National Trends

Initial Teacher Education Pipeline

Latest release

Published February 2024

Reference period: 2005-2021

Cite this publication

Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership. (2024). ATWD National Trends: Initial Teacher Education Pipeline (Feb 2024 ed., 2005-2021).

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The key national trends:

Initial teacher education is the foundation for a teaching career, and graduates from initial teacher education are the main source of teacher supply in Australia. The ATWD National Trends: Initial Teacher Education (ITE) Pipeline publication series provides insight into emerging national trends in the potential future supply pool of teachers through ITE. It contains interpretations of key national trends from 2005 to 2021, situated within a policy context or noting policy shifts or changes that could have an impact on the data. This publication raises important questions and considerations for policy makers about factors affecting the available teacher supply pool in Australia, including:

  • Trends in commencements - the future potential of the pipeline.
  • Trends in completions - the number of graduates available to enter the workforce.
  • Trends in completion rates - how trends in commencements may translate into completions, in future.

The ITE data in the Australian Teacher Workforce Data (ATWD) initiative is derived primarily from annual data collected as part of the Higher Education Student Data Collection. Through the ATWD’s data linkage model, this data is improved through connection to teacher regulatory authority records. To date, the ATWD has released ITE data up to 2021 through the Key Metrics Dashboard (KMD). Analysis and interpretation of data up to 2021 provides a valuable picture of the ITE pipeline prior to and during the COVID-19 pandemic. This provides a baseline for future analysis of changes in the ITE pipeline over time.

The ATWD National Trends: ITE Pipeline publication is updated annually as new data is released in the KMD. A separate ATWD National Trends: Teacher Workforce publication provides insights into national trends in the teacher workforce and is also being updated annually (AITSL, 2023a).

The ATWD National Trends publications are written to support workforce planning and inform decision-making by increasing awareness and understanding of notable national trends from population data. For further information on jurisdictional differences, stakeholders are encouraged to explore the data available on the KMD.

Initial teacher education (ITE) is a program of study undertaken through a higher education provider, or an equivalent qualification (like an Australian Children's Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) accredited program[1]), that allows individuals to register to teach in Australia. The ITE pipeline is the start of most teachers’ professional journey - from commencement to completion of an accredited ITE program or equivalent qualification. This stage precedes provisional registration and entry into the teacher workforce. Data relating to the ITE pipeline offers important insights into future teacher supply. Information about the profile of pre-service teachers, including how they study and where, enables a nuanced understanding of the teacher supply pipeline. This can aid in identifying policy opportunities to attract more people to the profession over time.

From the ATWD, we can see how many people commenced an ITE program in any given year, as well as how many completed and may, therefore, transition into the workforce the following year. It is important to consider the kinds of programs ITE students undertake to gain a clearer understanding of how, and the settings where, the pipeline will contribute to supply. That is, how many new early childhood, primary and secondary teachers are we likely to have in future. However, because some programs prepare teachers to teach in multiple settings, ITE data alone cannot provide the whole story. Workforce data is needed to understand who the ITE graduate goes on to teach.

There are a range of program types available to ITE students. While some ITE programs focus on a specific learner level, such as primary ITE programs and secondary ITE programs, other programs overlap multiple learner levels.

ITE programs prepare people to teach different age groups Initial Teacher Education programs prepare people to teach different age groups, however some program types overlap in learner age focus. Birth 5 8 12 18 Years Some ITE programs focus on early childhood only – the period from birth to 5 years of age. While other programs cover the period frombirth to 8 years. There are also ITE programs that prepare people to teachin early childhood and across the primary school years. Many ITE programs focus solely on the primaryor secondary level. Some ITE programs cover both primary and secondary levels (a combination of age groups like the ‘middle years’). Finally, there are some ‘other’ programs with an  unknown/unable to be classified age specialisation. ITE programs prepare people to teach different age groups EXPLORE /7 0

Due to the overlapping age groups, data on ITE program types provides insight into ‘potential’ supply into different workforce segments. This is important to consider when examining the commencements and completions data described throughout this report.

In 2011, Australia’s education ministers agreed to the Accreditation of Initial Teacher Education programs in Australia: Standards and Procedures (Standards and Procedures), which for the first time provided a nationally agreed set of standards for the consistency and quality assurance of all ITE programs in all states and territories (AITSL, 2022). The Standards and Procedures seek to ensure all ITE programs are effectively and consistently equipping teachers with the requisite skills to positively impact student outcomes. Given teachers are recognised as the number one in-school influence on student outcomes, ongoing evaluation and quality assurance in ITE is crucial (Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation, 2013). The implementation of the Standards and Procedures from 2012 is an important reference point for interpreting ITE data because of the increased national consistency they introduced to ITE[2] and shifts in the types of ITE programs offered by ITE providers (Figure 1).

As part of the implementation of the Standards and Procedures, the structure of postgraduate ITE programs started to change – with 1-year programs being phased out and replaced by 2-year programs.[3] This change was implemented over time, from 2013 through 2018. Postgraduate primary programs typically transitioned from one to 2 years in length by 2015. Secondary programs typically transitioned by 2018. This policy shift away from 1-year programs is particularly important to consider in the context of completion rates and first-year attrition data. Given that, in general, longer programs have lower completion rates, the move to 2-year postgraduate programs has corresponded to decreases in postgraduate completion rates over time. First-year attrition was not applicable when postgraduate programs were one year in length.

Alongside the increasing availability of 2-year postgraduate Masters programs to university graduates, the availability of 2-year Bachelor (Graduate Entry) programs declined. Undergraduate ITE programs offered in line with the Standards and Procedures also standardised a 4-year duration, where previously some 3-year undergraduate ITE programs were offered.

Figure 1: Timeline of key changes in ITE since 2011
timeline of key changes in ite since 2011

Changes to Commonwealth Grant Scheme (CGS) funding

In December 2017, the Australian Government announced a funding freeze on Commonwealth Supported Places (CSPs). While this freeze did not place a specific cap on the number of places a university could offer to prospective students in any course, the total level of Commonwealth Grants Scheme (CGS) funding associated with domestic undergraduate students that each university was eligible to receive for both 2018 and 2019 was capped at the 2017 funding level. The cap in funding could have impacted the ability of universities to attract and retain students into ITE programs.

In 2019, the Government committed to additional funding for universities through the CGS in line with the population growth of the 18- to 64-year-old cohort and university performance under the performance-based funding model.[4] While this policy change may be responsible for the slight increase in commencements from 2019 to 2021, there are likely to be many other contributing factors. Further monitoring and longitudinal analysis of the effects of this policy change, and others, will provide more insight into possible correlations between commencement numbers and different policies.

