THE number of University of Ballarat students funded by the Federal Government is at an all-time high.
Vice-chancellor David Battersby said there were 4300 students in the category.
“This will expand to more than 6000 with the inclusion of federally-funded students from the Gippsland campus next year,” he said.
“When combined with international fee-paying students and postgraduate and research students, numbers are likely to exceed 25,000 in 2014.”
Professor Battersby said the average age of students was also increasing.
“There was a time when we relied almost entirely on secondary school students making their university preferences through the Victorian Tertiary Admissions Centre,” he said.
“Interestingly, these preferences are no longer a good indicator of the number of students actually admitted to the university.
“The reason for this is because the number of non-recent school leavers who make direct application to come to university is on the increase.
“The average age of undergraduate students is steadily rising and next year, the average age will be 27.”
He said older students were likely to make up between a quarter and a third of new students studying undergraduate degrees, supported by the Federal Government in 2014.
“These changing trends have meant that we have had to be far more flexible in responding to their needs, aspirations and the demands they make on the university,” he said.
“The mix of students enhances the learning environment and provides opportunities for mentoring.”
Western campuses head Geoff Lord said the trends were consistent with students at Wimmera campuses.
“The body of students across the Wimmera comprises about 12 per cent studying in the higher education sector and about 88 per cent in the vocational education training sector,” he said.
“Among those students is an increasingly broad spectrum of mature-aged students.
“While we have a focus to provide school leavers with opportunities for training and development, a significant proportion of our students are people returning to the workforce.”
The university has campuses in Horsham, Stawell and Ararat.
From January 1, 2014, the University of Ballarat will become Federation University Australia.