This paper examines the choices and destinations of prospective university students from three regional areas in Victoria. The study is based on information collected for tertiary applicants in the Gippsland, Bendigo and Mildura areas, all of which host a local university campus. Using application and enrolment data, we examine the choices that regional applicants express, and the decisions they ultimately make. In particular, we consider influences at each stage from application to offer, acceptance and then enrolment. Our findings highlight the extent of unfulfilled university aspiration in the regions and its causes. Between the aspiration and decision to undertake university study lie many impediments.
The study found an overall preference for regional university applicants to relocate to study. Applicants' preferences were mediated by demographic and educational factors, in particular school sector. The extent and diversity of local course options also influenced applications, with local courses preferred when they were available. Although most applicants did receive a university offer, many in the lower achievement range received no offer, indicating that there remains substantial unmet demand. Educational achievement also affected the likelihood of converting an offer to an enrolment.
Applicants who succeeded in securing a local university place were the most likely to accept their offer and enrol in the following year. Relocation was found to be highly correlated with deferment or non-enrolment, particularly for the Mildura cohort, underlining the ongoing impact of distance. These findings suggest a need to rethink university provision and support models to increase the participation rates of regional students.