ITE Program Commencements

Total commencements in 2021 29,674

Growth from 2019 to 2020 +5.8%

Growth from 2020 to 2021 +7.3%

Average growth per year from 2005 to 2021 +1.4%

ITE Program Completions

Total completions in 202115,397

Growth from 2019 to 2020-5.2%

Growth from 2020 to 2021+2.4%

Average growth per year from 2005 to 2021-0.01%

In the last decade, there have been 3 distinct trends - periods of change - in ITE commencements.[5] From 2012 to 2017, commencements increased at an average rate of 3.8% per year, reaching a high of 32,640 students in 2017. In 2018, commencements fell 18.5% to 26,594 students, with a further 1.7% drop in 2019 leading to an 8-year low (26,145 students). The period from 2020 to 2021 was characterised by increasing commencements, with 27,654 commencing students in 2020 and 29,674 in 2021.

In 2021, 29,674 students commenced an ITE program, a 13% increase from 2019.

Although there has been a recent increase in the numbers of students commencing ITE, the 2021 numbers have only reached levels comparable to those observed in 2014 (N=29,485) and remain below the numbers seen from 2015 through 2017. If the number of commencements reached in 2017 had been sustained from 2018 through to 2021, there would have been 20,493 more commencements over the 4-year period than observed.

Figure 2: National commencements, count and annual change; 2005-2021
Number of commencements32,64026,59426,14527,65429,674
One year change+2,689-6,046-449+1,509+2,020
One year percentage change+9%-19%-2%+6%+7%

Trends across higher education

Compared to non-ITE tertiary commencements at the bachelor and postgraduate (non-research) levels, the ITE trends[6] from 2017 through 2021 differ notably. Across tertiary education more broadly, there were increasing commencements in 2018 and 2019. However, there were declines across 2020 and 2021, with 2021 commencement numbers just under 2017 levels.

The introduction of the funding cap appears to have affected humanities commencements, like Creative Arts, Society and Culture, as there was low or no growth between 2017 and 2018 for such courses (Department of Education, 2018). In the same period many STEM-based areas of study saw increases in the number of commencements. Undergraduates account for around 60% of all tertiary commencements – in comparison, around 70% of ITE commencements are at the undergraduate level.

The percentage of ITE students in each state and territory[7] is closely aligned with their percentage of the Australian population. The largest difference recorded among all states in territories was 1.2 percentage points in Western Australia, where the proportion of commencements (11.7%) exceeded the proportion of national population (10.5%). All remaining states and territories recorded a difference of no greater than 1 percentage point, with the Northern Territory and South Australia recording no difference (Table 1).

More than half of all commencing ITE students reside in New South Wales and Victoria, and this has been consistent over time. Between 2019 and 2021, many states and territories recorded increases in commencements, reflecting the broader national trend. This was most pronounced in New South Wales, with a 15% increase in its commencements between 2019 and 2021. Similarly, commencements in Victoria increased by 19%. Conversely, South Australia experienced a 5% decrease in commencements between 2019 and 2021, while the Northern Territory experienced the largest fall during the same period (-18%).

Table 1: ITE commencements, by state and territory; 2019-21
State/territoryCommencementsProportion of national
commencements (%)
New South Wales7,9168,0819,13830%29%31%
Western Australia3,3083,5933,47413%13%12%
South Australia2,2052,1772,0918%8%7%
Australian Capital Territory4636716632%2%2%
Northern Territory3203922641%1%1%

This section explores the characteristics of commencing ITE students and how they study, including the demographic profile of students; the program type, degree level, and study mode that commencing students are undertaking; and the basis of students’ admission into ITE.

Age and Gender

As shown in Figure 3, in 2021:

  • Most commencing ITE students were women (74%), and this has been relatively consistent over time.
  • Half of all commencing ITE students were aged 21 to 30 (50%).
Figure 3: ITE commencing students, by age and gender; 2012, 2017, 2021


In 2021, 22% of commencing ITE students lived in a regional or remote area.[8] This proportion has declined gradually over time, falling by 6 percentage points from 2012 (28%), but has remained unchanged since 2018. A corresponding increase was observed in commencing ITE students living in metropolitan areas from 2012 to 2021, increasing from 72% to 78% (+6 percentage points).


From 2017 to 2021, the proportion of commencing ITE students with a disability increased from 5% to 7% (+2 percentage points). This increase may reflect changes in accessibility of ITE programs, the willingness of students to report a disability (Brett, 2016), or the level of support services provided by ITE providers to students disclosing a disability.

Socio-economic status

Socio-economic status (SES)[9] is based on where a person lives and measures the average relative economic and social conditions of people in a given area, as opposed to individual or family circumstances. Socio-economic status for commencing ITE students has remained largely stable over the long term. In 2021, 55% of commencing ITE students were from a medium SES area, 25% were from a high SES area, and 20% were from a low SES area (Figure 4).[10]

Over the period from 2017 to 2021, the proportion of students from a high SES area increased by 1 percentage point from 24% to 25%, with a corresponding decline in low SES students from 21% to 20%.

Language spoken at home

Language spoken at home records the use of English and other languages (if any), spoken by students at their home residence. In 2021, which is the first year in which there is available data for this diversity characteristic in the ATWD, 13% of all commencing ITE students spoke a language other than, or in addition to, English at home.

Figure 4: ITE commencing students, by remoteness, disability and SES; 2012, 2017, 2021

International students

International students accounted for a small proportion of all commencements in 2021 (5%) - most people commencing ITE programs were domestic students (95%).[11] After a period of steady growth from 2015, international ITE commencements reached a peak of 8% in 2019. In 2020 and 2021, during the COVID-19 pandemic, fewer international students commenced an ITE program (Figure 5). This was in line with overall declines in overseas migration during this period (ABS, 2023b), as well as trends across all tertiary commencements by international students (Department of Education, 2023b).

Figure 5: Proportion of ITE commencements by international students; 2012-2021

Degree level

In 2021, 70% of ITE commencements were at the undergraduate level and 30% were at the postgraduate level. The proportion of ITE commencements at the postgraduate level has increased gradually over time, increasing by 8 percentage points since 2005 (22%, Figure 6).[12]

Over the period from 2017 to 2021, there were changes in degree level among commencing ITE students. Following the funding freeze on Commonwealth Supported Places (CSP) in 2017, which coincided with a large decrease in undergraduate ITE commencements, the proportion of postgraduate ITE students increased by 2 percentage points to 31% from 2017 to 2018.

Postgraduate commencements continued to rise year-on-year through to 2020, reaching 33% of all commencements – the highest proportion of ITE commencements at the postgraduate level since 2014.

However, in 2021, the proportion of ITE commencements at the postgraduate level decreased by 3 percentage points to 30%, returning to 2017 levels.

Figure 6: Proportion of ITE commencements by degree type; 2005-2021

Mode of attendance

Online study has continued to become more common – in 2021, 46% of commencing students were studying either completely or partly online, a 10-percentage point increase since 2017.

