Expenditure on education and training in Australia 2016 brings together data across all areas of education to prompt governments to consider a more planned and consistent approach to distributing resources. 

Governments need to give attention to all stages of education – early childhood, schooling, vocational education and training and higher education – to ensure the best return on investment.

This report shows that some stages of education have been clearly prioritised over others. 

Vocational education & training 

The findings suggest that quality vocational education and training (VET) is not a priority. The latest 2014-15 data shows VET spending drop to almost 4 percent below 2005 levels and VET enrolments take the sharpest dive in ten years of more than 10 percent in 12 months.

Higher education

Higher education appears to be the main government focus, with expenditure growing by 45 percent over ten years. The strongest expenditure growth of 9 percent in one year occurred in 2014-15. Enrolments also reached a ten year high in 2014-2015.


While school expenditure increased by 24 percent over ten years, there has been minimal improvement at a system level. Australia’s international performance rankings have been in decline over the same period, suggesting funds are not always being spent in the best places.


Preschool expenditure increased rapidly after the National Partnership Agreement on Universal Access to Early Childhood Education was signed in 2009. Preschool is being considered strongly by policy makers and more support could have flow-on effects of improved learning outcomes through school and into work or tertiary studies.