Increasing participation in higher education for under-represented groups has been a goal of both the Australian Government and Australian universities. In particular, the government has invested in a wide range of programs to support the efforts of universities to increase the enrolment and completion rates of:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students
  • those from low socioeconomic areas
  • people who live in regional and remote areas
  • students with disabilities.

To support these efforts, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) was asked to begin developing a potential set of indicators for a performance measurement framework for equity in higher education (MFE), which could then allow progress to be measured and gaps to be identified.

This report provides details about the potential set of indicators and the process used to develop them. The potential indicators:

  • reflect the 4 key phases in the life cycle of students (pre-entry; offers, acceptances, and enrolment; experience during university; post-graduate outcomes)
  • align with the key elements of the policies and programs to improve equity
  • include a mixture of inputs, outputs and outcomes
  • capture the determinants of higher education attainment, as well as the outcomes
  • match with existing reporting and measurement frameworks
  • use existing data sources where possible.

The project identified 61 potential indicators for further discussion amongst key stakeholders. The potential indicators were organised into a 3-tier framework that matched the structure of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework (NATSIHPF). The 3 tiers are:

  • Tier 1: Educational attainment and outcomes
  • Tier 2: Precursors of higher education attainment
  • Tier 3: Education system performance.

Tier 1 encompasses attainment and outcome measures that form the key targets and goals for the equity programs and policies. Tier 2 includes predictors of educational attainment (including developmental outcomes, aspirations, and educational performance), which previous research has shown vary by equity group. Tier 3 indicators are process measures of the efforts and strategies that universities and the government are undertaking to try to create change in the Tier 1 outcomes. The Tier 3 indicators are essential for monitoring both the aim and reach of these strategies.

As shown in Figure 1, this project identified 23 potential indicators for educational attainment and outcomes (Tier 1), 9 potential indicators for precursors of higher education attainment (Tier 2), and 29 potential indicators for education system performance (Tier 3).

Figure 1: Potential measurement framework for equity in higher education

Potential measurement framework for equity in higher education


Where possible indicators to be measured by Indigenous status, socioeconomic disadvantage, regional/remoteness, disability, non-English speaking background, year at university, and calendar year. The numbering system for potential indicators within each tier is as follows: input indicators are numbered first, followed by output indicators, then outcome indicators. See Table 4.16 for full descriptions and data sources for each indicator.