The nature of ITE study is evolving – in 2021, 46%[13] of ITE students commenced their studies through a program that was offered either fully or partly off-campus (online),[14] which represents a substantial 29-percentage point increase from 17% in 2005 (Figure 7).

Growth in both online and multi-modal programs has largely been consistent over time but has accelerated in recent years. From 2017 to 2021, the combined proportion of online and multi-modal programs increased by 10 percentage points (2017: 36%; 2021: 46%), with the most pronounced increase occurring in 2020, during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, spiking from 35%[15] to 47% [16] (+12 percentage points).

The consistent increase in both online and multi-modal programs among commencing students likely reflects a combination of factors, including a growing preference for flexibility in tertiary studies; the growth in the availability of off-campus ITE programs; and the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, which accelerated transitions to online learning.

Figure 7: Proportion of ITE commencements by mode of attendance; 2005-2021

Full-time status

Over four-fifths (82%) of students commencing ITE in 2021 studied full-time in their first year and 18% studied part-time.

Prior to 2017, there was steady growth in the proportion of ITE students studying part-time, increasing by 7 percentage points from 2005 (14%) to 2017 (21%). However, from 2017 to 2019 the proportion of ITE students studying part-time declined, falling by 4 percentage points from 21% to 17%. Since 2019, the proportion of students studying part-time increased to 18%.

Changes in commencements by attribute

The increase in commencements from 2019 to 2021 was more heavily associated with certain student and study characteristics than others. For example, the number of international student commencements declined (mainly because of the COVID-19 pandemic) while the number of domestic student commencements increased. The number attending online also markedly increased from 2019 to 2021, with growth that far outpaced on-campus and multi-modal study (Table 2).

Table 2: Changes in ITE commencements by attribute; 2019 to 2021
Percentage change (2019-2021)
Domestic statusDomestic17%vs-29%International
AgeAged 31 or older27%vs10%All other ages
Mode of attendanceOnline43%vs4%On-campus & multi-modal
Full-time statusPart-time21%vs12%Full-time
RemotenessMetropolitan21%vs7%Regional / Remote

There are a range of program types available to ITE students. While some ITE programs focus on a specific learner level, such as primary ITE programs and secondary ITE programs, other programs overlap multiple learner levels.

ITE programs may impact teacher supply in different ways Explore to find out more ITE programs may impact teacher supply in different ways EXPLORE

Primary and secondary programs

The uptake of program types has shifted over time. Commencements in secondary programs continue to be slightly more common than primary programs.

In 2021, the programs with the largest share of commencing students were secondary (n=10,075, 37%) and primary (n=10,323, 35%) ITE programs (Figure 8).

From 2012 to 2017, both primary (+2,284) and secondary (+2,101) program commencements increased by 22%. During this period, primary programs were the most common program type among commencing students. While total commencements declined by 19% from 2017 to 2018, primary commencements declined 23% (-2,899) and secondary commencements by 13% (-1,509). Primary programs were likely more affected as the decline was centred on domestic undergraduates, and a greater proportion of primary programs are undertaken at the undergraduate than postgraduate level.

Since 2018, secondary programs have been the most common program type among commencing students, overtaking primary programs, which experienced a larger decline in commencements. Both program types increased from 2019 to 2021 – primary commencements increased 15% (+1,357) and secondary increased 14% (+1,385).

In 2021, combined primary/secondary programs accounted for 4% (n=1,280) of all commencements. Combined primary/secondary commencements dropped by 24% from 2016 to 2017 (-333), to around 1,000 students per annum to 2020 (4% of all commencements). In 2021, primary/secondary commencements increased 21% (+219).

Figure 8: Proportion of ITE commencements by program type (primary, secondary, primary/secondary program); 2012-2021

Early childhood and early childhood/primary programs

In 2021, 20% of commencing ITE students were undertaking a program that included, at least in part, early childhood – 7% in early childhood (birth-5) programs, 4% in birth-8 (early childhood/primary) programs and 8% of commencements were in birth-12 (also early childhood/primary) programs. These 3 program types have demonstrated distinct trends over time (Figure 9).

Between 2012 and 2017, birth-8 programs increased by 77% (+986 commencements), while birth-12 program commencements were mostly stable. There were 3% fewer commencements in birth-5 programs in 2017 than in 2012, with the decline occurring steadily from 2013.

In 2018, the relative uptake of early childhood and early childhood/primary programs began to shift. Though commencements in these 3 program types, like all commencements, decreased from 2017 to 2018, the birth-8 programs were most affected. Birth-8 programs decreased by 33% (-756) compared to just a 4% drop for birth-5 programs (-41) and 11% for birth-12 programs (-191).

Birth-8 program commencements decreased a further 17% (-252) in 2019, while birth-5 and birth-12 commencements increased. Since 2019, birth-5 program commencements have continued to grow, increasing 64% (+766) by 2021 – with more modest growth in birth-12 (+6%, +139) and birth-8 (+5%, +69) programs.

Figure 9: Number of commencements in early childhood and early childhood/primary programs; 2012-2021

Trends in commencements in the early childhood and early childhood/primary program types need to be considered in a context including primary-only programs as well. It appears that over time, there has been a shift towards programs specialising in early childhood only (birth-5) and the full age-range of early childhood/primary (birth-12). These trends have coincided with decreases in the birth-8 and primary-only programs of roughly equal magnitudes. As shown in Figure 10, the combined proportion of commencements in programs spanning the early childhood and primary levels has remained relatively consistent over time (just under 55% of all commencements). However, the distribution of program types has shifted over time with slightly smaller primary intakes and correspondingly larger birth-5 and birth-12 intakes.

Figure 10: Proportion of ITE commencements by primary, early childhood and primary/early childhood programs; 2012, 2017, 2019 and 2021

Students enter ITE programs through a range of pathways,[17] including secondary education, previous higher education studies, Vocational Education and Training (VET), or some other basis[18] like work experience. Admission into ITE is largely at the discretion of providers. It may involve academic criteria, like ATAR[19] or previous academic performance in higher education, and non-academic criteria, like written applications and interviews. Most postgraduate students (95% in 2021) were admitted to ITE based on previous higher education study, while undergraduate students accessed a wider range of admission options.

Undergraduate admission pathways

The age of learners that ITE students are training to teach is related to the pathway they take into study. The older the learner age, the more likely the ITE student is to be admitted based on their secondary education. The younger the learner age, the more likely the ITE student is to be admitted based on Vocational Education and Training (VET).

In 2021, over one in three students were admitted to undergraduate ITE through a secondary pathway (38%), followed by higher education (33%) and VET (19%).

