Mitchell Institute’s education expenditure series provides a national picture of expenditure across each stage of learning – from the early years, through to school and tertiary education.

Looking at over a decade of education expenditure, it is clear that governments are not approaching education investment in a coherent and thoughtful way. We see ad hoc, piecemeal spending across the system, suggesting that governments are not looking at Australia's education system as a whole when deciding reforms.

The longer we lack coherent education policies, the longer we miss out on the benefits that an integrated education and training system can deliver for young people, communities and our economy.

Key findings

Early childhood

Preschool expenditure grew the fastest since 2005-06, although this was from a significantly lower base than other education areas. In 2015-16 expenditure on preschool had increased by 150 per cent since 2005-06.


Schools experienced increased expenditure that largely mirrored operational growth in the sector. Expenditure on schools increased 30 per cent between 2005-06 and 2015-16.

Vocational education & training (VET)

VET expenditure reached its lowest point in over a decade. Last year we reported that VET expenditure had plummeted to its lowest point in ten years but we found that dropped again in 2015-16: VET expenditure levels were 5 per cent lower than 2005-06. 

Higher education

Higher education expenditure growth is slowing but overall expenditure on higher education between 2005-06 and 2015-16 increased by 53 per cent.

 preschool and school

 VET and HE


Sarah Pilcher
Education Policy Fellow, Mitchell Institute