Increased competition among Australian school-leavers for a place in university has persuaded more parents to enrol their children in private fee-paying schools, researchers at Monash University in Melbourne claim.
The researchers say one reason is because private-school students are much more likely than those from government schools to be offered a university place.
Although the number of school leavers applying to go to university has risen sharply, the federal government decided to cap the number of university places after it won office in 1996.
The researchers note that between 1997 and 2004, independent secondary school enrolments rose by 27 per cent while private Catholic school enrolments went up by 10 per cent.
At the same time, schools in the government sector registered a mere 1 per cent increase.
As more students applied to go to university after completing school, the proportion to be offered a place fell. In Victoria, the proportion of applicants offered university enrolment declined from 65 per cent in 1996 to 55 per cent in 2003. 'It is no wonder that since 1996 enrolments at Victorian independent secondary schools have increased sharply relative to those in government schools,' the researchers conclude.