Forget School Leavers: Over 40’s Show the Most Urgency to Study

Claudia Reiners
June 12, 2018

Forget School Leavers: Over 40’s Show the Most Urgency to Study

4bf428ed6af9ff680b7ac8b24b046f3d?s=50&d=mm&r=g Claudia Reiners
Head of Strategy

Where further study is involved, do under 25’s have the same sense of urgency as those over 45? Do females have clearer timelines of achieving their education and career goals? Does your desire to start studying have anything to do with where in Australia you live?

With so many influences impacting a prospective student’s journey, from researching study options, to throwing their hat in the air come graduation day; it’s easy for obvious demographic factors to be overlooked or discarded. So, what can influence a prospective student–someone with intent to commence further study in the next 24 months–to have a sense of urgency to begin studying in 3 months, rather than in a year?

The Student Sentiment Index: The New Leading Indicator

In an effort to contribute to this body of knowledge and provide a leading indicator in the sector, we’ve been surveying prospective students over the past 18 months. For educators, this will create valuable insights, uncover new lines of enquiry and lead to more beneficial student outcomes.

In partnership with Actuarial Edge we have refined some of the raw response data received from this survey to create an index which tracks student urgency. That is, how quickly a prospective student wishes to commence study.

Prospective Student:

A respondent wishing to commence study in the next 24 months in Australia

So, What Does the Last 18 Months Show Us?

Survey responses from the past 18 months have provided us with some very useful insights into the needs and motivations of prospective students. When it comes to the urgency that motivates students to take part in study, we found different demographic segments influence behaviour.

The Prospective Student Urgency Index:

  • A number of the survey questions relate specifically to urgency
  • Responses to these questions over the past 18 months have been analysed and normalised against audience benchmark data
  • These weighted results are then used to create the Prospective Student Urgency Index

Who We Surveyed:

The following chart shows the Prospective Student Urgency Index over the past 18 months, compared to actual marketplace activity:


The close alignment between actual activity and the index is very encouraging for us. 2 years ago we set out to create a leading indicator for the education sector and the alignment seen above suggests we have been successful.

An index such as this can be very useful, providing our marketplace with an early indication of monthly activity. However, deeper insight can be gained by delving into some basic demographic data.

If we look closer at the demographics of respondents, we can see the following:

  • Gender does not appear to affect student urgency
  • The location of a prospective student has a strong impact on urgency
  • Older age groups are more urgent to begin study

Location is Everything

Where gender doesn’t impact urgency levels in prospective students, location is very important. In this graph, we can see the differences between some states. Over the period, respondents from Victoria and New South Wales have shown greater levels of enthusiasm to commence their study.


New South Wales and Victoria boast the highest long-term increase in employment levels in the country over the past six years, with 8.1% and 9.6% growth rates respectively; attracting higher applicants to job openings and creating greater competition. This could explain the correlations between higher underlying urgency to study in these states and the need to compete for jobs.

These two states also have some of the highest qualified workforce in Australia, with 34% having obtained a Bachelor Degree or higher. However, the chart shows that urgency in states relying on the resources sector has increased dramatically over the period.

New South Wales and Victoria show the most urgency to begin studying than any other state in the country.

Age is Not Just a Number

Like location, age plays a big part in student urgency and should be a consideration when discussing study options with prospective students. The chart below compares urgency between the two age brackets with the most consistent levels of urgency; 18-24 and 25-34.

The age bracket 18-24 shows one of the lowest sense of urgency across respondents, which could be caused by this age group having less reliance on finance than older age groups; therefore not effecting their urgency to study.

Alternatively, respondents in the 25-34 year group showed much higher enthusiasm to study, which aligns with the need to begin securing long-term and well paying employment, which often requires returning to study or upskilling.


Don’t be fooled by school-leavers; opportunity lies in the older age brackets of 44+

One of the more interesting discoveries of the Urgency Index is the responses gained from those over 44 years. Respondents in this age group have shown a steady increase in urgency over the past 16 months , with the highest increase in urgency levels appearing in the past six months.

When determining what could be the cause in this age group, recent studies have shown that those aged over 35 years are the most susceptible to redundancies or job-loss due to automation, which could be pushing this age bracket to return to study to develop the skills which are demanded in today’s job market.


The urgency levels across age groups also corresponds with a similar trend to those living in the mining states. Again, these observations are not surprising, and they tend to broadly align with our understanding of how socio-economic factors impact the education sector. What is most exciting about this research is the potential to identify future trends and relationships.

How Can the Student Sentiment Index Help You?

In the past, insights surrounding prospective students have been in the form of lagging indicators, usually government data releases on an annual basis. The Student Sentiment Index, however, is a recurring and up-to-date indicator which responds to changes in the industry as they occur. When these indices are used together, it can allow providers and policy-makers alike to take a more proactive approach to the changing needs of prospective students.

Urgency is of course, only one factor that reflects the beliefs and perceptions of prospective students in Australia. Other indicators, such as sensitivity to funding, are important in understanding prospective students and their enthusiasm to study. The Sensitivity to Funding Index findings will be published in the next instalment of our Student Sentiment Index Series, which will become a regular publication released on a monthly basis.

If you want to understand more about prospective students, and stay on top of changes in the industry; sign up to the newsletter today to receive our latest data releases.

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Claudia Reiners
Head of Strategy
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