From 2012 to 2017, the relative proportion of admissions based on previous higher education generally increased (from 26% to 34%), with one year outside this range (2013: 23%). This proportion remained steady from 2018 to 2020 (2018: 25%, 2019: 25%, 2020: 26%), but increased in 2021 (33%, Figure 11). There was a corresponding decrease in the proportion of admissions on an other/unknown basis between 2020 (18%) and 2021 (10%).

In 2021, the classification for ‘basis of admission’ was restructured under the TCSI (Tertiary Collection of Student Information) framework. This change may have contributed to increases in the relative proportion of students recorded as entering undergraduate ITE programs via higher education and reduced the proportion of students recorded as entering these programs via an other/unknown basis.

Figure 11: Undergraduate Basis of Admission; 2012-2021

Undergraduate admission pathways by program type

In 2021, students commencing secondary ITE programs were more likely to be admitted based on their secondary education (50%) compared to those commencing primary programs (39%). This forms part of a broader pattern that has been evident over time. In general, the older the learners an ITE student is training to teach, the more likely they are to be admitted based on their secondary education (2021: secondary: 50%; primary: 39%; birth-12: 29%; birth-8: 17%; birth-5: 15%). At the same time, VET admissions increase as learner age decreases (2021: secondary: 9%; primary 13%; birth-12: 35%, birth-8: 34%; birth-5: 66%) – see Figure 12. It is possible that a large portion of VET admissions into early childhood and combined early childhood/primary programs are VET-qualified early childhood educators who are upskilling. This raises the possibility that successful ITE completion by these commencing students may lead to shifts in qualification levels within the early childhood sector rather than increasing net supply overall.

Figure 12: Proportion of undergraduate secondary education and VET admissions, by program type; 2021

Since 2017, increases in admissions via VET have largely occurred in the programs preparing students to teach early childhood and primary ages: birth-5 programs (2017: 57%; 2021: 66%), birth-8 programs (2017: 29%; 2021: 34%), and birth-12 programs (2017: 30%; 2021: 35%). This suggests that students preparing to teach early childhood may be a key driver of recent increases in admissions to ITE programs via VET when examined across all program types.

Undergraduate admissions by ATAR score

In 2021, 38% of all commencing undergraduate students entered ITE via their secondary education, with 60% of these students admitted based on their ATAR score.[20] Of those students admitted on the basis of their ATAR scores, almost three quarters (72%) had a score of 70 or greater. In contrast, 28% of students were admitted on the basis of a score of less than 69.95 in 2021.

Of those admitted on the basis of their ATAR, scores tend to be highest for students admitted to secondary ITE programs. While under half (41%) of students were admitted to an ITE program on the basis of an ATAR score of 80 or greater in 2021, this proportion was almost half (49%) for students admitted to secondary ITE programs. At the same time, only just over a third (36%) of students admitted to primary ITE programs had an ATAR score of 80 or greater in 2021.

Enrolments[21] indicate the number of students actively in the ITE pipeline in a given year. It includes a mix of commencing students, those who complete during the year, and those who undertook study toward their degree that year (but not those who deferred for a full year). Enrolments must be interpreted with caution as they are influenced by many factors: enrolments grow when commencements increase, when completions go down, when fewer students study full-time, when degrees increase in length, and when subject pass rates go down.

An overall upward trend can be observed in ITE enrolments over the last decade. From 2012 (N=72,714) to 2017 (N=89,360), enrolments increased 27%. However, when commencements fell from 2017 to 2019, so too did enrolments (-5%; N=84,541), before increasing 8% between 2019 and 2021 (N=91,291, Figure 13). There are currently more ITE students in the pipeline than ever before. This means there is an opportunity to increase future teacher supply by maximising the progression of enrolled students through to the end of the ITE pipeline, to complete their programs of study and transition to the workforce.

Figure 13: National enrolments, count and annual change; 2005-2021

Between 2017 and 2019, undergraduate and postgraduate enrolments fell, before increasing at different rates from 2019 to 2021.

At the undergraduate level, enrolments fell 6% from 70,408 in 2017 to 66,207 in 2019, before increasing 5% to 69,857 in 2021 – a number just under 2017 levels.

By comparison, postgraduate enrolments fell at the lower rate of 3%, from 18,952 in 2017 to 18,334 in 2019, before increasing 16% – more strongly than undergraduate enrolments – to 21,434 in 2021. Taken together, these 2 trend profiles suggest that recent growth in total enrolments was largely driven by postgraduate students.

The most likely explanation for only postgraduate enrolment numbers increasing across the 2017 to 2021 window is the phasing out of 1-year postgraduate ITE programs. This is because the shift from 1- to 2-year postgraduate programs increased the number of years in which a commencing postgraduate student would need to enrol.

Completions are the final stage of the ITE pipeline. After successful completion of an ITE program, the next step for ITE students is provisional registration and entry into the teacher workforce. As such, ITE completions are a crucial indicator for future teacher supply.

In 2021, 15,397 students completed an ITE program, a decrease of 3% from 2019.

Over the last decade, two distinct trends can be observed in ITE completions. Between 2012 and 2017, completions increased by 19% (+2,990 completions), at an average rate of 4% per year. However, completions then decreased at an average rate of 7% per year from 2017 to 2020 (-3,860), before a 2% increase between 2020 and 2021 (+355). In 2021 (N=15,397), the number of completions had returned to 2012 levels (N=15,912, Figure 14).

Figure 14: National ITE completions; 2005-2021

Between 2016 and 2021, ITE completions fell while the Australian student-aged population grew.

In recent years, ITE completions have not kept pace with growth in the Australian student-aged population. Across all ITE completions between 2016[22] (N=17,523) and 2021 (N=15,397), there was an average decrease of 2.4% per year. By contrast, the student-aged population grew by an average of 1.2% per year (2016: N=5,492,264; 2021: N=5,809,570), indicating a likely teacher supply shortfall.

Overall in 2021, the proportion of ITE completions in each state and territory did not align as neatly with their relative population sizes as ITE commencements (Table 3).

In 2021, New South Wales recorded fewer ITE completions (22.8%) relative to their proportion of the national population (31.8%), equating to a -9 percentage point difference – the largest among all states and territories. Comparatively, both Victoria (+5 percentage points) and Queensland (+3 percentage points) recorded a greater proportion of ITE completions relative to their proportion of the national population. Completions in the Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory were more closely aligned with their relative population sizes (-0.1 percentage point difference).

Table 3: National population vs. ITE completions, by state and territory; 2021
National proportion (%)
State/territoryPopulationCompletionsDifference to population (ppt)
New South Wales31.8%22.8%-9.0
Western Australia10.5%11.8%+1.3
South Australia7.0%7.7%+0.7
Australian Capital Territory1.8%1.7%-0.1
Northern Territory0.9%0.8%-0.1

Trends in the number of ITE completions by students in each state and territory varied from 2019 to 2021, as ITE study was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The largest decline from 2019-2021 was recorded in New South Wales, falling by 26% (-1,238 completions). Smaller decreases were seen in the Australian Capital Territory (-13%; -38 completions), South Australia (-10%; -126) and Victoria (-7%; -360 completions).

