as student enrolments. (Some related data by Universities Australia can also be found at this page.) For comparison, international averages of such ratios are about 16-17 (see page 16 of this report; in the University of California system, the ratios are about 17-18. There may be differences in methodology across countries, though, that make it difficult to make exact comparisons).

At USQ, with approximately 16 FTE (full time equivalent) staff teaching mathematics and statistics, and 440 EFTSL (equivalent full time student loads) being taught (mostly in service courses), the student-teacher ratio is approximately 28. With five staff cuts in these divisions still planned (and the two new positions being non-teaching in nature), this ratio will almost certainly increase.

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3 Responses

  1. Hi Terry

    This issue – not specifically for USQ or for Math – has become something of a concern for me since I think we’re being fed spin by the various university bodies in Australia.

    I’ve had difficulty getting hold of the right set of recent statistics but I believe the following is true and have some evidence of it.

    1. While Australian Federal Govt recurrent funding to Australian Unis has declined, overall funding has gone up significantly as a result of international students and other factors – in fact between 1996 and 2005 it went up by a factor of nearly 2 in actual dollar values. Even in real terms it has increased by 40%. Commonwealth funding declined by about 3%, but HECS increased by 100% and other funding also by 100% in real terms.

    2. Overall Australian Universities (relative ot other OECD countries) are reasonably well funded. Not the best, but by no means the worst. I am not talking about public funding, but total funding.

    3. On the other hand Australian student-staff ratios are around the worst in the OECD – currently around 20:1 or more having declined from around 15:1 in the mid 90′s. Our total student load in the years 1996 to 2005 increased by about 38%, largely in overseas students. Note that this is on a par with funding increases.

    In fact this NTEU document has a lot of the statistics that support these contentions:

    http://www.nteu.org.au/policy/submissions/discussionpapers07/fundingunis?file=Funding%20of%20Australian%20Universities%201996-2005
    though they choose to use the statistics to spin a particular viewpoint.

    Also there is good information in
    http://www.swinburne.edu.au/chance/vc/documents/opinionpieces/DifferentiatingAustUnis.pdf

    You may draw what conclusions you like from these facts, but it is pertinent to ask where the extra income goes if not tp pay academic staff to match the increased student numbers.

    Bill

  2. That’s a very interesting point.

    I imagine that with all the restructuring of universities that seems to go on these days, and all the ‘quality assurance’, the ratio of administrative staff to faculty is probably as high as it has ever been… but that’s just a guess. Perhaps someone reading this can avail us of evidence for this conjecture? That is, has the proportion of administrative staff in universities risen significantly in recent years? More generally, how has the make-up of university expenditure (between all costs, e.g., infrastructure, staff, IT, etc) changed in recent years?

    Philip Brooker

  3. P.S. I must admit that I haven’t read in detail the information at the links provided by Bill, but as far as I can see with only a cursory glance, those documents consider only university income, not university expenditure (hence Bill’s concluding remark).

    Philip Brooker

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