In contrast, the number of completions increased by over 40% in Queensland (+44%; +1,080 completions) and the Northern Territory (+42%; +40 completions), with a notable but smaller increase in Western Australia (+10%; +166). In Tasmania, the number of ITE completions were stable (+2%; +5 completions, Table 4).

A likely reason for the decline in completions across some states and territories were disruptions to study during the COVID-19 pandemic, including shifts to online learning, combined with school closures across many states, which limited the capacity of students to complete their required placement days, despite various measures undertaken by state governments to mitigate these effects.[23]

Table 4: ITE completions, by state and territory; 2019-21
Percentage change
New South Wales4,7464,0353,508-26%
Western Australia1,6531,6841,819+10%
South Australia1,3091,2141,183-10%
Australian Capital Territory300264262-13%
Northern Territory86101122+42%

In 2021, 66% of ITE completions were at the undergraduate level, and 34% were at the postgraduate level. The proportion of completing ITE students who studied at the undergraduate level has increased steadily, increasing by 6 percentage points from 60% in 2014.

Over time, undergraduate and postgraduate completions have largely mirrored trends in total completions, with more pronounced changes at the postgraduate level.

From 2012 to 2017, postgraduate completions increased at an average rate of 6% per year (+1,694 completions in total), before declining at an average rate of 8% per year from 2017 to 2021 (-2,174).

Comparatively, undergraduate completions increased at an average rate of 2% per year from 2012 to 2017 (+1,296), before declining by an average of 2% per year from 2017 to 2020 (-1,878). However, undergraduate completions increased by 6% in 2021 (+547, Figure 15).

Figure 15: ITE completions, by degree level; 2005-2021

Primary and secondary programs

In 2021, primary (n=5,640) and secondary (n=5,880) ITE programs accounted for three-quarters (75%)[24] of all ITE completions.

Over the period from 2012 to 2017, the number of secondary ITE program completions increased by 31% (+1,760 completions), at a level exceeding total ITE completions (19%). While completions of primary ITE programs also increased, by 9% (+602 completions), this growth was lower than total completions. These increases resulted in primary and secondary ITE program completions reaching their respective peaks in 2017.[25]

The decline in overall completions in 2018 affected both primary and secondary ITE programs. Secondary ITE completions declined by 17% (-1,280 completions), while completions in primary ITE programs also declined, falling by 7% (-420 completions).

Following the larger relative decline in secondary ITE completions in 2018, there was a 4-year period from 2018-2021 where primary ITE completions recorded a larger share of total completions (2021: 38%) than secondary ITE completions (2021: 37%, Figure 16).

In 2021, combined primary and secondary ITE programs (n=670) accounted for 4% of ITE completions. From 2012 to 2017, combined primary and secondary program completions more than doubled, increasing to 440 completions (+111%; +230 completions). In contrast to other program types, combined primary and secondary programs have continued to increase steadily since 2017, increasing by 53% (+230).

Figure 16: Proportion of ITE completions by program type (primary, secondary, primary/secondary program); 2012-2021

Early childhood and primary programs

In 2021, early childhood and early childhood/primary ITE programs together accounted for 14% of all ITE completions (n=2,190).[26]

Similar to the trend in overall ITE completions, birth-8 programs (+301%; +708 completions) and birth-12 programs (+94%; +554) recorded large gains from 2012 to 2017. However, over the same period, birth-5 program completions decreased (-30%; -305).

From 2017 to 2021, all 3 early childhood and early childhood/primary program types recorded a decline in completions. Birth-8 programs recorded the largest decline in completions over this period, falling by 30% (-216 completions), with birth-5 (-21%; -201) and birth-12 (-17%; -198) programs also declining (Figure 17).

Figure 17: Number of completions in early childhood and early childhood/primary programs; 2012-2021

‘Other’ ITE programs

In 2021, ‘other’[27] programs accounted for 7% (n=1,025) of all completions. ‘Other’ program types include those where the learner age focus is unclear, such as a special education program with no further information. The proportion of ‘other’ program type completions has steadily declined over time, decreasing from 11% in 2012 to 7% in 2021, which is largely a result of improved recording of ITE program type information that enables classification in the ATWD.

Prior to 2012, there were a diverse array of ‘other’ ITE programs, including special education, VET, TESOL,[28] and teacher librarianship. Some of these programs also had a school age focus and are captured under those categories. At present, teachers in special education ITE programs are the only ‘other’ program type with notable numbers. In 2021, there were 162 completions of a special education program (1.1% of completions), an increase in the proportion of ITE completions since 2012 (0.4%). Since 2017, there have been fewer than 50 completions of TESOL ITE programs; and fewer than 70 completions total with of a VET ITE program.[29] Teacher librarianship is no longer offered as an ITE program, but to registered teachers. It is important to note that students who complete any ITE program may have had some prior training in these areas.

Students progress through the ITE pipeline on different timelines to others in their cohort.[30] In fact, within any given cohort, there are three possible student outcomes: students could have completed their studies, discontinued their ITE program or remain enrolled.

Completion rates help with understanding this progression of students, in a given cohort, through the ITE pipeline. Completion rates are calculated as the proportion of a commencing cohort who completed an ITE program over a 4-year (postgraduate) or 6-year (undergraduate) timeframe. Trends in completion rates can be useful for estimating potential future teacher supply, because they show what proportion of commencing students in a cohort are likely to complete their degree.

Completion rates are affected by a combination of complex factors, including, but not limited to, the characteristics of students, the chosen mode of attendance for study, changes to program offerings and the length of ITE programs.

This section outlines broader completion rate trends by degree level and program type, before presenting the characteristics associated with higher (and lower) completion rates, including mode of attendance, age and full-time status.

Understanding completion rates

In the ATWD, completion timeframes reported for undergraduate and postgraduate ITE programs are 6 years and 4 years, respectively.

These timeframes reflect the point by which almost all ITE students have completed their studies or exited their program – 7% of undergraduates and 4% of postgraduates were still enrolled after 6 and 4 years respectively. Historically, around half of those still enrolled at 6 or 4 years are ‘later’ completers who go on to complete within 9 years (AITSL, 2023b). Since most students have completed within 6 or 4 years, the potential benefit of capturing a slightly larger share of completing students with a longer completion rate timeframe is outweighed by the real benefit of reporting on more recent cohorts.

Among ‘later’ completers across all tertiary studies in Australia, a slightly greater proportion of online and multi-modal students completed between 7 and 9 years, relative to on-campus students. This also holds true for those studying part-time versus full-time (Department of Education, 2023c).

Across undergraduate and postgraduate programs of all types, completion rates have declined over time.

Overall completion rates are available for up to, and including, the 2016 undergraduate ITE cohort, and the 2018 postgraduate ITE cohort. These are the most recent cohorts that have reached the respective 6- and 4-year completion timeframes.

Completion rates for recent undergraduate and postgraduate ITE students have declined from 2012 and 2014, respectively.[31]

Six-year undergraduate completion rates for ITE students in the 2016 cohort were 49%, a 5-percentage point decline from 54% in the 2012 cohort. This decline is at least partially due to broader changes to undergraduate ITE programs over this period. Specifically, the 2-year undergraduate, Bachelor Graduate entry programs[32] were replaced by postgraduate programs and no longer offered. There was also a general shift in ACECQA-recognised early childhood undergraduate programs from 3 years to 4 years in duration.

Four-year postgraduate completion rates were 69% for the 2018 cohort. This was an 11-percentage point decrease from 80% in the 2014 cohort (Figure 18). The notable decline in 4-year postgraduate completion rates is likely a result of the complete phasing out of 1-year postgraduate ITE programs between 2013 and 2018. As longer degrees typically have lower completion rates, the extension of postgraduate ITE program lengths by an additional year logically corresponded to a reduction in completion rates.

The overall decline in completion rates over the last 5 undergraduate and postgraduate cohorts may have adverse implications for future teacher workforce supply since fewer people are successfully graduating from the ITE pipeline and transitioning into the workforce.

Figure 18: Completion rates by degree level; 2012-2018

Future completion rates

In general, postgraduate ITE programs are 2 years in length and undergraduate programs are 4 years. While not all students complete in these timeframes, trends in 2-year postgraduate and 4-year undergraduate completion rates may act as a leading indicator for completion rates among future cohorts that are still progressing through the ITE pipeline. Examining the 2-year postgraduate and 4-year undergraduate completion rates allows the examination of more recent cohorts – up to and including the 2020 commencing cohort for postgraduates and up to and including the 2018 commencing cohort for undergraduates.

  • For postgraduate cohorts from 2014 to 2018, 2-year completion rates declined 19 percentage points from 69% to 50%.
    • In the 2014 cohort, a further 11% went on to complete by 4 years.
    • In the 2018 cohort, a further 19% went on to complete by 4 years.
    • This increase from 11-19% completing by year 4 since commencement is likely a product of the shift in program length – as programs have become longer, postgraduates are typically taking longer to complete their degree.
  • From the 2018 to 2020 cohorts the 2-year completion rate declined by 15 percentage points to 35% (Figure 19).
    • If we assume that a further 19% of the 2020 cohort will go on to complete by 4 years post-commencement (by the end of 2023) the 4-year completion rate for the 2020 cohort will be around 54%. This is lower than the 4-year completion rate in the 2018 cohort (69%).
    • This estimate should be treated with caution: the 2019 and 2020 postgraduate cohorts are the first to have 100% of students undertaking 2-year programs. All prior postgraduate cohorts had either a mix of 1- and 2-year programs running (from 2013-2018) or 1-year programs only (2012 and earlier).
Figure 19: Completion rates by commencing cohort, postgraduate; 2005-2020
  • For undergraduate cohorts from 2012 to 2016, 4-year completion rates declined 6 percentage points from 40% to 34%.
    • In the 2012 cohort, a further 14% went on to complete by 6 years.
    • In the 2016 cohort, a further 15% went on to complete by 6 years.
    • That is, a relatively stable proportion of cohorts complete their undergraduate programs between 4 and 6 years after commencement.
  • From the 2016 to 2018 cohorts, the 4-year completion rate declined by 2 percentage points to 32% (Figure 20).
    • If we assume that a further 15% of the 2018 cohort will go on to complete by 6 years post-commencement (by the end of 2023), the 6-year completion rate for the 2018 cohort will be around 47%. This is 2 percentage points lower than the 6-year completion rate in the 2016 cohort (49%).
Figure 20: Completion rates by commencing cohort, undergraduate; 2005-2020

These future estimates are based solely on previous trends in 2- and 4-year completion rates by degree level and do not account for differences, in terms of student and study characteristics, between commencing cohorts. It is possible, therefore, that the completion rates in the 2018 undergraduate and 2020 postgraduate cohorts (and all subsequent cohorts) exceed the figures estimated here.

Undergraduate programs

Completion rates declined for all types of undergraduate ITE programs from 2012 to 2016. Over this period, early childhood/primary[33] completion rates fell to 44% (-9 percentage points), while early childhood (birth-5) programs declined from 59% in 2013[34] to 52% in 2016 (-7 percentage points).

Notably, for primary and secondary undergraduate programs, which together comprise the majority (72% in 2021) of undergraduate commencements, completion rates have now fallen to 50% or lower. From 2012 to 2016, completion rates for primary programs fell by 8 percentage points to 50%, while secondary programs fell by 4 percentage points to 49% (Table 5).

Table 5: Completion rates by undergraduate program type; 2012-2016
Program type20122016Percentage point change
Early childhood/primary (birth-8 + birth-12)53%44%-9

Postgraduate programs

Primary postgraduate programs recorded the greatest decline in completion rates of all ITE program types, falling by 17 percentage points from 80% in 2014 to 63% in 2018. Similarly, secondary postgraduate programs also declined from 81% to 73% (-8 percentage points) over the same period (Table 6).

The decline in postgraduate program completion rates[35] can largely be attributed to the transition to 2-year postgraduate ITE programs in 2015, in the broader context of the phasing out of 1-year postgraduate ITE programs from 2013 to 2018.

In contrast, from 2015[36] to 2018, combined early childhood/primary completion rates increased by 1 percentage point from 67% to 68%.[37]

Table 6: Completion rates by postgraduate program type; 2014-2018[38]
Program type20142018Percentage point change

Program type by degree level and gender

While around three-quarters of ITE students are women, the gender breakdown does vary by program type – there are more men who study secondary programs than primary programs. Overall, women tend to have higher completion rates, and this is true across degree levels and program types. Across degree levels and genders, secondary programs typically have higher completion rates. As shown in Figure 21:

  • From 2012 to 2016, 6-year undergraduate completion rates among men remained stable in secondary programs and dropped from 51% to 41% (-10 percentage points) in primary programs. Over the same period, completion rates among women also decreased, particularly in primary programs (from 59% in the 2012 commencing cohort to 52% in the 2016 commencing cohort). Overall, the gap in completion rates between men and women at the undergraduate level was more pronounced in primary programs (11 percentage points) than secondary programs (7 percentage points).
  • From 2014 to 2018, 4-year postgraduate completion rates declined for men and women across program types, particularly in primary programs. Women studying primary programs at the postgraduate level recorded the largest drop in completion rates over time, falling by 17 percentage points from the 2014 (81%) to 2018 (64%) cohorts. Completion rates at the postgraduate level are comparable for men and women in both primary and secondary programs, with only 2 percentage points difference between genders.
Figure 21: Completion rates by program type, gender and degree level; 2012-2016 cohorts (undergraduate), 2014-2018 cohorts (postgraduate)

Completion rates vary by study characteristics. Students who study part-time or online are much less likely to complete both undergraduate and postgraduate programs.

There are a variety of ITE student characteristics[39] that are associated with lower (and higher) completion rates.

When interpreting the data, it is important to note that although a characteristic may be associated with a lower completion rate, it is not necessarily the cause of the low completion rate – this is because characteristics may covary.[40] For example, ITE students studying online have lower-than-average completion rates, but these students are also more likely to be mature-aged and study part-time, which are both associated with lower completion rates. Therefore, the effects of studying online on completion rates cannot be interpreted in isolation.

Further multivariate analysis of longitudinal ATWD data is required to understand the contribution of each unique student characteristic – including mode of attendance, remoteness, full-time status and age – on completion rates. This work is being conducted as part of Action 26 of the National Teacher Workforce Action Plan.

Mode of attendance

Across the most recent undergraduate and postgraduate cohorts, ITE students studying through an online mode of attendance[41] recorded lower ITE completion rates than the 2 other modes of attendance: on-campus, and multi-modal[42] (Table 7):

  • In the 2018 postgraduate ITE cohort, the 4-year completion rate for online programs was 48%. Comparatively, the completion rate for on-campus programs was 78% (30 percentage points higher), and 73% for multi-modal programs (25 percentage points higher).
  • In the 2016 undergraduate ITE cohort, the 6-year completion rate for online programs was 37%. Comparatively, on-campus completion rates were 54% for both on-campus and multi-modal completion rates (17 percentage points higher).

The difference in completion rates across modes of attendance was more pronounced at the postgraduate level. From 2015 to 2018, 4-year postgraduate online completion rates dropped from 57% to 48% (-9 percentage points). Over the same period, on-campus (-3 percentage points) programs recorded a smaller relative decline, further widening the gap in postgraduate completion rates for students commencing their degree online.

With completion rates notably lower for online modes of attendance, and given the steadily increasing proportion of online commencements, the conversion of commencements to teacher supply may be impacted in the future. Specifically, if online study attracts more students into the ITE pipeline, it may positively impact supply by boosting the number of prospective teachers entering ITE programs. However, given the lower completion rates for online programs, there would need to be more than a 60% increase in new students in online programs to achieve equivalent ITE supply to on-campus study, unless more support is provided to improve completion rates. In contrast, if online study does not attract additional commencements to the ITE pipeline, but rather displaces on-campus and multi-modal commencements, the lower completion rates for on-campus modes of attendance may result in a net decrease in the overall number of completions over time.

Table 7: Completion rates by mode of attendance; 2012-2016 cohorts (undergraduate), 2014-2018 cohorts (postgraduate)
Mode of attendance20122016Percentage point change20152018Percentage point change


For both undergraduate and postgraduate programs, ITE students were less likely to complete their program as their age at commencement increased.

The effect of age on completion rates was broadly linear, and larger at the postgraduate level. Among the 2018 postgraduate cohort, the completion rate for students aged 30 years or older was 55%, which was 25 percentage points lower compared to those aged below 25 (80%). The greatest decline in completion rates from the 2014 to the 2018 cohort was observed for the over 30 age group studying at the postgraduate level (-17 percentage points).

Comparatively, undergraduate completion rates also showed a decline with age, up until 25 years of age, before stabilising – with comparable completion rates for those aged between 26-30 years (39%) and over 30 years (42%). Additionally, there was a 13-percentage point difference in completion rates between those aged 30 years or older (42%) and those aged below 23 (55%), which was comparatively smaller relative to postgraduate programs (Figure 22).

There are several characteristics that are common among ITE students aged 30 years and above that are associated with lower completion rates, including being more likely to study part-time (postgraduate 2018: 35% of aged 30 or above vs. 10% of under 30; undergraduate 2016: 48% vs. 13%) and study online (postgraduate 2018: 46% of aged 30 or above vs. 20% of under 30; undergraduate 2016: 72% vs. 17%). There may be several reasons associated with this – including a need to balance family commitments, maintaining financial commitments through ongoing employment, and/or engaging in a mid-career change (Stone, 2019).

Across jurisdictions, various initiatives aimed at attracting people to the teaching profession are being enacted. Some of these are geared towards people seeking a mid-career change. If it is assumed that mid-career changers are more likely to be aged over 30, the data presented here has some important implications for these initiatives. Specifically, the success of efforts to attract mid-career changers, as measured by impact on teacher supply, may require focused solutions to increase completion rates for students over 30, particularly those studying online. If completion rates do not improve for ITE students over 30, the size of commencement cohorts would instead need to drastically increase to boost teacher supply. Either option – improved completion rates or increased commencement cohorts – may result in an overall net increase in the number of pre-service teachers successfully completing ITE and transitioning to the workforce.

Figure 22: Completion rates by age; 2012-2016 cohorts (undergraduate), 2014-2018 cohorts (postgraduate)

Full-time status

Full-time ITE students, across both undergraduate and postgraduate programs, have consistently recorded higher completion rates than part-time students.

Among students commencing postgraduate programs part-time, completion rates dropped 24 percentage points from 57% in the 2014 cohort to 33% in the 2018 cohort. Full-time postgraduate completion rates decreased 9 percentage points (86% to 77%) in the same period. Consequently, for the 2018 cohort, there was a 44-percentage point difference in completion rates between full-time and part-time postgraduate students.

Students commencing undergraduate programs part-time also recorded a fall in completion rates, declining by 2 percentage points from 30% in the 2012 cohort to 28% in the 2016 cohort – the lowest among all categories. The gap between part-time and full-time undergraduate completion rates declined by 2 percentage points to 27% from the 2012 cohort to the 2016 cohort (Figure 23).

Although some part-time students may complete after more than 6 years, historically, only 3% of all completions occur between 6 and 10 years after commencement.

Figure 23: Completion rates by full-time status and degree level; 2012-2016 cohorts (undergraduate), 2014-2018 cohorts (postgraduate)

Basis of admission

All undergraduate basis of admission pathways recorded a decline in completion rates from the 2012 cohort to the 2016 cohort, except for admissions on the basis of prior higher education.

Generally, completion rates for students admitted via an ATAR are higher than for students entering via all other means. Among the 2016 undergraduate cohort entering on the basis of their ATAR, there was a broadly linear relationship between ATAR scores and completion rates. Those with an ATAR over 90 recorded a completion rate of 69% in 2016. In comparison, those admitted with an ATAR between 70 and 80 recorded a completion rate of 58%.

Outside of admissions on the basis of ATAR, a notable change over this period was recorded in non-ATAR secondary pathway admissions,[43] where completion rates declined from 58% for the 2012 cohort to 51% for the 2016 cohort (-7 percentage points) (Figure 24):

  • In the 2012 cohort, non-ATAR secondary pathway completion rates (58%) were comparable with completion rates for students admitted on the basis of an ATAR between 70 and 79.95 (60%).
  • However, in the 2016 cohort, non-ATAR secondary pathway completion rates (51%) were comparable with those of students admitted on the basis of an ATAR below 60 (50%).

Similarly, admissions on the basis of VET also recorded a decline in completion rates from the 2012 to 2016 cohorts, falling from 52% to 41% (-11 percentage points). Admissions on the basis of VET comprise around one-fifth (19%) of all undergraduate admissions into ITE. VET is a more common basis of admission for primary programs relative to secondary programs, but despite this, completion rates were comparable in 2016 (secondary: 41%; primary: 38%).

Figure 24: Completion rates by basis of admission pathway, undergraduate ITE students; 2012-2016

Other characteristics

Other student characteristics captured in the ATWD that completion rates vary by, including gender, domestic status, disability status and socioeconomic status, are presented below in Table 8 and Table 9.

In general, over time, across both undergraduate and postgraduate ITE programs:

  • Women have recorded higher completion rates than men.
    • Across the most recent cohorts, there has been only one exception: men and women recorded the same completion rate (69%) in the 2018 postgraduate cohort.
  • International students have recorded higher completion rates than domestic students.
  • Students without a reported disability have recorded higher completion rates than those who reported having a disability.
  • Students with a higher socio-economic status have recorded higher completion rates than students with a lower socio-economic status.
Table 8: Completion rates by undergraduate student characteristics; 2012 and 2016 cohorts
Undergraduate completion rates (2012 cohort)Undergraduate completion rates (2016 cohort)
Domestic statusDomestic54%vs58%InternationalDomestic49%vs57%International
Disability statusDisability47%vs55%No disabilityDisability41%vs50%No disability
Socioeconomic statusLow52%vs56%HighLow47%vs51%High
Table 9: Completion rates by postgraduate student characteristics; 2014 and 2018 cohorts[44]
Postgraduate completion rates (2014 cohort)Postgraduate completion rates (2018 cohort)
Socioeconomic statusLow78%vs79%HighLow64%vs73%High

First-year attrition rates refer to the percentage of students, as a proportion of all commencements, who did not progress to their second calendar year of ITE study. Year-on-year attrition is most routinely observed in the window between program commencement and the second year of study and provides an early indication of potential future declines in ITE program completion rates (AITSL, 2023c).

Over the period from 2016 to 2020, there has been a convergence in first-year attrition rates across undergraduate and postgraduate ITE programs. First-year attrition rates for postgraduate programs have trended upwards over the last 5 years, increasing from 13% in 2016 to 18% in 2020 (+5 percentage points). Over this period, postgraduate first-year attrition rates have increased by at least 1 percentage point each year.

In contrast, undergraduate first-year attrition rates have gradually declined, decreasing from 21% in 2016 to 19% in 2020 (-2 percentage points).

Consequently, the gap in first-year attrition rates across undergraduate and postgraduate ITE programs has narrowed from 8 percentage points in 2016 to 1 percentage point in 2020, as seen below in Figure 25.

However, it is important to note that the uptick seen in postgraduate attrition rates was influenced by important policy changes. From 2016 to 2018, both 1- and 2-year postgraduate programs were available to ITE students. However, 1-year programs were being phased out. Given that attrition can only be meaningfully calculated for full-time students undertaking courses more than one year in duration, it does not apply to the 1-year programs that still existed during this period, resulting in a lower attrition rate at the postgraduate level. As more programs transitioned to being 2 years long, it was increasingly possible for students to choose not to progress to their second year of study, thereby increasing the first-year attrition rate. By 2019, no 1-year postgraduate programs existed, meaning that it is not possible to directly compare the 2019-2020 period to the 2016-2018 period, as the former would naturally have a much higher attrition rate that only reflects a change in program length, rather than student intentions.

Nevertheless, changes in first-year attrition rates have a bearing on future completion rates. The steady increase in postgraduate first-year attrition rates will result in a decline in future postgraduate completion rates, which in turn, could result in a decline in teacher workforce supply.

Figure 25: First-year attrition rates by degree level; 2016-2020

The ITE pipeline is the main source of teacher supply in Australia and there are more students moving through it than ever before. However, the national trends described in this publication point to ongoing challenges in converting the potential in the ITE pipeline into real supply in the workforce.

While the number of new students entering the ITE pipeline increased by 13% from 2019 to 2021, the number of students completing their program of study and exiting the pipeline decreased by 3% in the same period. Completion rates have been consistently declining over time, across degree levels and types, and various student and study characteristics. Of particular concern are the drops in completion rates among groups that are increasingly commencing ITE programs. For example, among commencing students in 2021, growth in part-time study and online attendance outpaced growth in full-time and on-campus or multi-modal attendance. Commencements by students over 31 years of age also increased more than commencements in other age groups. Given the various initiatives being enacted across jurisdictions that are aimed at attracting people seeking a mid-career change, these data are promising. However, analysis of earlier cohorts suggests students who study online, part-time and are older are least likely to complete their programs in 4-6 years. Therefore, it is possible that the increases in commencements in 2021 may not yield a net increase in the number of pre-service teachers completing ITE and transitioning to the workforce in the short-term if 4- and 6-year completion rates do not improve.

Trends in the number of completing ITE students are frequently used to understand emerging supply trends. However, commencements data considered alongside completion rates provide a leading indicator of future supply. Taken together, they illustrate the proportion of new ITE students who are likely to move through the ITE pipeline, graduate and transition to the workforce.

The shifting composition of the ITE pipeline as well as changes in commencement and completion numbers has been occurring within the context of a complex and intersecting suite of policy changes. The data provided here also covers the COVID-19 pandemic, which greatly impacted higher education. As such, it is difficult to ascertain the cause of any recent ITE trend, and it remains to be seen whether the emerging trends will continue in future years.

As more ATWD data continues to become available each year, the ATWD will further leverage its longitudinal ITE dataset to explore these trends over time – continuing to build a comprehensive picture of the progression from ITE commencement to completion and entry into the teacher workforce. In the future, the ATWD will also undertake multivariate analysis to gain a deeper understanding of the characteristics affecting completion rates, as well as engaging in predictive analysis, such as forecasting future teacher workforce supply.

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